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Printing Terminology

Date 4th October 2016
Category FAQs

Recognise your Pantones from your CMYK, untangle GSMs from microns, in our glossary of printing terminology


It is very difficult to print exactly to the edge of a sheet of paper so, to achieve this, it’s necessary to print a slightly larger area than is needed and then trim the paper down to the required finished size. Bleed is the area of artwork that extends beyond the dimensions of your printed document. Artwork and background colours should extend into the bleed area. After trimming, the bleed ensures that no unprinted edges are left on the final trimmed document.

Crop Marks or Trim Marks

Artwork is printed on oversized sheets of paper larger than the size of the printed document, your job is then trimmed down to the correct size. Crop marks are a guide for the printer to know where to trim the artwork to make it the correct size once it’s printed.


Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black is the colour spectrum of inks and toners used in printing.


Red, Green, Blue is the digital colour spectrum for displaying images on screens.


Portable document format. This is the ideal file format we need to print your document.


‘Dots per inch’ is a printing term still used today, sometimes incorrectly, to refer to ‘pixels per inch’ which indicates the resolution of a photo or image at a given size.

High resolution or ‘Hi-res’

A high resolution image has more detail and therefore is the appropriate quality for printing. Higher DPI/PPI images appear vivid, vibrant and detailed in print.

Digital printing

Laser and ink-jet printing directly from digital files such as PDFs. Fast turnaround printing of small quantities and printing on demand for as little as one copy.

Litho printing

A process using metallic printing plates and inks.

Pantone or PMS (Pantone Matching System)

A set of standard ink colours for printing, each specified by a single number.

Spot colour

A spot colour is any colour generated by one ink. The litho printing process is composed of four spot colours: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (the K stands for ‘Key’) commonly referred to as CMYK. Spot colour is generally used to refer to a Pantone colour.


‘Grams per square metre’ indicates paper weight of a substrate. For example, leaflets are commonly printed on 150gsm, standard photocopying paper tends to be 80gsm, business cards are commonly printed on 350gsm.


Industry standard software/app used to design and publish high quality documents across a full spectrum of print and digital media.


Industry standard vector graphics software/app used to create logos, icons, sketches, typography, and complex illustrations for print, web, interactive, video, and mobile.


Industry standard software/app for digitally editing images for print, web, and mobile.

Quark express

Design and layout tool for print and digital publishing.


Measurement in micro metres of the thickness of a sheet of paper.

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