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Printing Glossary of Terms

As you probably know, the printing and graphic design industry has its own, unique set of terminology, which you need to be familiar with when ordering printing services online. Although there are quite a few printing glossaries online, most of them inundate you with far too many terms. Therefore, we put together our own printing glossary that covers the most commonly used terms, with definitions geared toward newcomers and individuals who exclusively use online printing companies.

Artwork - A file or set of files that contains the fonts, images, and copy to be printed. For online printing, one of the best ways to prepare artwork is by creating a PDF file. Online printers allow you to upload your artwork using a standard browser.

Bleed - A type of printing where the color runs to the very edge of the printed paper. This is accomplished by printing on a larger size paper than the final size of the document, then trimming the edges. If you want your document to bleed, you will typically need to add a 1/4 inch margin to each side of the document.

Comp - A proposed design shown to clients by graphic designers. Often, graphic design can be an iterative process where a series of comps are presented to the client until a final design is agreed upon.

Clip Art - Drawings, symbols, or other non-photographic images that are made available to designers for use in web or print documents. You can purchase clip art from sites like Many online printing companies also make free clip art available to its customers.

CMYK - Stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. CYMK is the predominant color schemed used in print design.

Digital Printing - A type of printing that utilizes digital files as opposed to printing plates. Digital printing is the newest kind of printing, and differs from more traditional/offset printing in that no printing plates are used.

DPI/PPI - DPI stands for dots per inch, while PPI stands for pixels per inch. DPI is used to measure the resolution of images on a printed document, while PPI is used to measure resolution for computer images. When preparing images for print, a minimum DPI/PPI of 300 is recommended by most printers.

offset printingFold Marks - Markings inside artwork that indicate where a printed document will be folded. Fold marks are often found in artwork for brochures or folded business cards.

Ink Refill Kit - A kit sold by ink stores that allows people to refill empty ink cartridges with new ink, thereby prolonging the life of their printer cartridge. Ink refill kits typically come with a syringe, an ink stand, and several bottles of ink.

Offset Printing - A type of printing where printing plates transfer ink to a cylindrical rubber blanket, which then transfers the ink to paper. Offset printing is considered the industry standard for high quality printing, and remains the cheapest way to product high quality printed documents at low cost.

Proof - A representation of how your final printed product should look. In the past, printing companies provided proofs on paper, but nowadays, many online printing companies provide proofs online. When a proof is approved, the design becomes final and goes to press.

Remanufactured Cartridge - A recycled cartridge that has been refilled with ink. Remanufactured cartridges are offered by ink stores as a less expensive alternative to buying a brand new printer ink cartridge.

RGB - Stands for red, green, and blue, and is the color scheme used to display colors on a computer screen. Note that documents that are printed should not be prepared in RGB format, but instead should use CMYK.

Stock images/Stock photography - Professional photos that are sold by agencies for a specific kind of commercial use. Typically, a photographer would sell images to stock photography agencies, who then make them available for sale to graphic designers. Popular stock photo agencies include Getty Images and Corbis Images. Using stock photography eliminates the need for small firms or websites to hire their own photographers.

Turnaround - The time it takes for an order to be completed and made ready for delivery. The fastest online printing companies have turnaround times under 24 hours. Note that turnaround times generally do not include the time it takes to deliver a product, so you must factor in delivery time in addition to turnaround time.

Trim Size - The final size of a document after it has been printed, and the edges have been cut. The original document size of your artwork will often differ from the trim size, especially when the document has a bleed.


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