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Print Jargon Explained

From the Printware Blog on Wednesday 13th March 2013 in Resources, Consumer Advice

All of this printer jargon makes perfect sense to us but may leave some a little baffled. Of course, we are always available to help over the phone during office hours but outside of these times, or if you prefer to investigate yourself, this section has a brief explanation of the industry terms and acronyms that we use on a regular basis. Working within the industry, it can be easy to slip into jargon without realising it and to assume that everyone else knows what we're talking about. If you spot any examples of this, or think there's something that we've missed, please help by letting us know.

Glossary of Terms

A » B » C » D » E » F » G » H » I » J » K » L » M » N » O » P » R » S » T » U » W


Acrobat Reader

Software package used to view PDFs. For more information on how to download Acrobat Reader, access the Adobe site on www.adobe.com


Original illustrative copy or typesetting, ready for reproduction.

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Unwanted lines of changing density across a print job. Usually can be attributed to a problem in the transfer process.


When a printed area extends beyond the final page size then it is called a bleed. A bleed is normally provided for printers, so when they trim the artwork no white is left on the sheet. It also allows laser printers to print edge to edge, by printing on oversized paper.


A computer generated grid of pixels or printed dots used to represent type and images on a page.

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Computer Aided Design. Generally used in the architecture or engineering industry.

Coated Paper

Standard paper given a coating of synthetic clay to fill in surface pits to promote ink holding and give a different finish.


If multiple copies of a document are printed, the printer is able to assemble the pages of each copy in their correct order.


Standard process colours used in four colour printing - cyan [C], magenta [M], yellow [Y] and black [K], with K standing for key colour. Using these four colours in differing proportions, the full colour spectrum can be produced.

Colour Calibration

A mechanism using hardware and software to adjust and coordinate colours between two or more digital devices.

Colour Separation

Separation of a continuous tone colour into four process colours: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CYMK) for print making.


Parts of a printer, which have to be replaced once their life has expired or they have run out, for example the ink in a toner cartridge. Generally, these are end-user replaceable.

Continuous Feed

Paper that is generally tractor fed into a dot matrix printer. Rather than individual sheets, the paper is continuous, separated only by perforations.

Crop Marks

Markings on the sheet which indicate where cuts should be made or edges can be trimmed.

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Dots per inch, a measure of the output resolution produced by laser printers or image setters. Used usually in the context of semitone or process printing, which refers to the frequency of print dots appearing. The greater the dpi, the finer the print.

Dot Matrix

Dot Matrix printers have a horizontal moving head with a vertical line of pins mounted inside. As the head moves, the correct pins are pushed forward to form the shape of a letter and they strike the inked ribbon to form characters as a series of dots. They can print at high speeds onto continuous feed paper. There speed is measured in character per second (cps)


The transfer of information from the internet to the computer.


Software installed on your computer which allows it to communicate with your printer or other external devices. For example you can set your drivers so the printer always prints on both sides of the paper.

Duplex Printing

Printing on both sides of a sheet.

Dye Sublimation

Dye is vapourised using heat and pressure, before being deposited on the media to give a high quality output.

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Encapsulated Postscript, a file format used to transfer Postscript image information from one computer software program to another.


This is a computer standard of communication which, transmits data using a specific protocol through a network. It is one of the most widely used LAN technologies in business today.

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A term used to cover all bindery operations (Folding, Stapling, Punching and Trimming)


A set of characters having the same typeface and characteristics such as size, spacing and font style.


File Transfer Protocol, the program used to transfer files through the Internet from one computer to another.


Part of a non impact printing system that fuses toner or powder on to paper, using heat and pressure

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Measure of contrast affecting the mid tones in an image.


A device used to link two (non-identical) LANs or a LAN into a WAN.


Grey Component Replacement, technique for replacing all the neutral tones of an image with an appropriate amount of black.


Where a faint representation of a previously printed page appears on the subsequently printed pages.


This is the reflectivity of the paper or print on the paper. Glossy paper has a shiny finish to it.


Term used when an image is represented by many shades of gray.

GSM / g/m2

Both mean grams per square meter, and represent the weight of paper.


The point at which facing pages meet, usually represented by a line or fold.

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Halftone Screen

Pattern of dots of different sizes used to simulate a continuous tone photograph either in colour or black and white.


A device at the centre of a star network through which all connections are made.

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Postioning pages on a sheet so as to ensure they are in the correct order once the page has been folded.


