Direct Mail Printing A-Z: Understanding the Terminology

Digital Printing refers to the process of printing from a digital-based image, directly to a variety of media. Modern printing methods, including laser and ink-jet printing, are regarded as digital printing.

At WDM, as mailing house offering print and mail services, we understand the world of digital printing is a big one. In fact, so much so that we could tell you all about it in a massive blog post… Luckily, we’ve pulled one together for you and are rounding up the ultimate glossary of digital printing definitions.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Creating Direct Mail for 2018 Printing


Acetate – A transparent plastic sheet, often bound onto the front of wiro-bound documents for protection, and placed over originals or designs allowing the designer to write instructions.

Acid-free paper – Paper made from pulp containing little or no acid, helping to resist deterioration from age. Also called alkaline paper, archival paper, neutral pH paper, permanent paper and thesis paper.

Accordion Fold – This is a binding term, referring to two or more parallel folds that open like an accordion. This is, typically, used for leaflets and maps.

Adhesive Binding – Holding the pages together and applying an adhesive to the spine.

Against the Grain – At right angles to the grain direction of the paper being used, as compared to with the grain. Also called across the grain and cross grain. See also grain direction.

Antique paper – Roughest finish offered on offset paper.

Aqueous Coating – Coating in a water base and applied like ink by a printing press to protect and enhance the printing underneath.

Artwork (AW) – The completed format of typesetting, drawings and photographs, made on a ready for the print form.

A Sizes – The most commonly used paper sizes for general printing.  

Author’s Alterations (AA) – At the proofing stage, changes that the client requests to be made concerning original artwork provided. AA’s are often considered an additional cost to the client.


Back Up – (1) To print on the second side of a sheet already printed on one side. (2) To adjust an image on one side of a sheet, aligning it back-to-back with an image on the other side.

Binding – The joining of leaves or sections of publications with either wire, glue or other means.

Blanket – A rubber-coated pad, mounted on a cylinder of an offset press. This then receives the inked image from the plate, transferring the information to the surface to be printed.

Bleed – Printing that continues to the edge of a page after it has been trimmed.

Blind Folio – A page number not printed on the page. (In book binding, a blank page traditionally does not print a page number.)

Blind Image – Image debossed, embossed or stamped, but not printed with ink or foil.

Bond Paper – Category of paper commonly used for writing, printing and photocopying. Also called business paper, communication paper, correspondence paper and writing paper.

Border – The decorative design or rule surrounding matter on a page.

BRE – Also known as a business reply envelope that is sent to an end customer to allow responses/returns to a central address, with postage, usually, pre-paid.

Brightness – Referring to the light reflected from a surface. In print, this is the brightness regardless of hue and saturation. The reflection of paper can also affect.

B Sizes – The B sizes are, typically, less common paper sizes and used for bigger jobs, such as posters.

Bulk – Thickness of paper relative to its basic weight.

Burst Perfect Bind – To bind by forcing glue into notches along the spines of gathered signatures before affixing a paper cover. Also called burst bind, notch bind and slotted bind.

Butt Register – Register where ink colours meet precisely without overlapping or allowing space between, as compared to lap register. Also called butt fit and kiss register.


Calendar – To make the surface of paper smooth by pressing it between rollers during manufacturing.

Caliper – Device used to measure thickness, expressed in thousandths of an inch (mils or points), pages per inch (ppi), thousandths of a millimeter (microns) or pages per centimeter (ppc).

Carbonless Paper – Paper coated with chemicals that enable transfer of images from one sheet to another with pressure from writing or typing.

Case Bind – This is the most common binding method for hardcovers, referring to a process of binding using glue. The glue holds signatures to a case made of binder board covered with fabric, plastic or leather. Also called cloth bind, edition bind, hard bind and hardcover.

Cast Coated – A High gloss, coated paper. This procedure involves pressing the paper against a polished, hot, metal drum, achieved while the coating is still wet.

