We thought it was time to create a blog post that could serve as a holistic printing glossary — one that defines common terms used in the industry so you can wow the office and speak printer language like a pro! Print or bookmark this post and come back to it whenever you need to.

Glossary of Terms

Acid-free PaperPaper made from pulp containing little or no acid so it resists deterioration from age. Also called alkaline paper, archival paper, neutral pH paper, permanent paper and thesis paper.
ArtworkAll original copy, including type, photos and illustrations, intended for printing.
BindUsually in the book arena, but not exclusively, the joining of leaf’s or signatures together with either wire, glue or other means.
Blind FolioA page number not printed on the page. (In the book arena, a blank page traditionally does not print a page number.)
Blow-UpAn enlargement, usually used with graphic images or photographs.
CalendarTo make the surface of paper smooth by pressing it between rollers during manufacturing.
CMYKAbbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black), the four process colours.
Colour BreakIn multicolour printing, the point, line or space at which one ink colour stops and another begins. Also called break for colour.
Colour Electronic Prepress SystemComputer, scanner, printer and other hardware and software designed for image assembly, colour correction, retouching and output onto proofing materials, film or printing plates. Abbreviated CEPS.
Colour TransparencyFilm (transparent) used as art to perform colour separations.
Composite FilmFilm made by combining images from two or more pieces of working film onto one film for making one plate.
Crop MarksLines near the edges of an image indicating portions to be reproduced. Also called cut marks and tic marks.
Density RangeDifference between the darkest and lightest areas of copy. Also called contrast ratio, copy range and tonal range.
Duplex PaperThick paper made by pasting highlights together two thinner sheets, usually of different colours. Also called double-faced paper and two-tone paper.
Encapsulated PostScript fileComputer file containing both images and PostScript commands. Abbreviated EPS file.
EPSEncapsulated Post Script, a known file format usually used to transfer post script information from one program to another.
Feeding UnitComponent of a printing press that moves paper into the register unit.
Finish(1) Surface characteristics of paper. (2) General term for trimming, folding, binding and all other post press operations.
Fold MarksWith printed matter, markings indicating where a fold is to occur, usually located at the top edges.
Full-range HalftoneHalftone ranging from 0 percent coverage in its highlights to 100 percent coverage in its shadows.
GlossConsider the light reflecting on various objects in the printing industry (e.g., paper, ink, laminates, UV coating, varnish).
Grey ScaleStrip of grey values ranging from white to black. Used by process camera and scanner operators to calibrate exposure times for film and plates. Also called step wedge.
LaminateA thin transparent plastic sheet (coating) applied to usually a thick stock (covers, post cards, etc.) providing protection against liquid and heavy use, and usually accents existing colour, providing a glossy (or lens) effect.
MarginImprinted space around the edge of the printed material.
Mock UpA reproduction of the original printed matter and possibly containing instructions or direction.
MultiColour PrintingPrinting in more than one ink colour (but not four-colour process). Also called polychrome printing.

Abbreviations and Terminology

AbbreviationLong versionDescription
A2Paper SizeA2 is a paper size that is frequently used for medium size posters, architectural drawings, and diagrams. A2 measures 420 x 594 millimeters or 16.54 x 23.39 inches.
A3Paper SizeA3 is a paper size that is typically used for drawings, diagrams, and large tables. It is also frequently used in laser printers to output two A4 pages as a spread. A3 measures 297 x 420 millimetres or 11.69 x 16.54 inches.
A4Paper SizeA4 is a popular paper size that is used for a wide range of documents, including magazines, catalogs, letters, and forms. It measures 210 x 297 millimetres or 8.27 x 11.69 inches.
A5Paper SizeA5 is a paper size that is often used for notepads or pocket books. It measures 148 x 210 millimetres or 5.83 x 8.27 inches.
ADFAutomatic document feederA feature which takes several pages and feeds them one at a time into a scanner or copier, allowing the user to scan, copy, print, or fax, multiple-page documents without having to manually replace each page.
CMYKStands for the toner colour, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow or BlackIt refers to the four process colours used in four colour printing.  Printers will talk about four colour printing, full colour printing and process printing.  In reality, they all mean the same thing.
CPCCost per copyCost per contracted amount of copies.
CPMCopies per minuteThe rated speed of a copy machine for page output.
DPIDots per inchdescribes a method of spatial printing, where individual dots of colour are placed in the line within the span of 1 inch or 2,54 centimetres. Higher DPI means higher Image Resolution and vice versa. The low DPI (and hence bad Image Resolution) fluctuates between 60 and 96 DPI, while the highest DPI available at the moment is 2,400.
DADFDuplex Automatic Document FeederA DADF takes several pages and feeds the paper one page at a time into a scanner or copier, allowing the user to scan, print, copy and fax multipage documents without having to manually replace each page.
EAEmulsion AggregationEmulsion refers to the synthetic chemical process to form latex toner resin and aggregation means to bring the toner ingredient’s particles together to form the desired particle size and spherical shape.
GSMGrams per square metera square meter of a specific type of paper will weigh a certain number of grams. This designation tells paper consumers how dense the paper is, which generally indicates quality.
IFPDInteractive Flat Panel DisplayDigital display board that functions as a large screen computer. This device is optimal for collaboration and innovation.
IITImage input terminalThis is the server.
IOTImage output terminalThis is the engine of the device.
MFDMultifunction DeviceA multifunctional printing device incorporating functionality of multiple devices into one.
MFPMultifunction PrinterA multifunctional printing device incorporating functionality of multiple devices into one.  It has a smaller footprint than the MFP and suits smaller business or home office.
MPSManaged print servicesA service that will optimize or manage a company’s document output. Also, tracks how the printer, fax, copier and MFP fleet is being used, the problems, and the user’s satisfaction.
OCROptical Character RecognitionIts an electronic means of scanning (reading) copy and converting the scanned image to an electronic equivalent.  It’s the ability to ‘read’ printed text (characters) and convert it to digitised files that an be saved and edited as a text file.
PCLPrint command languagePCL levels 1 through 5e/5c are command-based languages using control sequences that are processed and interpreted in the order they are received. At a consumer level, PCL data streams are generated by a print driver. PCL output can also be easily generated by custom applications.
PDFPortable Document FormatThis is an Adobe universal electronic file format.  PDFs can be viewed, navigated and printed from any computer to almost any printer.
PMSPantone Matching SystemThe standard ink colour system used by commercial printers. There are thousands of PMS colours to choose from. You might have a PMS swatch book on hand already.
PPMPage per minuteThe printer will print xx amount of pages per minute.
PSPost Script (Adobe)A page description language in electronic and desktop publishing.
QR CodeQuick Response CodeIt’s a 2D barcode that gets decoded using a Smartphone camera and Internet connectivity.  Activating a QR code will lead viewers to a website, specific landing page, or other digital destination where they can access information and images.
RGBRed, Green, BluePrimary additive colours used in display devices and scanners.  Commonly used to refer to the colour space, mixing system or monitor in colour computer graphics.
RIPRaster image processorTakes the image data sent to it from an application and converts this data into a form that a printer can understand.
SMBSmall and Mid sized businessDue to size has different IT requirements.
SSOSingle sign onA user logs on with a single ID and password to gain access to the related system.
T&MTime and materialsWhen contracted for a piece of work in with the employer agrees to pay the contractor based upon the time spent by the contractor and the materials used in the process.
TCOTotal cost of ownershipAn estimate intended to help buyers determine the total costs of equipment and services when purchasing a device.
UIUser interfaceIt’s everything designed into an information device with which a person may interact.