Printing Glossary

Accordion Fold

A fold with 4 panels or more, with folds alternating on each panel; an attractive design for some applications, but can spring open during the insertion process

Author Alterations

During the proofing stage, these are corrections that are made by the printer at the request of client free; not caused by printer error

Barrel Fold

Similar to a roll fold, a barrel fold has 3 panels or more with folds in the same direction, causing the end user to “un-roll” the fold to view it in its entirety

Basis Weight

The weight in lbs of 500 sheets of paper cut to a specific size of the corresponding grade of paper

Bind-in Card

A card, generally the size of a postcard, that is bound into a signature. A good example is a magazine subscription card printed on 7 pt reply card.


A printing blanket is a rubber-like material that receives ink from the printing plate and transfers it to the printing substrate.


A bleed is a printed image in which the ink extends to the edge of the sheet. Bleeds generally call for a small margin of overprint to ensure that the bleed truly extends all the way.

Bond Weight

Bond weight is a measurement, in lbs, of a ream of 500 sheets of paper measured 17” x 22”, generally uncoated, and is common in forms and envelope production. Common weights are 16 lb – 40 lb, and increase by 4 lb increments

Book Weight

Book weight is a measurement, in lbs, of a ream of 500 sheets of paper measured 25” x 38” which can be coated or uncoated. Some book weight grades contain ground wood. Book weight regularly referred to as “offset” and “text” weight. Common book weights range from 30 lb – 100 lb, coated and uncoated, in 5-10 lb increments

Booklet fold

A booklet refers to a fold that includes a right angle and is still connected as 1 sheet of paper without glue.


Brightness is a value from 0-100% that indicates impurity in paper. Standard 50 lb offset, for example, is 92 bright. Some premium grades are 98 bright, while newsprint grades that contain ground wood may be in the 60s.


Bristol weight, commonly referred to as “vellum Bristol”, is the rougher printing substrate cousin to the uncoated cover grade. Bristol is measured as 22.5” x 28.5” and has common weights from 80-200 lb, in increments of 20 lb. 67 lb vellum Bristol is the exception, and is a common choice for yielding 9 point caliper.

Buck Slip

A buck slip is a direct mail component part, generally used in combination with a form or generic letter, indicating the special value of the offer in the letter with graphics and few words. It’s intended to hook the end user into reading the form.

Buckle Folder

Buckle folders, the most common folder at Tidewater Direct, use fold plates that force a sheet to a buckle, which then pulls it through a set of folding rollers


A c–fold is a barrel fold with 3 panels. Often, this fold is used to fit inside a # 10 envelope.


C1S means coated one side, often used for cards in which the outside is coated and the inside is left uncoated. This type of paper may require scoring depending on thickness and folding grain direction.


C2S means coated two sides, which is generally common across all coated paper.


Calender rollers are used in the paper-making process at the very end of the machine. These calender “stacks” require the web to weave through the rollers with tremendous pressure, causing the paper to become smoother. A very smooth paper, like a smooth offset or a gloss stock, is considered very well calendered.


Caliper, as it relates to paper, is the thickness of the sheet.

Chill Roller

Chill rollers are employed after the oven on a heatset press to cool down the sheet quickly. This allows the ink to set properly.

Clamp Truck

A clamp truck is a forklift with a special clamp where forks would normally be. They use hydraulic pressure to lift and rotate rolls of paper that can weigh 2000 lb or more.


Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. These are the four process colors required for process color printing.


Collation, as it refers to a direct mail piece, means that all sides have been trimmed and sheets are slit loose.

Color Bars

Color bars are a common application on sheeting presses. Each color that is laid down on the sheet also gets a narrow bar across the bottom of the sheet. This allows the operator to measure density across the web to ensure even color throughout the print run.


A colorant is the pigment that gives ink its desired color


A combination run, as it relates to printing, is a group of 2 or more images run on one set of printing plates and then separated in the finishing stages. Combinations offer an economical solution for jobs with multiple codes and like quantities.