Choke – Technique of slightly reducing the size of an image to create a hairline trap or to outline. Also called shrink and skinny.

CMYK – Abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black), the four process colours. More detailed info is available on CMYK here

Coarse Screen – Halftone screen with ruling of 65, 85 or 100 lines per inch (26, 34 or 40 lines centimeter).

Coated and Uncoated – Paper with a coating of clay and other substances that improves reflectivity and ink holdout. Mills produce coated paper in the four major categories: cast, gloss, dull and matte.

Collate – To organize printed matter in a specific order as requested.

Colour Balance – Refers to amounts of process colours that simulate the colours of the original scene or photograph.

Colour Cast – Unwanted colour affecting an entire image or portion of an image.

Colour Control Bar – This is a means of ensuring uniform colour balance by adding a strip of colour (small blocks etc.) on a proof or press sheet. You can then evaluate the colour features, such as density and dot gain. Also called colour bar, colour guide and standard offset colour bar.

Colour Correct – To adjust the relationship among the process colours to achieve desirable colours.

Colour Curves – Referring to computer software, enabling users to correct or even change colours. Also called HLS and HVS tables.

Colour Gamut – The entire range of colours that can be reduced using a specific device, such as a computer screen, or system, such as four-colour process printing.

Colour Mark-Up – Piece of artwork’s specifications, showing the colours that are necessary to print.

Colour Separation – Historically, a technique of using a camera, scanner or computer to divide continuous-tone colour images into four colour halftones.

Colour Sequence – Order in which inks are printed. Also called laydown sequence and rotation.

Comb Bind – Inserting the teeth of a flexible plastic comb through holes punched along the edge of a large stack of paper. The printing process is also known as plastic bind or GBC bind (a brand term).

Composition – (1) In typography, the assembly of typographic elements, such as words and paragraphs, into pages ready for printing. (2) In graphic design, the arrangement of type, graphics and other elements on the page.

Contrast – The degree of tones in an image ranging from highlight to shadow.

Conversion (envelope) – Pre-printed sheets that are then converted into envelopes, rather than over-printing a design onto a pre-manufactured envelope.

Cover – A cover advertises the title and protects the contents of the publication. Cover 1 = outside front; Cover 2 = inside front; Cover 3 = inside back, Cover 4 = outside back.

Coverage – Extent to which ink covers the surface of a substrate. Ink coverage is usually expressed as light, medium or heavy.

Cover Paper – Category of thick paper used for products such as posters, menus, folders and covers of paperback books.

Crash – Coarse cloth embedded in the glue along the spine of a book to increase the strength of binding. Also called gauze, mull and scrim.

CreepPhenomenon of middle pages of a folded signature extending slightly beyond outside pages. Also called feathering, outpush, push out and thrust.

Crop Marks – Lines near the edges of an image indicating portions to be reproduced. Also called cut marks and tick marks.

CTP – Refers to Computer-to-Plate: a process of imaging printing plates directly from a digital file, as opposed to the traditional mechanical method of using film exposure and chemicals.

Cure – To dry inks, varnishes or other coatings after printing to ensure good adhesion and prevent setoff.

Cutoff – The length of the printed sheet that the press cuts from the roll of paper.

Cut Sizes – Paper sizes used with office machines and small presses.

Cutting Die – Usually a custom ordered item to trim specific and unusual sized printing projects.

C Sizes – Paper sizes specifically used for envelopes, designed to hold A size paper.

Cyan – One of the four process colours. Also known as process blue.


Data compressing – The technique of reducing the amount of storage required to hold a digital file to reduce the disk space the file requires. Thus, allowing it to be processed or transmitted more quickly.

Deboss – To press or stamp an image or design onto paper or another surface, so it is indented. Also called tool.

Deckle Edge – The rough edge of a paper left ragged, instead of clean-cut, when distributed from the papermaking machine. Also called feather edge.

