Print Perfect Terminology

09/06/2015 11:35:31

Print Perfect Terminology

Familiarise yourself with print terminology and get a more refined finish on all your products, as well as an upper-hand on your competitors. This glossary covers some of the most commonly used jargon used by designers and printers when creating your custom made business cards, posters and other print items. Take a look at our guide and get to grips with the terminology surrounding print so you can get your products printed perfect first time round.

1. Print Sizes

    A0    841mm x 1189mm
    A1    594mm x 841mm
    A2    420mm x 594mm
    A3    297mm x 420mm
    A4    210mm x 297mm
    A5    148mm x 210mm
    A6    105mm x 148mm
    A7      74mm x 105mm

Determine the purpose of the print item, including the level of impact you want to achieve, and from there you can then work out the size required. If you’re executing a big poster campaign you’re probably best with a size A0. Alternatively if you plan on sending out some flyers, A6 should do the trick.

Tip: The smaller the number, the bigger the size of the paper. 


DPI stands for ‘dots per inch’, and is typically used when describing the resolution of printing functions. The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution – and the more accurate and detailed your print.

Tip: The higher the DPI, the better the quality of the final print.


Broken down, CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). This is by far the most common colour combination used in printing. Key, or black, refers to the key plate which is said to add detail to a printed image – black adds definition and shadow into an image. If you’re designing in-house, it’s vital that all your materials are created in CMYK to get the best possible print finish.  

Tip: Designing your products in CMYK will give you the best printed finish. Read more on CMYK in our Colour Guide.


RGB is a collection of the primary colours: red, green and blue. This is the online graphic colour palette, which allows us to see a true representation of colour on TVs or monitors. Similar to CMYK, the RGB colour model is blended to create an array of other colours.


Never design a printed product in RGB, it gives the final product a really poor, dull finish. 

5. Pantone®

This is a standardised colour reproduction system used in the design industry. Almost all printers can colour match using these colour references, so if you’re redesigning your branding then it’s always best to get a Pantone® swatch before choosing your final colour scheme.

Tip: Great to use for big rebranding campaigns, Pantone® gives you a clear idea of what your chosen brand colours look like in print.

Ink Types

Knowing your different types of print-based inks could prove useful. The most commonly used inks when it comes to printing are dye, pigment and solid.

Solid comes in a solid brick-like form to create a vibrant print colour. Each brick or ‘stick’ is used to rub colour onto the paper.

Pigment is made from a fine powder. Pigment ink sits on the surface of the paper rather than soaking into it. Pigment tends to last a long time, retaining its colour properties.

Dye is a liquid-based ink that soaks into the fibre of the paper to create colour. Dye is usually the quickest to fade over time, and tends to have a higher risk of causing bleed.

Tip: Try to print your copy in the different kinds of ink so you can see which looks best.

Trim Size

To avoid any text and logos from being chopped off, it’s essential to leave space between your content and the ‘trim’ or ‘finished’ size. When designing in creative Adobe programs, the trim will give you a true representation of what will be printed. It’s important not to have anything touching the trim line as paper can move on the press when it’s printed and when it’s trimmed to size, so you could lose some of your design.

Tip: Try printing out a trial copy of your work to check nothing touches the trim line and gets chopped off.


Similarly, if you want your background colour or image to go to the edge of your finished product, you need to allow an overlap on the artwork to avoid the possibility of a white keyline. This is called bleed. The bleed should only be around 3 or 5mm beyond your trim size but will certainly help if you want to give your designs more impact.

Tip: Adobe programs such as InDesign allow you to practice layouts inclusive of bleed and trim sizes.

Saddle Stitching

Perfect for custom leaflets and booklets, saddle stitching is the creation of a printed booklet. This is basically a binding method where the printed pieces of paper are gathered together one inside the other and then fixed through the fold line with staples.

Tip: Consider the amount of information you want to fit into your printed booklet. Always remember to leave space between your copy, any imagery and the fold to ensure your text is easy to read.


Embossing is a great way to add a more refined look to business cards through the creation of three dimensional design. The raised area of embossing gives the products a luxury feel.

Tip: Use embossing subtly for more impact. It looks great on business cards, wedding invitations and branded stationery.

Crop Lines

With printers generally being unable to print right up to the edge of the paper, you need to print your work on a slightly larger sheet and cut it down to size. This is where crop lines come in, as they can show the printer exactly where they need to cut the page down.

Tip: Design software can usually create crop lines for you, so you can use these for ease.


Lithography is a printing process capable of printing on a wide range of paper stock. Commercial printers will use this method to print out thousands of copies of the same item.  

Tip: When a large volume is required, lithographic printing can be more cost-effective than digital printing.

Tags: Print