A Glossary of Printing, Binding, Graphic Arts and Typographical Terminology


A4 Paper - ISO standard paper size 210 x 297mm or 8.3 x 11.7". The common paper size used outside the North America in place of 8.5 x 11.

Accordion fold – two or more parallel folds that open like an accordion.

Against the Grain - Running a sheet of paper through a printing press at right angles to the grain direction of the paper, as opposed to with the grain. This is usually suboptimal for both press operation and registration of the 4 color process inks. Sometimes called cross grain.

Artwork - The original physical materials, including photos, graphic images, text and other components needed to produce a printed piece. Can also now refer to the electronic or digital components needed for preparing a printed piece for production on a press or copier.

Ascender - Any part of a lower case letter which rises above the main body of the letter such as in "d", "b" and "h".


Backslant - Any type that tilts to the left or backward direction; opposite of italic type.

Baseline - The imaginary horizontal line upon which stand capitals, lower case letters, punctuation points, etc.

Basis Weight - Basis or basic weight refers to the weight, in pounds, of a ream (500 sheets) of paper cut to a given standard size for that particular paper grade.

Bindery - A business or department within a printing company that does the cutting, folding, collating, drilling and other finishing operations used on printing projects.

Binding – various methods of securing sections together and/or fastening them to a cover, to form singles copies.

Blanket - The rubberized surfaced material secured onto a cylinder onto which the ink is transferred from the plate and then to the paper.

Bleed – printing that extends to the edge of a sheet or page after trimming.

Body - In typography, the main shank or portion of a letter character other than the ascenders and descenders.

Bond Paper – strong durable paper grade used of letterheads and forms 

Brightness – characteristic of paper referring to how much light it reflects.

Bristol – type of board paper used for post cards, business cards, and other heavy-use products.

Bullet - A boldface square or dot used before a sentence to emphasize its importance.


C1S – paper stock coated on one side.

C2S – paper stock coated on both sides.

Caliper - The measurement of the thickness of paper measured in thousandths of an inch or mils.

Carbonless – paper that is coated with chemicals to produce copies without carbon in-between the sheets. (also referred to as NCR paper)

Card Stock – a stiff rigid paper used for postcards, manual covers or table tents.

Center Spread - The two pages that face each other in the center of a book or publication.

Coated Paper – paper with a layer of coating applied to one or both sides, such as gloss, dull and matte finish.

Coil Binding - Where a metal or plastic wire is spiraled through holes punched along the side of a stack of paper. Commonly used for reports, proposals and manuals. Documents bound with coil have the ability to lay flat and can rotate 360 degrees. Also called spiral binding.

Collate – a finishing term for gathering paper in a precise order. 

Colophon - A printers' or publishers' identifying symbol or emblem.

Color Bars - A color test strip that is printed on the waste portion of a press sheet. It helps a press operator to monitor and control the quality of the printed material relative to ink density, registration and dot gain. It can also include a Star Target, which is designed to detect inking and press problems.

Color Cast - Unwanted color tone or overall color shading distorting the normal color balance of a photographic image.

Color Correction - Using a computer to adjust, change or manipulate a color image, such as retouching, adjusting color balance, color saturation, contrast, etc.

Color Gamut - The entire range of hues possible to reproduce on a specific system, such as a computer screen, or four-color printing press.

Color Separations – the separation of color artwork or transparencies on to separate sheet for each color. The division of a multi-color original into the primary process colors of yellow, magenta, cyan, and black.

Copyright – An exclusive right that has been granted by law to a particular creative product. The right of copyright gives protection to the originator of material to prevent use without express permission or acknowledgement of the originator.

Cover Stock – a heavy printing paper used to cover books.


Drill – The drilling of holes into paper for ring or comb binding.


Estimate – a price provided to a customer, based on the specifications outlined on the estimate form; it is normally set prior to the entry of an order and prices may change if the order specifications are not the same as the estimate specifications.


Finishing – the bindery process performed after the document has been copied or printed.

Finish size – size of printed product after production is complete.