Commercial Printing

Commercial printing, dominated by offset lithography, is one of the largest and most important segments of the graphic arts community.


Conditioning is the act of bringing paper into a temperate pressroom climate to mitigate curling and static electricity, among other potential issues.

Continuous Forms

Continuous forms are commonly purchased for use at letter shops. The forms, which can be fan folded or rewound on rolls, have a generic image and message that repeats throughout the run. The letter shop then runs these forms through lasers to “personalize” the letter with information like offer rates, dates, names, and more. Continuous forms are a cost-effective way to personalize direct mail packages.

Continuous Feed Folder

Also called an over-under folder, these folders have feed boards that are continually fed at a slight angle, ensuring the folder will never have to stop.

Cover Weight

Cover weight is a basis weight of 500 sheets of paper sized 20” x 26”, and is generally synonymous with high-quality printing. With weights ranging from 50-170 lbs, in 5-10 lb increments, this paper can be coated or uncoated. While 50-100 lb cover products can commonly be found as web, thicker cover stocks are usually only sold as sheets and are subsequently classified for sheet-fed presses.


Computer to Plate is a practice that allows plates to be electronically made in minutes instead of hours. All 3 of Tidewater Direct’s facilities have CTP machines for fast prepress turnaround.


Curing is the act of removing certain elements from the ink once applied to the paper to help it dry and set properly.


A cutoff on a printing press is the length of the circumference of a blanket cylinder on a web offset press.

Dampening System

A dampening system on a printing press applies a water based fountain solution to the plate to repel ink from non-image printing areas.


A densitometer is a tool employed at all presses at Tidewater Direct; it ensures even ink film distribution throughout the press run. Densitometers are digitally calibrated at Tidewater Direct regularly.


Density, as it relates to print, is the thickness of ink film that is laid down on each impression. Density is controlled by ink flow and is measured by densitometers to ensure high quality. Tidewater Direct employs the GRACOL standard for density range as a guide to achieve proper color.

Die Cut

Die cutting is a finishing operation that uses a steel die to cut a predetermined pattern in the paper. Small die cutting jobs can be done inline on some presses at Tidewater Direct, while more complicated die cutting jobs require dedicated die cutting machines.

Dot Area

A measurement of dots in a given area from 0-100%

Dot Gain

Dot gain is the difference in size from the dot on the plate to the dot on the printing substrate. Low dot gain is inherent in sharp printing; larger dots tend to result in darker, less sharp images. Prepress generally has computer software to create curves to minimize or compensate for dot gain.

Double Hit

Occasionally, a print run will require an intense amount of one color that can’t be applied with only one printing unit. If the press has enough available units, the image can be split up into two plates in order to create the image properly. This also occurs if the image is designed in a way that could cause ghosting.

Parallel Fold

A parallel fold, also known as folding in half and half again, is a common way to get a 14” long form to fit in a # 10 envelope. This creates a 4-panel brochure.


Dull paper contains little to no gloss; very similar to silk coated which is a sheen but not a shine.


A duotone is a greyscale or monotone image, that adds a second color to accent it. Tritones and quadtones use the same effect with 3 and 4 colors.


An emulsion is the green part on a printing plate that looks like the image. The emulsion attracts the ink where the rest of the plate attracts water (fountain solution).

Fan Folded Forms

Fan folded forms, a type of continuous form, is a never-ending accordion fold stretch of forms, folded on a perforation at each repeat. They are generally packed in cartons.

Felt Side of Paper

While less noticeable on newer paper machines, paper has 2 sides – a smooth side and a felt side (the side that faces down on the wire screen during the papermaking process). The felt side can be slightly rough and in some cases prints differently than the smooth side.

Flat size

The flat size of a piece refers to the full size it should be before it is folded or finished otherwise.

Flexographic Ink

“Flexo” is a water-based ink type used primarily in envelope and carton production.

