Wallace Print – Terminology Cheat Sheet

To help make sure your print projects come out right the first time, here’s a basic glossary of important print design terms. If you need any further assistance please speak to our sales team regarding print production questions or speak with our studio team regarding artwork questions

Digital printing: Wallace Print’s best suited printing method, digital printing is a cost-effective printing for our clients because this method works directly from electronic data without any need for printing plates.  Remember that, although spot colours or metallic inks are not possible with digital presses, a metallic effect can be created by using conventional digital inks on metallic paper.

File Format: check which file formats are accepted by your printer. Sending an unsupported file will lead to delays as they will require for you to resend it. JPEG, PNG and PDF are the most common exchangeable formats. However, other file formats are accepted by most printers. Usually Photoshop, InDesign, Quark and Illustrator will be available, if you don’t want changes made to your file export and keep the backup at hand in case your printer requires it.

Proof. After prepping the final design files, the printer sets up a printing proof, which is typically a digital file in PDF format. Viewing a printing proof is essential for identifying any design or content-related issues before the piece gets sent to press. Once you approve a proof, you can’t make any more changes. The best way to review the digital proof file (if it’s a PDF) is to open it and view it carefully in Adobe Acrobat. Do not print it for review on your home or office computer, as these printers use different inks and techniques not up to par with professional printers. Viewing the proof on a computer screen is the closest you can get to the actual final product. Any differences will be minute.

Bleed. This refers to any design element on a print piece that extends past the edge of the paper. Designers indicate a bleed by setting up the document with a bleed mark, typically measuring 0.125 inches past the trim area of the final printed piece.

Crop marks. Printers typically fit multiple prints onto one large sheet of paper. Crop marks indicate where the printer should make cuts to the final printed piece. They are also used to cut and separate the excess paper and other prints.

Trim Size: when your files are meant to be cut, as most print advertising does (flyers, business cards, etc.), it is really important to consider the bleed area and trim size. Allow enough blank space between your design and the cutting area so you won’t lose information afterwards.

PPI/DPI. PPI stands for “pixels per inch”; DPI for “dots per inch.” Both are used to communicate the resolution of images, and since they refer to the same measurement can be used interchangeably. There are two standard PPI measurements, with 72ppi referring to the optimal resolution for a computer screen, and 300ppi referring the typical optimal resolution for printed images.

Print document images should always be at 300ppi before sending to print; otherwise they will look blurry and pixilated. If 300ppi images are printing blurry, it means they are too small for the image print area, and a larger image is needed. Making the photo larger in Photoshop will not resolve the pixilation problem.

The general rule in full-colour printing (versus black-and-white) is that anything web-related should be designed in RGB (red, green, blue), and physically printed material should be in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). This is because traditional (lithographic) printing presses create colours with individual plates for each of those four colours.

Printing presses still work on the same principle, although offset printers can use a “spot” or Pantone® colour to create a specific colour swatch. Modern digital printers facilitate printing in RGB, but the standard remains the same. If you print with Pantone®colours and then want to print in CMYK, the particular Pantone® may not have an exact CMYK equivalent.

CMYK. CMYK stands for the combination of ink colors most commonly used in 4-color process or digital printing: cyan (blue), magenta, yellow and black (represented by the “K”). Images in print documents are always printed in CMYK, and must be converted from other color formats to CMYK before printing, unless it is a low-Pantone color run.

RGB. RGB is an acronym for “red, green and blue” – the colors that make up all the color combinations seen on a computer screen. Documents and images set for screen viewing are typically in RGB. In order to use the images for print, they must be converted to CMYK in Photoshop. It also helps to make sure they’re at 300ppi, as images taken from the Internet are usually set to 72ppi and may not be large enough to print.

Pantone Colours. Also known as PMS (Pantone Colour Matching System), these comprise a set of universal colors that every printer in the world can replicate. Each Pantone color comes with CMYK, RGB, hexadecimal and Pantone colour codes. Using these codes helps create color consistency throughout print and digital branding materials.

The A paper size system was formally adopted in Europe in the 19th century and has since spread around the world. It is now used in nearly every country apart from the USA and Canada. A4 is the most common standard business letter size used in English speaking countries.

A0 – 841 x 1189mm

A1 – 594 x 841mm

A2 – 420 x 594mm

A3 – 297 x 420mm

A4 – 210 x 297mm

A5 – 148 x 210mm

A6 – 105 x 148mm

A7 – 74 x 105mm

A8 – 52 x 74mm

Finish. This refers to the surface quality of the paper used for the printed piece. Different types of paper have different finishes, such as matte, luster, glossy or textured finish. Commonly used finishes include glossy and matte.

Laminating: Laminating adds a thin layer of reinforcing layer of plastic to your print job for added durability. Lamination can be matt or gloss, or can provide an extra tactile element to your print, like soft touch laminate, which is almost velvet-like. Lamination is also recommended for jobs with high ink coverage as it prevents set-off (where ink from one sheet rubs against the next). Lamination also prevents “chipping.” This occurs when the edges of thicker boards can appeared slightly ragged after cutting and can be especially noticeable where darker colours run to the edge of the sheet. Lamination provides a protective layer which stops this happening.

Die-cut: Contrary to the way it sounds, die-cut has nothing to what you might get done at your local hairdressers. The process involves the use of a tool (or die) to cut a specific shape out of a printed sheet. Presentation folders are a good example.

Spot UV: Got something you really want to shout about? That’s where spot UV can come in. Spot UV is normally glossy, although matt UV gloss is also possible. Spot UV works best against a contrasting background – eg gloss highlights against a matt laminated background, or elements of your design picked out in matt varnish against a high gloss laminate.

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