Printer’s jargon

Whether it’s a simple flyer or a multi-page magazine, at some point you’re going to have to deal with a printer. Every word of jargon you use will knock a bit more off the quote, and that’s because they’ll be more confident that the file you give them will actually be printable to your specification. Here are some key words and phrases.


Saddle stitched Stapled. A machine automatically inserts wire stitches when the publication is bent over a saddle.
Perfect bound A magazine or book in which the pages are glued together at the spine and then trimmed to size.
Thread sewn A higher quality finish in which pages are compiled into signatures and sewn together before the book is bound.
Self cover A publication in which the cover is printed on the same stock as the inside pages.
Bleed  A photograph which runs to the edge of the page bleeds off. The design is printed on oversized stock and trimmed.
Crop marks  Small lines just outside the page area that show where to cut the paper if a design is printed with bleed.
Registration The alignment of multiple coloured inks. If the colours don’t line up they’re said to be out of register.
Stock Paper
Board Thick stock. Boards are the covers of hardback books.
Coated Stock with a transparent sealant that adds gloss, weight or some other quality to improve its appearance.
Blade coated A high quality matte paper that prints photographs very well. To test if a sheet of stock is blade coated, run your thumbnail down it and it will reveal a shiny streak.
Art High quality stock. Can be either matte or gloss.
gsm Grammes per square metre—the measurement of a paper’s weight. Stationery is usually 80gsm to 120gsm; greetings cards 240gsm; business cards 300gsm.
CMYK Stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, and is possibly the world’s only dyslexic acronym. The standard colours used to print colour publications.
Pantone A system of categorising colours not printable using CMYK, referred to by their Pantone number—for instance, Pantone 485 is bright red. If a Pantone Number has C after its name then that’s how it will appear on coated stock.
Special A print job requiring a Pantone colour as well as CMYK.
Duotone A photograph printed in black and one other colour.
Imposition The arrangement of multiple pages in a publication.
Signature A collection of pages to be perfect bound or thread sewn. Most signatures contain 16 pages.
4-up The number of identical copies printed on a sheet. Business cards are usually printed 8-up on a sheet of A4.
4 × 4 “Four back four”: a job printed in CMYK both sides.

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