Densitometer – A tool for measuring density. In the instance of print, densitometers measure the light reflected from paper and other surfaces. Transmission densitometers measure the light transmitted through film and other materials.

Density – (1) Ink: refers to the relative thickness of a layer of printed ink. (2) Colour: the ability for a particular colour to absorb light reflected from it, or subsequently block light passing through it. (3) Paper: regarding how tight or loose the fibres.

Die – A device used in the print industry for cutting, scoring, stamping, embossing and debossing.

Die Cut – Referring to using a die for cutting irregular shapes in paper or paperboard.

Digital Dot – A dot that is created by computer, and printed through a laser printer or imagesetter. The dots are uniform in size, whereas halftone dots vary in size.

Digital Printing Type of printing that is straight from electronic artwork, usually printed with the four common colours (CYMK).

Direct Injection – This refers to overseas postage where prepared mail is transported to a specific country to be released within their domestic postal service.

Dot Gain or Spread – Issue of halftone dots printing larger on paper than they are on films or plates. Subsequently, this reduces detail and lowers contrast. Also called dot growth, dot spread and press gain.

Dot Size – The size of halftone dots as compared to dots of the screen ruling used for the printing. There is no unit of measurement to express dot size. Dots are too large, too small or correct only in comparison to what the viewer finds attractive.

Dots-per-inch (DPI) – Referring to the resolution of an image. The more dots per inch and the higher quality of your image. 

Doubling – Also known as a printing defect that manifests as blurring or shadowing of the image. This problem can be due to issues with paper, the cylinder alignment, dirty cylinders or blanket pressures.

Dry Back – As the ink begins to dry, the printed colours become less dense.

DSA/Downstream Access – A UK postal service where a third party carrier will collect and process mailing items before they are passed onto Royal Mail for final delivery.

Dummy – The simulation of the final product, also known as a mockup.

Duotone – The process of reproducing a black and white photograph using two halftone negatives, each shot to emphasise different tonal values in the original.


Electronic Front End – A broad term in digital printing terminology, referring to a prepress system based on computers.

Emboss – Process for pressing an image onto paper, so it lies above the surface. Also called cameo and tool.

Encapsulated PostScript File – A computer file that contains both images and PostScript commands. Abbreviated EPS file.

Enclosing – Items that are inserted into an envelope (envelope enclosing) or package for mailing and distribution. Could also be referred to as envelope inserting.

End Sheet – A Sheet that attaches the inside pages of a case bound book to its cover page. Also called pastedown or endpapers.


Fifth Colour – Ink colour used in addition to the four needed by the four-colour process.

Film Laminate – A thin sheet of plastic bonded to a printed product for increased gloss and, subsequently, protection.

Fine Screen – Screen with ruling of 150 lines per inch (80 lines per centimetre) or more.

Finish – (1) Surface characteristics of paper. (2) Also, the general term for binding, trimming, folding and all other post-press operations.

Finished Size – The size of the product after undergoing completion, compared to the flat size. Can also be referred to as trimmed size.

Flat Colour – (1) A colour created by printing one ink, compared to a colour produced by the four-colour print process. (2) A colour that seems lifeless or weak.

Flat Plans (Flats) – A Diagram, or plan, of the flats for a publication showing imposition and indicating colours.


Gate Fold – A sheet that folds where both sides fold toward the centre gutter in overlapping layers.

Gathering – Signatures assembled next to each other in the proper sequence for binding, as compared to nested. Also called stacked.

Graduated Screen Tint – Screen tint that changes densities gradually and smoothly, not in distinct steps. Also called degrade, gradient, ramped screen and vignette.

Grain Direction The predominant direction in which the paper fibres are aligned during the manufacturing process. Also called machine direction. Paper is either LONG grain or SHORT grain.

Grammage – The weight of paper in grams per square metre, or gsm.

Graphic Design – Referring to how the visual elements are arranged, with specifications for paper, ink colours and printing processes. Together, they convey a visual message.