Fluorescent Ink

The true revealing characteristic of fluorescent ink is its ability to glow under ultraviolet light. This ink is generally very shiny and attention-grabbing without UV light.

Folded Size

A folded size is the final dimensions of a piece after it has been trimmed and folded.

Folding Sample

A folding sample is used in the folding department of pressrooms to ensure the fold is constructed properly. Generally, meeting edges will have like letters or numbers indicating that the operator should meet the two edges (a to a, b to b).

Forms Ink

Forms ink, also known as “no heat” ink, is an ink that dries over a longer period of time because there is no curing process. Common in line copy, this ink does not perform well when there is a lot of ink coverage involved.

Four Color Process

4CP is the process of laying Black, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow in the proper order to create a full-color image. 4 color process requires 4 print units for each side of the paper and is very common in the print industry.

French Fold

A French fold is an uncommon but useful fold, folding a lip one way and then folding the opposite way to conceal it. This keeps the piece full size, superficially, and allows it to fit into common envelope sizes.

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)

FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests.

FSI (Free-Standing Insert)

An advertisement intended to be loosely inserted or to stand alone.

Fugitive Glue

Fugitive glue is a non-abrasive adhesive used to bind two substrates together, without causing damage when pulled apart. Also referred to as “booger glue”


synonymous with a combination run, as it relates to printing, is a group of 2 or more images “ganged” one set of printing plates and then separated in the finishing stages. Combinations offer an economical solution for jobs with multiple codes and like quantities.


Ghosting is an artwork-induced print production issue caused by inconsistent lateral coverage across the web, resulting in some parts being lighter and other parts being darker.


A gloss-coated stock is indicative of a shiny printing surface. Gloss stocks are smooth and highly “calendered”.


General Requirements and Applications for Commercial Offset Lithography is an independent task force formed to create general standards for commercial offset printers.

Grain Direction

The grain direction is the alignment and structure of paper fibers in a paper stock; grain short refers to the length of the fiber running perpendicular, grain long the fibers run parallel.


A monotone image with multiple shades of black.

Gripper Edge

In sheet fed printing or envelope folding, the lead edge of the sheet that is fed into the machine.

Half Fold

A commonly used fold for greeting cards, 6×9 envelopes, and more.


An image made up of various sizes of dots and density to simulate gradient realistic images with one color.

Heatset Ink

Petroleum-based ink that is cured with heat in an oven; heatset ink is most common in the publication printing industry, where ink coverage can be heavy. Heatset ink is a low cost solution to lay down heavy ink coverage.

Heatset Oven

A heatset oven is a tunnel for paper to pass through at a specific temperature to dry the ink quickly without damaging the web


An undesirable small spec of dust or debris distributed through the roller train and caught on the printing blanket, causing it to repeat until it is noticed and knocked off

Hone Off

The process of removing an emulsion on a printing plate using a special tool to reduce the number of plates needed.


Color apparent to the eye – red, blue, yellow


Instructions For Use printing


One replication of the original artwork on a press sheet.

Imposition software

Print production software that separates color into CYMK and allows images to be arranged properly on a printing plate for print production


An impression is one full rotation


An indication of postage payment printed directly on self-mailers

Ink Fountain

One per printing unit, ink fountains allow the flow of ink throughout the roller train. Ink fountains can have keys that can be adjusted to control the flow of ink in certain spots across the web.

Ink Keys

Ink keys, controlled manually or remotely, allow a printing press operator to control ink flow across the web by moving them inward or outward via a screw – this is referred to as “setting color” or “setting ink”


An output device that forms a printed image by expelling tiny drops of ink arranged in a pattern to create an image


In post-press production, this involves aligning printed sheets to facilitate further manufacturing processes like cutting, die cutting, and folding


A common extension (.jpg) for files containing images – Joint Photographic Experts Group

Knockout Text

Knockout text occurs when a full-color image has text “knocked out” of it; in other words, white text in the middle of an image


A method of color measurement, using a 3d axis to create an infinite color pallet and measure color quantitatively.

