Printing Terminology

Published by: On: January 2, 2016 1:20 pm Categories: Print Tips

Common PRINTING terms… and what they mean to you.

When working with a Print Shop, or discussing a project with a Graphic Designer, there are probably one or more technical terms that can leave you confused as to what is needed to get your files “Print Ready”. Below are a few common terms that are thrown around the “Print-World” that you may have heard… but weren’t quite sure what they meant.


“Bleed” is a term that refers to a print file that has text or images which go to 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 final size. Most documents require a 0.25″ bleed around the perimeter of your artwork to ensure accurate cutting. However, these are known to vary slightly from project to project.


“DPI” stands for Dots Per Inch. Similar to the idea of Image Resolution (or Pixels Per Square Inch “PPI”), this will play a big factor in how high of a resolution you can print your image at. If too small of a DPI is used when printing, images can appear blurry or pixelated. Depending on the size of image you wish your final product to be, 300DPI is standard for high quality printing. Only large format (think large signage or billboards) projects often use a printing process which is more forgiving, therefore lower DPI could still be acceptable.


“Vector” images are typically used for Logos and important branding images. Vector graphics are made using points or “nodes” on a definite position on the x and y axes of the work plane, and determine the direction of a path. Using this mathematical formula, vector images ensure that your graphics are always at a high resolution, regardless of how large or small the image is scaled.


“CMYK” refers to the four ink colours that comprise the print world. Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink are layered together in varied amounts to replicate an image on paper. In the printing press days when plates were still being used, the black plate was typically called the “key” plate because it carried the important key information relating to the artistic detail. This is why “K” represents the colour Black in CMYK.


“RGB” refers to the 3 colours of light that comprise the web world. Red, green, and blue light are displayed on screen in varying degrees of intensity in order to produce images on screen. Similar to how CMYK works, however images that are sent to be printed as RGB colours may appear darker if not converted to CMYK.


“PDF” stands for Portable Document Format. It is the standard for the secure and reliable distribution of electronic documents. PDF’s are a universal file format that preserves the fonts, images, graphics, as well as the layout of your document. This means that any kind of word processing software is able to open and read the document without changing the format.


I hope this list of Printing Terminology helps you when developing your next print project! If we missed any terms that you think should be added to this list, send us a message on Facebook.