Gravure – A printing method using metal cylinders, etched with millions of tiny wells for holding ink.

Grey Scale – Luminance values of shading from white to black.

Grind-Off – This is the area that runs along the spine of each section in a book, and is removed after being gathered to allow the glue to penetrate the book leaf. The UK standard is approximately 1/8 inch (3 mm).

Gripper Edge – Grippers on a sheetfed press holding the edge of a sheet, meaning the sheet goes first through the press. Can also be known as feeding edge and leading edge.

Gummed (envelope) – An envelope with a gummed strip that seals when any moisture is applied. Envelopes that can be processed in machines are commonly gummed.


Halftone – This technique stimulates a continuous tone image, converting into halftone dots. The dots generate a gradient-like effect.

Head(er) – A header refers to text at the top of the page and is set apart, or often printed in a larger format.

Head-to-tail – Head-to-tail is less common than head-to-head printing, meaning the head (top) of the document’s front page will match the bottom (foot) of the back page.

Heat-set Web – This process refers to printing where ink dries exceptionally quickly due to a web press equipped with an oven.

Hickey – A hickey is a small spot of imperfection on your print, and tends to be most visible in areas with heavy ink. The hickey can be caused by dirt on the plate or blanket, and is also recognisable as a bulls-eye and fish-eye

Highlights – Lightest portions of a photograph or halftone, as compared to midtones and shadows.

Hinged Cover – A hinge cover folds at the hinge and is perfectly bound and scored 1/8 inch (3mm) from the spine.


Image Area – This refers to an area on the printed mail that is not restricted to ink coverage.

Imposition – This is a critical point in the printing process as it consists of the arrangement of pages, on mechanicals or flats, so they appear in the proper sequence and simplify binding.

Impression – (1) In the first instance, this can refer to ink colour. One impression equals one press sheet going through print. (2) Secondly, the speed of a press, as one impression means one sheet going through the press.

Impression Cylinder – The cylinder carries the paper and pushes against the plate or blanket and impresses it, thus creating an image. This tool is also called an impression roller.

Ink Jet Printing – Minute jets of ink are formed, with droplets sprayed through computer-controlled nozzles.

Inserts – Additional items included in a publication and inserted, not bound.

International Postage – Postage overseas that requires separate processing and, subsequently, bagging. Transit times will differ on the country, but international postage can, normally, be priority or economy service.

ISBN – This number is always assigned to any published works, on the title or back page. Considered an International Standard Book Number.

ISO – Mailing houses follow the International Standards Organisation, meaning the printing house has fulfilled the requirements for a certain certificate.


Job Number – A specific number assigned to a printing project, by the printing house, for tracking, measuring success and historic records.


K – Part of CMYK and the abbreviation for the black colour in print.

Kiss Cut – Involves dye cutting the top layer of self-adhesive paper, but not the back layer.

Kraft Paper – This paper is exceptionally strong and is often used to make large envelopes and even grocery bags.


Laid Finish – A laid finish is the finishing on either bond or text paper, with grids of parallel lines simulating the surface of handmade paper. The laid lines run against the grain and are very close together. On the other hand, chain lines boast a greater distance apart and run with the grain.

Laminate – To laminate means applying a very thin, transparent layer of plastic sheet to provide protection and gloss to the printed matter. Generally, common laminates are gloss, matt and silk.

Landscape – The style of an image where the width is greater than height, with portrait referring to the opposite.

Large Format – Printing more suited banners, posters etc. and require large visuals, graphic-heavy designs as a creative advertising tool.

Laser-imprintable Ink – Ink used in a laser printer that doesn’t suffer any adverse effects, such as blistering or fading on the paper.

Lay Flat Bind – This process refers to perfectly binding a publication to allow it to lie open.

Lay Edge – The edge of the sheet that is fed through a printing press.