Very fine jets of ink, which can include colours, are sprayed directly onto the paper from rows of nozzles. Special ink is required to prevent it smearing before it has dried.


Integrated Services Digital Network, international communications standard for sending data over digital telephone lines at a faster rate than traditional analogue phone lines.

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JDF (Job Definition Format)

An XML based file format, JDF is designed to allow an open exchange of data between different machines and applications including pre-press, press and finishing, thus providing a streamlined flow of information from job inception to completion.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)

A format for image files, with built in compression.

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A line drawn on artwork which indicates an area for tint laying, positioning or half tones etc, where this must be done at a later stage. May be printing or non-printing.

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Laser printers use very narrow beams of light to fire an image onto an electronically charged drum. Pigment loaded resin (toner) is attached to the charged areas and heat is then used to melt and bond the resin to the paper as it is rolled over the drum.


Local Area Network, a way for computers to transmit data in a localised location, through a network.

LED Technology

Light Emitting Diodes, this is where a light source shines light on a light sensitive drum creating an attractive charge like a magnet. Toner is attracted to this charge and transferred to the paper and finally fused in place. Digital LED Technology has a number of advantages such as faster printing and higher print quality than a comparable laser printer.


Lines per Inch, measure of the frequency of dots on a halftone screen.

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This relates to the different weights, styles and types of paper available for use in a printer.


Magnetic Ink Character Recognition. A specialist magnetic toner used for printing reference numbers on cheques, or for magnetic sorting.

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A network allows lots of computers to access a central computer, through cables or by wireless.


Printing multiple sheets up on a single page.

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Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Software that can scan an image and turn it into editable text.

Optical Resolution

The physical resolution of a device before any software enhancement.

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Also known as PMS, ie Pantone Matching System. This is an ink system where eight primary colours are mixed in defined ratios to achieve a specific colour, for example if asked for PMS 357 - this is a reference for a specific colour, achieved by mixing three or four of the Pantone primary colours to achieve a particular shade. All printing companies will understand an instruction to match PMS 357.

Paper Tray

This is the tray on a printer where the paper (media) is stored. The input tray is the tray used for blank sheets of paper, where as the output tray is where the printed documents end up.

Parallel Port

This is a plug socket on a computer which is used to connect printers via a cable, for the data to be transmitted from the computer to the printer.


Portable Document Format, file format for representing documents independent of the original application software, hardware, and operating system used to create those documents.


Page description language, a PDL specifies the arrangement of a printed page through commands from a computer that the printer carries out. Hewlett Packard's Printer Control Language (PCL) and Adobe's PostScript are the two most commonly used PDLs.

Perfect Binding

A type of binding using glue, this method is used to make paperback books.


A printer with Pictbridge will allow direct connection of a digital camera to produce prints.


Or picture element, is a dot made by an imaging device (scanner or printer)


A measurement representing the size of a font. For example this type is in 8.5pt Tahoma. 1 point is equal to 0.3515mm.


A commonly used PDL (See PDL’s)


A pre-production print, made for the purpose of checking the accuracy of layout, type matter, tone and colour reproduction.

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A measurement of paper, in most cases 500 sheets


A colour system using Red, Green & Blue. This is most commonly used in monitors and displays.


Raster Image Processor, part of an output device that rasterises information so that it may be printed into film or paper.


Conversion of PDL data into a bitmap for printing or display

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Saddle Stitch

A method of binding a document together by stapling along a centre fold.

Solid Ink

Can also be called Phase Change printing. Solid blocks of resin based ink are melted and sprayed onto a solid drum. Media is then passed across the drum and the image is transferred to the paper.

Spot Colour

Colour printed with custom ink rather than with a process colour combination.

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Tagged Image File Format, standard file format for exchange of bitmapped images between applications.


Chemically grown fine powder used to create an image in photocopying and laser printing.

True Colour Systems

Monitors that display more than 16 million colours (24 bits per pixel).

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Universal Serial Bus - this is a a plug-and-play interface which connects electronic devices to computers. A USB is generally quicker in transferring information than a parallel port. Generally most printers and computers on the market have USB connectivity, unless they are more than 1-2 years old.

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What You See Is What You Get - describes the idea that a printed image is visually identical to the same image when viewed on a computer monitor.

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Add terms to the Glossary

Have we missed anything? Let us know by leaving a comment below and we will add it to our glossary.


by Andy Leighton

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