The Ultimate Print and Packaging Glossary

by | Sep 2, 2022 | Free Download!

Print and Packaging Glossary Image

Whether you’re just dipping your toes into the world of printing and packaging or you’re a seasoned pro, there’s a whole bunch of quirky terms and insider know-how to wrap your head around, all in the name of dodging those pesky printing blunders.

Let’s face it, nothing puts a damper on your day quite like eagerly unwrapping your freshly printed masterpiece, only to find it’s not quite the masterpiece you envisioned. Yikes!

Maybe your designer has handed over the print files and thrown around terms like “stock” and “finish” that sound more like a foreign language to you. Or perhaps you’re playing Picasso and crafting your own artwork, but you’re scratching your head wondering what on earth the printer needs from you.

But fear not, my friend! I’ve whipped up the ultimate glossary of print and packaging lingo you’re likely to stumble upon. It’s as handy as a pocket on a shirt, and it’s all neatly alphabetised for your browsing pleasure. And hey, why not take it one step further? Scroll down to the bottom of this page, and sign up to snag this nifty list as a free download. That way, you’ll always be print prepared!


Accordion Fold: Folding paper by bending each fold in the opposite direction of the previous fold creating a pleated or accordion effect.

Artwork: The materials needed to produce a printed piece.

Adhesives: Substances that are used to make things stick firmly together.

Bleed: Any element that extends up to or past the edge of a printed page. Printers usually require 3-5mm of bleed on print artwork to allow for any slight movement that may occur when the printed item is being cut to size.

Binding: Used to bind or fasten a book or booklet together.

Coating: A special liquid coating applied to the paper to reduce the risk of the ink smudging after printing.

Collate: To gather the sheets or printed pages together in their correct order.

Coverage: The extent to which ink covers the surface of a printed sheet. Ink coverage is often referred to as light, medium or heavy.

Creep: Refers to the movement that happens to the margins in a document when pages are folded during the finishing process of a booklet. The amount of creep can vary depending on the thickness of the paper and the number of pages.

Crop: To reduce the size of an image.

Crop marks: Printed lines around the edges of a printed piece to indicate where it needs to be cut.

Cyan: The C in CMYK. Shade of blue used in four-colour process printing.

Deboss: To press an image into the paper so it extends below the surface. The opposite of emboss where the image is raised above the paper surface.

Die Cut: Cutting paper in the shape of the desired pattern or design.

Digital Printing: The process of printing digital-based images directly onto a variety of materials. There is no need for a printing plate, unlike offset printing so it is the cheapest option for smaller print jobs.

Dieline (or Keyline): Refers to the template or shape needed to ensure the correct layout of a physical package.

Drop Shadow
A shadow placed behind an image to create the effect of the image lifting off the page.

Dummy: An initial mock-up of the desired finished product. If you are printing an extensive booklet or some packaging, you may request a blank dummy copy so you can hold it in your hands and feel the finish and its weight. A great idea for large print jobs!

Duotone: A two-colour reproduction generated from a one-colour photo.

DPI: Stands for dots per inch. The recommended minimum resolution for printing is 300 dpi.

Dye Sublimation: A photographic-looking colour print created by heating dyes on a substrate instead of using inks.

Embossing: A raised image on the papers surface.

Finish: The surface quality of the paper.

Finishing: The finishing touches of a print. For example, cutting the crop lines, adding protective gloss or any other special finishes.

Finish Size: The final size that your artwork will be trimmed to.

Foil: Impressing metallic foil onto paper with a heated die. Frequently used for gold or metallic colours.

Foil Embossing: Stamping a thin sheet of metallic foil onto a sheet of paper and then embossing a pattern under it, creating a three-dimensional raised area.

Gate Fold: A three or four-panel fold where the two outside panels fold inward to meet in the centre.

Grain: The direction of paper fibres within the paper is called the grain. Printing is usually done so that if folding is required, the fold is done parallel to the grain which prevents cracking.

GSM:  Stands for “grams per square metre” and refers to the weight of the paper. Coated sheets often feel thinner than uncoated sheets of the same weight so it’s a great idea to request samples if time allows.