Layout – The desired projection of the project, showing the position of printed work and any instructions to achieve the results.

Leading – The space left between lines of type.

Leaf – The leaf refers to a sheet of paper in a publication.

Letter Fold – This refers to the folds – usually two – that create three panels, thus allowing a sheet to fit in a business envelope.

Legend – The directions regarding a specific matter, such as illustrations, and how to use. In the case of maps and tables, this could refer to an explanation of the signs or symbols that are in place.

Letterpress – A letterpress is the oldest form of printing. In this instance, a raised surface is inked and pressed into the surface of the printing substrate. This process then creates a reversed image.

Linen Finish – A linen finish replicates the texture of linen cloth when on the direct mail printing.

Lithography – Specialist of many a mailing house and is a traditional form of printing. The plates and wet inks print an image on paper and is a more cost-effect printing service.

Live Area – The live area is the area where the text and images will be print. The computer deems this the ‘safe area’.

Looseleaf – A looseleaf document is made up of a number of individual pages, and the printing house binding method easily allows insertion and removal of said pages.


Machine Enclosing – Inserting method where envelopes or inserts are suitable for automated enclosing machines.

Magenta – Magenta is another one of the four process colours, referring to red.

Mail Sortation – A direct mail house process for sorting address data in a specific geographical order to allow for easier mail handling and, subsequently, more economic postage rates.

Makeready – Makeready is, literally, ensuring all operations necessary for printing are prepared, such as adjusting for a particular ink, specifications and paper.

Making Order – The order for paper produced explicitly by a mill to the customer’s specifications, as compared to a regular stock order.

Male Die – This die is applied for additional pressure during the embossing or debossing services with a mailing house. Can also be called force card.

Margin – Space imprinted on and around the edge of printed direct mail marketing.

Mark-up – Instructions written usually on a “dummy.”

Mask – The mask, or knockout, is designed to prevent light from reaching part of an image.

Match Mailing – Two or more items of direct mail marketing are personalised. Therefore, the mailing house will insert the pieces together and matched into a mailing pack.

Matte Finish – A flat printing finish on coated printed paper on photographic that is not vulnerable to the likes of fingerprints, and produces non-glare marketing mail.

Metallic Ink – Metallic particles are added to ink to provide a unique finish and reflect light.

Metallic Paper – A mailing company service that designs paper-based prints to boast a metallic sheen, combining multiple film and laminate layers for the metallic effect.

Midtones – Tonal values of an image falling halfway between highlights and shadows. Typically, dots created are between 30% and 70% coverage.

Mock-up – Pre-production of the desired print for all to ensure it is completed as desired.

Moire – An undesirable pattern where screen angles of an image aren’t set to the requirements, or if the picture isn’t re-screened properly, and the dots of the printing mailing piece are out of focus.

Mottle – Mottle is an uneven appearance of small and dark areas cause by the ink, paper or press work.

M Weight – The M, or ream weight, refers to the weight of 1,000 sheets of paper.


Nested – Signatures prepared and assembled in their proper sequence and ready for binding.

News Print – The paper used when printing newspaper. Typically lower quality as it has a shorter shelf life.

Newton’s Ring – This term refers to a flaw in a photograph or pattern created by the reflection of light between two surfaces. It often resembles a drop of oil or water.

Nipping – Air is forced out from the pages during the sewing stage in the book binding process.

Nonheatset Web – Unlike the heatset web press, this is one without an oven. Therefore, unable to print on coated paper.

Nonimpact Printing – Printing process involving the use of lasers, ions, heat or ink jets to transform the desired images to paper.

Novelty Printing – Printing on novelty products, such as pencils, balloons, coaster and the like, also known as advertising specialities or premiums.


OBA – An online business account with Royal Mail that allows customers to record, cost and manage any direct mail activity.

Offset Printing – Printing that involves transferring ink from a plate to a blanket to a paper, rather than from the plater to the paper.

