Demystifying the jargon used by printing companies

This article is designed to help clear up some of the confusion surrounding print jargon. We have a list of the most commonly used jargon that clients might find in quotes and information provided to them by printers. Printing has evolved over hundreds of years into the fascinating process it is today.

However like many industries, it has also developed a vocabulary of its own with a lot of terminology, that can be confusing for anyone working with a local printing company for the first time (and for lots of people who have worked with printers for a long time too!)

Bleed: Bleed is far less violent than it might sound! Printing machines can’t print right to the very edges of a sheet of paper, so to solve this problem, designers usually add a few extra millimetres of colour to the edge of the designed material. That way, we can print onto a bigger area than is needed, and then trim the paper to size.  The extra bit of colour around the edges that gets trimmed off is called ‘bleed’.

Crease and saddle stitching: How you want your printed material to fold, or be held together, is an aesthetic choice you should make. If you want your material to be folded – but you want to do the folding yourself (for instance if you prefer to store it flat) then we can provide a ready crease, achieved by stretching the paper’s fibres. Saddle stitching is very similar to what you would know as stapling; we insert a wire stitch through the fold to add a little elegance to your piece.

Litho and digital printing: Litho is a very popular type of printing which uses oil based inks and water. The printed surface is treated so that it repels the ink except for where it is needed. Digital printing – working from electronic data – does not meet the same level of quality as litho printing, but it can be good for short runs, and for when you’re on a budget. You can read more about the difference between digital and litho printing here.

Four Colour Process Printing: This is what most printing companies use when creating full colour print pieces. Known as CYMK, the four colours are cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow and black (represented by a K). You might have spotted these colours on newspapers. These inks are translucent, and so they can be mixed in many different quantities and proportions to achieve the desired colours.

Gsm: Gsm is the abbreviation used for ‘grams per square metre’, which refers to the weight of paper, cardboard and other stock. The higher the number, the heavier (and thicker) the stock. The paper that you might use at home or in your office is likely to be around 80gsm, while stiff card would be 250gsm and above.

Pantone: Pantone isn’t jargon so much as a brand name of a US-based company, and describes their colour matching system which is now industry standard. Pantone colours are based on a set of inks that – at KMS Litho – we mix by hand, to create any one of thousands of Pantone colours. Each colour has its own reference, while a U or a C at the end of the reference identifies the colour as how it looks on uncoated or coated stock. Find out more about Pantone spots and metallics in our recent blog.

Proof: A proof is a piece of material that demonstrates how a final product will look. It’s usually used just before a big print run is made so the client can look it over, check for last-minute errors, and be sure they want to go ahead with the project. Although a proof can sometimes incur a small fee, it can save a lot of expense further down the road.

Run-on: A run-on is the price quoted by a printing company for additional copies of a printed piece. Printing usually becomes more cost effective the more copies you request. So a quote for 1000 copies might be £300. However the quote then might include a run-on of 500 more copies for £125 extra. Machines are set up and calibrated for individual jobs, so it’s more cost effective to order all you need in one go rather than going back to the printers to ask for more later on.

We hope this helps you on your way to demystifying some of the baffling jargon used by printers! If your local printing company is blinding you with science, do be sure to ask exactly what they mean so you know what you’re getting.

The KMS Litho A–Z Guide to Print
If you are new to the printing industry and you want to find out as much as possible quickly – or if you need a refresher around some of the terminologies and processes, please complete the enquiry form on our website to receive our free ‘A–Z Guide to Print’ and our latest company brochure in the post.

A-Z Guide to Print-KMS-Side A

A-Z Guide to Print-KMS-Side B