Image quality (or Image Resolution): Normally measured in dots per inch (DPI). Images that have been compressed or used online will have a lower resolution to allow the content to load more quickly. Digital files are generally 72 dpi, whereas images that are required for print require a minimum of 300 dpi to ensure items print sharp and clear.

Jacket (or Dust Jack, Dust Cover): The paper cover of a hardbound book.

Laminate (or celloglaze): A plastic film heat bonded to printed products such as booklet covers, business cards and postcards. This provides extra protection and can either have a matt or gloss finish.

Magenta: The M in CMYK. Magenta is a predominately red colour with some blue used in four-colour process printing.

Matte Finish: A coated paper finish that is smooth but not shiny. The opposite of a gloss stock.

Metallic Ink: Made with powdered metal or pigments that allow printing to look metallic. The most common colours used are gold and silver.

Offset Printing: A common printing technique in which the inked image is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket and then to the printing surface. It’s best for large cost-effective print runs. It also guarantees excellent colour options and the broadest range of surface print materials.

Overprinting: Any printing that is done on an area that has already been printed.

Page Count: The total number of pages in a book, magazine, or publication.

Pagination: The numbering of pages in a multi-page document.

Perfect Binding: A binding process where the pages of a book are held together by an adhesive along the spine.

PMS: Abbreviation of the Pantone Color Matching System. A universal colour language that designers, printing companies and brand owners use to ensure the right colour is achieved.

Pre-Flight: The procedure used to analyse or evaluate every component needed to produce a high-quality print job.

Press Check: When the designer or client visits a printing company to view actual printed sheets of their project before a full production press run is started.

Press Proof: Printed sample to show exactly how it will print using the paper, ink and plates that will be used for the final press run.

Process Printing (CMYK Printing): A system where a colour image is separated into different colour values (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Using screens or software, the artwork is transferred onto printing plates and printed to reproduce the original colour image.

Proofing: The best way to avoid expensive printing mistakes. It’s important to pay close attention to the proofs you receive to ensure the design, copy and colour are correct.

RGB: The colour space of Red, Green and Blue. These are the primary colours of light, which computers use to display images on your screen.

Rich Black:  Using multiple ink colours in addition to black to produce a richer, darker black colour.

Roll Fold: A method of folding where the two panels on the edges of the page fold in over the centre panel.

Saddle Stitch: The binding of booklets or other printed materials by stapling the pages on the folded spine.

Satin Finish: A smooth and soft finish over the paper.

Scoring: To crease paper for the purpose of making folding easier and preventing cracking.

Screen Printing: With screen printing, a fine mesh is used to transfer an image onto another material. It’s useful for printing logos onto clothes and printing fabric banners.

Self Cover: A cover that is the same paper stock as the internal sheets.

Show Through: When the printing on one side of a sheet is seen from the other side, a frequent problem when using thin papers.

Silk Paper: A stock that has a low surface sheen and provides excellent ink-to-paper contrast. Colours may appear brighter and more defined making it a great choice for readability.

Soy Inks: Inks made with soy oils instead of petroleum and considered to be more environmentally friendly. A standard component of green printing.

Spiral Bind: A type of binding where a metal or plastic wire is spiralled through holes drilled along the binding side of a document.

Spot Colour/PMS: Achieved by mixing the ink into the desired colour you want for your print project, as opposed to using the CMYK process. This ensures more accurate colours every print run.

Spot Varnish: A way of highlighting a certain area of a page by selectively applying a varnish to it.

Stock: A term for unprinted paper.

Trapping: The overlapping of one colour over another to ensure that no white space is visible where the two colours meet.

Trim: The trim cuts through the bleed area to ensure a continuous and sharp edge around the design.

Trim Marks: Marks placed on the printed sheet to indicate where cuts should be made.

Trim Size: The final size of a printed item after being cut from the sheet of paper it was printed on.

UV Coating: A super shiny and durable high gloss coating applied to printed material. It is applied as a liquid and then cured with ultraviolet light.

Varnish: A clear coating added to printed material as a protective layer for improved scuff resistance and usually higher gloss.

Yellow: The Y in CMYK. The Y is for the yellow used in four-colour process printing.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found this helpful.

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