Opacity – Opacity is a characteristic of paper that refers to the amount of light, transmitted through the sheet.

Over or Overrun – The printed matter overruns beyond the original order. The overage policy will vary in the printing industry and with each mailing house.

Opaque Ink – Opaque ink is much thicker than the standard ink in screen printing.


Page – A page is also known as a leaf in a printed publication.

Page Count – The number of pages in a completed publication.

Page Proof – The proof of type and graphics – complete with the likes of headings and rules – as to how they will look on the finished page.

Pagination – The sequential order of pages in a publication.

Pantone (PMS) – The specific numbered colour on the Pantone Matching System (PMS).

Paper Plate – The paper plate is especially strong, made from durable paper, for a short printing run in the offset arena.

Parallel Fold – A method of folding where two parallel folds produces six panels in the marketing mail.

Perfect Bind – A perfect bind involves binding sheets ground at the spine and, subsequently, held together by glue.

Perfecting Press – This press can print on both sides of your paper in one single pass.

Perf Marks – Marking where the perforation is to occur on a ‘dummy’ print.

Perforating – A line of small dotted holes for tearing off a part of printed mail, and takes place on a press or binder.

Picking – Pieces of fibre and coating are pulled away by the ink when the sheet travels through the press, therefore leaving unprinted spots in the image area.

Plate – The metal, plastic or rubber tool designed to carry a specific image and reproduce using a printing press.

PMS – The now outdated reference to the colours in the Pantone Matching System.

Pocket (envelope) – Envelope with an opening on the short edge, and is not usually suitable for machine enclosing.

Point – When regarding paper, it refers to a measure of thickness equating to 1/1000 inch. In terms of type, it is a unit of measurement that equals 1/12 pica and .013875 inch (.351mm).

Polywrap – Service offered by mailing companies to enclose items in polythene film (typically transparent, but can be printed) rather than an envelope.

Portrait – The opposite of landscape where the design height is greater than the width.

Prepress Proof – This technique is any colour, using toner, dyes, overlays or ink jet, as compared to using ink.

Preprint – Prior printing that will later be used for imprinting.

Press Check – Makeready sheets are examined before authorising the rest of the production.

Press Proof – The proof is made on the press and is done by using the paper, ink and also plates that are required for the mailing house project.

Press Time – Two points to this term. (1) The time the printing job spends on and going through the printing press, as well as the time for ensuring the makeready. (2) The time at which the project is sent to the press for completion.

Price Break – Referring to the costs of paper and printing and the price drops for quantities.

Printer Pairs – Normally for books and the sequential pages as they appear on a signature or flat.

Printer Spreads – Referring to mechanicals imposed for printing, as opposed to reader spreads.

Printing – Printing is the term for any process that transfers to paper or any other surface from an original. The original can refer to a film negative or positive, electronic memory, stencil, plate or die.

Printing Plate – The plate carries the image that is desired for print. However, quick printing uses paper or plastic plates. Lithography, letterpress, engraving and commercial methods use metal plates. Flexography techniques use soft plastic or rubber plates. Lastly, gravure printing uses a cylinder.

Printing Unit – The print of only one ink colour due to the assembly of fountain, rollers and cylinders.

Process Colour (Inks) – The four colours that form the four-colour printing technique: Cyan, Magenta, Yello, Black.

Production Run – The run to complete the project and ensure fulfilment are specified.

Proof – The sheet or production that reveals any flaws or mistakes and replicate how the mail is intended to look after completion.

Proofreader Marks – Industry standard signs, symbols and markets that are used to mark up proofs. You may also recognise as correction marks.

Proportion Scale – How a percentage is calculated that the original image must be reduced on enlarged for the specific reproduction size.


Quality – This term is subjective but relates to the expectations of the customer, printer and other professionals associated with the job.

Quote/Quotation – The price quoted by the mailing house for the project.


Reader Spread – As opposed to printer spread, this term refers to two page spreads as the reader would see the publication.