Laser Cut Sheets

Sesigned for use with a sheet-fed laser printer, this type of printing uses laser-guaranteed paper and inks and requires flat delivery for perfect laser application

Line Copy

Line copy is a way to refer to a document’s general makeup – line copy, as opposed to process color, is mostly comprised of text


The scientific name for web offset printing and sheet fed offset printing, in which an image on a printing plate is inked and transferred to a blanket, and then a printing substrate.

Lock Up

A lock-up is a term used to describe where the two ends of a printing plate meet; since no ink is transferred in a lockup, sometimes the lockup is moved to another area of the printed image so that the piece can bleed.


This is a type of paper coated that is calendared very little and has a very dull rough feeling for a coated paper. It offers the least shiny coating surface, but benefits from being glare-free

Metallic Inks

Ink made with metal flake offers reflective and attractive qualities; often comes at a price of 5x or more of standard PMS colors


A print production problem when ink and water are not appropriately balanced, and ink spits onto the blanket bypassing the plate cylinder; this causes repeating small dots on a press sheet.


A print production defect when ink does not distribute properly, causing an uneven or speckled look


A measurement of the ability to block the passage of light through a printing substrate; measured on a scale of 1-100.


A special type of paper manufactured to exact caliper specifications used to increase the pressure from plate to blanket in the printing process.


The numbering sequence of pages in a document.


Portable Document File


Perfecting is the ability to print on both sides in one pass; presses that do this are also called “blanket to blanket” presses


An operation that creates a series of small holes in a pattern so that a portion of the printed material can be detached easily.

Pharmaceutical Fold

A small format fold, generally used for printing in IFU’s, PI’s, and other packing insertion – extremely small folds to be inserted into retail boxes


Short for “Product Insert”, this type of printing is found in many retail packages and is used to promote further the products for the manufacturer.


Picking occurs when paper fibers release too easily from the printing substrate or when ink is excessively tacky. These paper fibers can run through the roller train, eventually settling on a blanket causing a hickey


A stack of printed paper that is jogged neatly waiting post print production operations

Pile Feed Folder

Type of buckle plate folder that uses a pile to feed into the parallel section; efficient for high-speed one-man operation


Tiny holes punched out on the sides of continuous forms so they can be fed through laser printers at letter shops


A one-use metal sheet that contains an emulsion of the area to be printed, which is wrapped around a plate cylinder on a printing press

Plate Change

Required to change copy on a job with similar images

PMS Color

Pantone Matching System, a numbered color that has a specific formula based on Pantone Mixing Bases or even process color


A responsibility of prepress to ensure that files are checked for color and client instructions


The operation that receives files, proofs them, imposes and rips them onto printing plates

Press Check

A pre-arranged client site visit to ensure that the color and quality of the product they are paying for meets their exact specifications

Print Unit

A section of a printing press that can lay down one color on one or both sides of the printing substrate. It generally contains an ink fountain with ink keys, a roller train, a plate cylinder and blanket cylinder, and a water dampening system.


A representation of what an image will look like when printed on an offset printing press


A tool used to measure heat; in web offset printing, it’s often used to measure the heat of rollers and chill stack on the fly to ensure that all components run at the proper temperature.


The operation of lining up multiple colors in correct orientation with each other; product is said to be “in register” or “out of register”

Registration dots

Targets printed in non-critical areas of the print intended to synchronize all printing units together

Reply Card

A special paper, often referred to as “hi-bulk”, made not only to caliper to minimum postal standards, but to be a very cost-effective method for return mail.


