The ins and outs of print design lingo

Yes, yes, I know... "Print is dead!"

And, I cover a lot of digital + online marketing topics here.

But, I actually still do a LOT of print design pieces. Some of my clients have older audiences, so they are being smart and going about their marketing the RIGHT way. Some of the older generations don't always like going online. You may have an event sign-up on your website, but the older crowd may not want to or like to use that service.

As I've said many times before, knowing your audience is so important. Major kudos to my clients who KNOW their audience and are using the best avenue of communication for their audience. 

That being said, many people are very unfamiliar with working with print shops and understanding the "lingo" that printers use with their clients. While I offer printing services to my customers, some prefer to handle that part of the process on their own. So today, I want to go over some of the most common phrases you may hear or read when working with a print shop.

4/4 – Pronounced “four over four”, this term means there are four colors applied to the front of the piece and four colors applied to the back. Other similar terms include 4/1 (four colors on the front, one color on the back), 4/0 (four colors on the front, no colors on the back), and so on.

Bleed – When a piece has "full bleed," that means it has elements (like a background color) that touch the edge of the page, extending beyond the trim edge and leaving no white margin. When a document has bleed, it must be printed on a larger sheet of paper and then trimmed down to the exact size. 

CMYK – This acronym refers to the basic printing process colors - cyan, magenta, yellow, black - with K standing for black. Computer screens read RGB, but printers print CMYK.

Coated vs. uncoated paper – A coated paper is treated and has a smooth and 'coated' feel. The most common finishes are gloss and matte. Uncoated is just the opposite – the "rough" normal paper that you might use day to day.

Digital Printing – A printing process most often used for short-run jobs that need fast turnaround times.

Gutter – The inside margins between two facing pages of a magazine or book. The gutter space is important because space is often lost during the binding process.

Perfect binding vs saddle-stitch binding – Perfect binding is the process of bonding the sheets of a magazine/book with glue (near the spine) to an external cover. Saddle-stitching is done by stapling sheets at the fold of the spine.

Paper Type – There are several different types of paper weight/stock, and you can choose to print your pieces heavier or lighter, based on preferences. Always make sure to talk it over with your printer if you want to do something "out of the ordinary" print-wise. Here are a few of the most common stocks that you might be using:

  • 80# Gloss Text – Standard glossy paper stock, about as thick as a light magazine cover. 

  • 100# Gloss Text – This is 25% thicker and heavier than 80#, for a piece that feels more substantial. Usually used on brochures, self-mailers, etc.

  • 80# Dull/matte text – This stock is finely coated with a non-gloss finish. It provides an excellent opaque base for easy to read, crisp typography. Also used for brochures, catalog inserts, and flyers.

  • 80# Gloss Cover – As a "cover" stock, this paper is stiff, like baseball card. This stock is coated with a glossy finish, making photographs and other images look beautiful. 

  • 100# Uncoated Cover – This is a great option for business cards, rack cards and bookmarks. 

  • 120# Gloss Cover – This thick 14pt stock is a great option for card products. The glossy, coated finish makes photographs and other images print great. 

  • 70# Uncoated Text – This is commonly used for stationery, envelopes and calendars. 

Resolution – Measured in dots per inch (dpi), resolution is a measure of the quality of the piece. The greater the number of dots per inch, the better the appearance.

Screen Printing – A printing method often used for non-flat goods (like t-shirts). 

When dealing with an online printer, you may not hear many (if any) of the above terms, but you WILL often see two additional terms. 

First, Trim – which is where the print company will be trimming your printed piece. If you want your background color to be full bleed, make sure you fully extend the blue background beyond the trim line. If you just have a plain white background, then obviously there is nothing to worry about. 

Secondly, the Safe Margin – as printers are not always 100% accurate, many printers also provide a safe margin. This insures that none of your design or text will be cut-off if it's within the safe margin (if it is, they should offer you a refund or free reprint). You can always take a chance and put things up next to the trim line (as it's closer to the edge than the safe margin), but there's a chance that it might be cut off and the printer is not liable.

Are there other print terms that you have heard but are unfamiliar with? Comment below!

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