Printing Vocabulary

The A, B, C’s of AlphaGraphics South Charlotte

We know some of the wording we use is confusing. That’s why we put this list together to ease some of the confusion.


Bleed: After trimming, bleed ensures that no un-printed edges occur on the final document. Most print equipment can not print exactly to the edge of a sheet of paper/card, so to achieve this, it is necessary to print a slightly larger area than is needed and then trim the paper/card to the required finished size.

          Marketing material, business cards

C-fold: another folding style when the ends of the paper fold toward each other. The fold is referenced as a letter fold.

CMYK : short for cyan, magenta, yellow and black; these are the basic colors used in color printing and is considered to be a subtractive model (the colors get darker as you blend them together).

          Digitally printed items

Coil Binding: this binding type uses a plastic coil. The document is hole punched to therefore allow the coil to feed through the pages to bind them together. This also allows coil bound items lay flat when opened.

          Training manuals, teaching booklets

Crop Marks: the little marks around the edge of a document showing where the area of bleed ends and the finished document area begins, they work with bleed to show where the paper needs to be trimmed to create the finished print.

          Business cards, marketing materials

Die-line: the outline around the artwork’s unique shape. Once the artwork is printed, a machine then follows the die-line around the artwork giving a unique shape.

          Decals, stickers, folders

Embossing: a design/text that is raised above the background of the paper.

          Business cards, cards, folders

Foiling (Foil Stamping): contour cutting (cutting out) the design or lettering on material that is foil then placing it onto cards, posters, signs, etc.

          Cards, posters, signs

Four Color Processing System: this is the printing technique of using cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) to print in color

          Business cards, postcards, cards, invitations, flyers

Kiss Die Cut: this is a way of cutting only the top layer of a decal or sticker without cutting the backer material. This can be cutting around the artwork shape with a dieline or a geometric shape.

          Decals, stickers

Laminate: a process which applies a plastic film over printed paper, plastic or metal, to provide protection from handling or outside elements. 

          Menus, outdoor signage

*Number* point: this references the thickness of the paper. The higher the number the thicker the paper.

Offset Printing: this is the printing technique where ink is transferred from a printing plate to the paper. This technique uses Pantone colors to print and depending on the type of printing press there may be a limit to the number of colors printed.

          Business cards, envelopes, letterhead, note cards

Perfect Binding: this type of binding uses glue to hold the inside pages to the cover. This is called magazine style binding as well.

          Programs, publications

PMS (Pantone Matching System): this is a set of colors that has a set formula of other inks that need to be mixed to achieve a specific color. These colors print differently based on the type paper they are being printed. This system is used with offset printing.

          Color critical branded materials

Saddle-Stitch: this is a binding style where staples are used to bind. The staples are placed along the spine or the fold of what is being bound.

          Smaller booklets

Scoring: the paper runs through a machine to compress the paper in a straight line as a result the paper folds accurately and with ease.

          Brochures, booklets, cards

Z-fold: another folding style when the ends of the paper fold away from each other. The fold is referred to as an accordion style fold.


Posted by Katie M. - Director of Marketing

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