Measured in many different ways, like DPI or PPI, resolution refers to the measurement of clarity of a reproduction of an image


Red – Green – Blue; primary colors

Right Angle Fold

A type of fold that folds in one direction, and then folds in a perpendicular direction to the original fold

Roll Fold

A multiple panel fold with all folds in the same direction

Roller Train

A series of rollers with the job of smoothing out ink to be laid on the printing plate – measured by linear ink storage

Saddle Stitching

Affixing multiple pages together, generally with the binding material shown on the outside and center of the finished product


Representations of the print and fold quality during the print run; also used to create sample packages


A coating finish characterized by sheen; not as shiny as a gloss finish, but shinier than a dull or matte finish.


An indentation on a printing substrate to allow the piece to fold easily without the paper or coating cracking


A dotted halftone measured in strength by percentage, used to maintain ink film density on press while making a color appear lighter.


A greasy film of ink that can be caused by too little water, this is an undesirable print production issue


Sustainable Forestry Initiative; a certification audited by an independent 3rd party to ensure that the end user receives pulp and wood products from a responsible source.


Offset press designed to print on single sheets at a time


Printed sheets that are generally folded to 8.5×11 in 4, 8, 16, 32 or 64 pages

Slit and Nest

A type of fold, 6 pages or more, in which the outside cover is connected but the inside pages are loose


Circumferential print image slipping causing an negative change in sharpness


An area of ink printed as a 100% screen

Spine glue

Glue used to bind the nested portion of a folded piece that has been slit and nested so that the product is all attached.

Spot Color

Another word for a PMS (Pantone matching system) color, used to print exact color without overlaying any other colors

Stochastic Screening

A type of screen that uses computer-generated irregular dot patterns that achieves excellent sharpness and mitigates the “honeycomb” effect perceived with standard screening


Material on which an image is printed


A sample of the substrate used for the selection process.


The ability for an ink product to release from the printing substrate


Measured on a 24 x 36 basis, this type of paper is very similar to a cover grade – usually a thicker printing substrate ranging from 7-11 pt.


A layout used as a guide for subsequent production operations

Text Stock

Measured on a 25 x 38 basis, this is a common paper in web offset printing and is a primary way to measure paper basis weight. Offset most commonly falls within this category


A color, like a PMS color, that has been lightened by screening or diluting the ink formula


Trap can refer to two very different things in web offset printing – it can refer to overlapping one color into another to ensure there is no break or white space in between caused by misregister. Trap can also refer to the ability to lay one color on top of another

Trim Marks

These are marks used in the bindery for cutting and folding operations, usually printed in non-image areas. They give a guide to bindery operators to make sure that cutting and folding is set up precisely

Uncoated Paper

Paper that has no coating on it, this paper tends to absorb ink more than coated paper – offset is a common example of an uncoated paper

UV Ink

Ink that is cured, generally after each printing unit, by UV lamps at a very high rate of speed. Though more expensive than typical heat set inks, these inks do not emit VOC’s into the air during the drying process

UV Lamps

Bright lamps, normally staged after each printing unit, that serve to cure uv ink


A coating applied in a print unit intended to protect from ink smudging in the handling process; this coating comes in different finishes such as matte and gloss


A very rough, toothy uncoated finish on a paper – calendered very little


Also known as codes or runs, versions are classified as copy changes within a job

Viewing Booth

A 3-sided specially measured and formulated gray print viewing area that offers the best conditions to view color


The ability for ink to flow through the ink fountain and be distributed through a roller train


Performed at the end of the job, this is when blankets are thoroughly cleaned, ink may be removed from the ink fountains, leftover paper is returned to inventory, and the press is returned to make ready condition


Embedded in a paper, a watermark is intentionally applied at a mill as a security feature on the paper


Long rolls of paper, upwards of 2 miles long, used to print continually

Web Offset

Offset Printing that uses a web of paper to print continually, generally finished by a sheeter or folder.

Wet Score

An alcohol and water solution that applied with a need during the folding process to uncoated paper, reducing cracking and creating crisp folds

Z Fold

A type of fold that produces 4 panels with opposite folds