Glossary of Printing Terms

Before I came to work for Edwards Brothers Malloy, I had no experience in the printing industry.  As such, there were a lot of things I had to learn about the process of manufacturing books.  I must confess that I’m still learning and I assume that it’s the same feeling many small publishers and authors must have when navigating the book printing process.  We have done previous posts on the definitions of printing terms and there are some more that are quirky and in no way descriptive of the processes or concepts that they are meant to identify.

Kerning:  The process of manipulating the spacing among characters to achieve a visually pleasing result.  This is an especially funny term when we could just call it spacing.

Basis weight:  This term refers to paper and (in the U.S. and Canada) it is the weight in pounds of a ream of paper (500 sheets) cut to a standard size.  It can also be referred to as ream weight or substance weight.  So, when you hear that a particular paper is say, 50 pound white; this means that 500 sheets of that paper cut to a standard size weighs 50 pounds.

Blurb:  This refers to some kind of description or commentary of book content or an author and is typically positioned on a book jacket.

Signature:  A grouping of pages that have been printed and folded but not yet bound.  Every book has multiple signatures that go together to make the completed book.

C1S and C2S:  These are abbreviations for coated one side and coated two sides.

CMYK:  This is an abbreviation for the primary colors cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black).  These are the four process colors used to create all other colors in the printing process.

Coated paper:  This term refers to paper that has a coating made from clay and/or other substances.  It is applied to improve reflectivity and ink holdout.  Paper manufacturers make coated paper in four major categories which are gloss, dull, cast and matte.

Coverage:  The extent to which ink covers the surface of paper or other substrate.  This can be expressed as light, medium or heavy.

Creep:  This is a phenomenon in printing where the pages of a book (most noticeable in soft cover books) extend past the edge of the cover.  It is also referred to as feathering and sometimes web growth.

Crop Marks:  These are lines near the edges of images that indicate portions that should be reproduced.  They are also referred to as cut or tic marks.

DPI:  An acronym for dots per square inch.  This is a measure of output resolution as it relates to monitors on computer screens, printed images and image setters.

Drill:  As it relates to printing, this term refers to holes that are drilled in a book.  Most commonly this happens with workbooks and other similar media that may be purposed for three ring binders.

Dull finish:  This refers to a coating applied to paper (typically covers of books) that is flat and not glossy.  It is a little smoother than a matte finish and is also sometimes called velour, velvet or suede finish.

Groundwood paper:  This is a type of paper like newsprint or other inexpensive substrate made from pulp created when wood chips are ground up mechanically as opposed to being broken down chemically.

House sheet:  This refers to paper kept in stock by a printer.  House sheets are usually suitable for a variety of different printing applications.  These papers are also sometimes called floor sheets.

Inkjet printing:  This refers to a method of printing where droplets of ink are sprayed through computer controlled nozzles.

These are only some of hundreds of terms used in the printing and publishing industries.  Sometimes they are well suited for the processes or objects that they are meant to describe and sometimes not.  Is there any printing or publishing terms that are confusing to you?

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