Flyer – an inexpensively produced circular used for promotional distribution.

Format – size, shape and overall style of layout or printed piece.

Four-Color Process – printing in full color using four color separations negatives and ink (yellow, magenta, cyan and black) which reproduce full-color photographs of art. (color pictures).


GBC binding – plastic comb binding. 

Gloss – characteristic of paper, ink or varnish that reflects relatively large amounts of light. Glossy – photographic print made on glossy paper.

Graphic Design – the use of graphic elements and text to communicate an idea or concept.


Head–to–foot – printing on both sides of a sheet where the top of each page is placed at the opposite ends.

Hard copy – a printed paper copy of output in readable form.


Imposition – the process of arranging the pages of copy so that when the sheets are printed and folded for binding the pages will be in the proper order

Impression – the image produced in a single operation on a printer, copier or press.

Index paper – light weight board paper for writing and easy erasure.


Kraft paper – strong paper, usually brown.


Laminate – a thin transparent plastic coating applied to paper or board to provide protection and give it a glossy finish.


Manilla paper – strong, buff-colored paper used to make envelopes and file folders.

Micrometer – instrument used to measure thickness of paper

Mike – to measure the thickness of a sheet of paper using a micrometer

Mock-up – a rough visual of a publication or design.

MFD - A multifunction device (MFD) is a device that performs a variety of functions that would otherwise be carried out by separate peripheral devices. As a rule, a multifunction device includes at least two of the following:

  • Printer;
  • Scanner;
  • Copier.


Numbering – putting a sequential number on each copy.


Offset – a method in which the plate or cylinder transfers an ink image to an offset or transfer roller, which then transfers the image to stock.

Offset printing – method of lithographic printing that transfers ink from a plate to a blanket, then from the blanket to paper.

Opaque – relates to the show-through of the printed image from the opposite side of the sheet or the sheet under it.

Opacity – characteristic of paper that helps prevent printing on one side from showing on the other.

Over Run – the number of pieces that were printed in excess of the quantity specified.


PMS color – pantone matching system – an international system used to mix inks to standard colors used by printers.

Pad – to bind by applying glue along one edge of a stack of sheets.

Page count – total number of pages, including blanks and printed pages without numbers.

Page proofs – a proof output to plain paper before the entire job is printed.

Pagination – the numbering of pages in a book.

Parchment – paper that simulates writing surfaces made from animal skins.

Parallel fold – folds that are parallel to each other – a letter is parallel fold.

Perforating – punching small holes or slits in a sheet of paper or cardboard to facilitate tearing along a desired line.

Plastic Combs – a binding that allows the publication to lay flat when open. Often called GBC.

Prepress – the processes performed on a printing order prior to its going to the press to be printed. (examples: typesetting, layout, scanning, etc.)


Ream – five hundred sheets of paper.


Saddle Stitch – the binding of sheets of paper to form a book which works by stapling in seam where sheets are folded.

Score – to mechanically crease or press a channel into paper along a line so it will fold more easily.

Self-cover – using same paper as the text for the cover.

Self-mailer – printed piece designed to be mailed without an envelope.

Shrink wrap – a tight fitting plastic wrap used to protect a publication from handling or storage problems.

Side stitch – to bind by stapling through sheets along one edge.

Signature – a section of a book made by folding a printed sheet so that the pages follow in correct order. Standard signatures are 8, 16 and 32.

Specifications – complete and precise descriptions of paper, ink, binding, quantity and other features of a printing job.

Spine – the binding edge of a book

Spiral bind – a binding method using a continuous coil of wire extending from the top to the bottom of the spine.

Stock – paper used for a printing job.


Trim – the cutting of the finished product to the correct size.

Transparency – a color or black and white photographically produced image on transparent film.

Turnaround time – amount of time needed to complete a job 

Two-up – printing two up or three up means printing the same image twice or three times on the same sheet of paper in one impression.

Trim size – the final size of one printed image after the last trim is made.


Uncoated paper – paper that is not clay coated.


Vellum finish – relatively rough finish on uncoated paper.