Ream – A printhouse term for 500 sheets of paper.

Recycled Paper – New paper that is produced entirely, or in part, from old paper previously used at a mailing house or other such location.

Reflective Copy – Copy or products, including fabrics and photographic prints, that are viewed as the light reflects on them.

Register – Direct mail companies will use a register to place the printing properly in terms of the edges of the paper, and other printing on the same sheet. Therefore, the printing is said to be in a register.

Register Marks –  Relating to the above, this term refers to cross-hair lines on printing machines and films that keep the flats, plates and, subsequently, printing in register (order).

Relief Printing – This umbrella term refers to a variety (or even family) of printing methods, including block printing, letter press and flexography. Essentially, the image carriers are surfaces boasting two levels, and the inked areas are higher than the non-inked areas.

Resolution – The sharpness of the particular image on paper, film, computer or any other medium.

Return Address – An address that marketing mail, for instance, should be returned to when undelivered.

RGB – Similar to CMYK, this is another abbreviation for the use of colours in mail and print services. This time red, green and blue. You can read more on RGB printing here.

RIP – This printing device helps to translate page description commands to a laser printer or image setter through bitmapped information.

Right Reading – The direct mail copy or marketing text reads as it is meant to, in the language style it was written. This term can also describe a photo where the orientation replicates the original scene, as compared to a flopped image.

Rotary Press – Direct mail printers use this tool to pass the substrate between two rotating cylinders when making an impression.

Round Back Bind – To casebind a publication with a rounded, or convex, spine as opposed to a flat back bind.

Rosette – A rosette refers to the art of colour printing services and a very small circle of halftone dots. The dots are formed when three or more colour process screens are overprinted, and done so at the correct angles. Therefore, a rosette is formed.


Saddle Stitch – Bind the publication or marketing copy by stapling sheets together when they fold at the spine, as opposed to the edge in side stitch. You may also recognise the direct mail companies printing service as pamphlet stitch, saddle wire and stitch bind.

Satin Finish – A print finish technique that is an alternate term for a dull finish on coated paper.

Scale – Referring to images and the percentage they need to be reduced or enlarge to achieve the correct size for printing.

Scanner – The scanner is a device used to scan the image for your campaign.

Score – Compressing paper along a straight line to ensure it folds neatly, easily and accurately. Can also be called crease.

Screen Angles – The angles where the screens intersect with the horizontal line of the press sheet. Common screen angles for CMYk are: Cyan = 105 degree, Magenta = 75 degree, Yellow = 90 degree, Black = 45 degree.

Screen Density – The density, or screen percentage, refers to the amount of ink coverage that the screen tint will allow to print.

Screen Ruling – When making a screen tint of halftone, this term involved the number of rows or lines of dots per inch or centimetre in a screen.

Screen Tint – The tint is the colour effect created by dots, instead of solid ink cover.

Selective Binding – Part of the customer segmentation process, involving inserts or signatures in particular publications according to demographics or geographics.

Self Cover – A term usually reserved for the book arena when a publication does not use a cover, only text stock throughout.

Self Mailer – A self mailer does not depend on an envelope and can travel independently. Often a cost-effective option for those looking for services from direct mail companies.

Self Seal – Envelopes with seal-able strips (or peal and seal closing) as opposed to a gummed closure. Typically, these envelopes are not suitable for envelope stuffing machines.

Separations – A four colour process printing technique, where a separate film holds images of one specific colour – black, cyan, magenta and yellow. PMS colours can also be separated through film.

Setoff – An undesired transfer of wet ink from the top sheet, to the one below as they lie in the delivery stack of a press machine. Also recognised for the term offset.

Sheetfed Press – This press prints sheets of paper ready for campaigns, opposed to that of a web press.

Sheetwise –  A sheetwise, or work and back, is a printing technique involving printing one side of the surface with one set of plates, and the other side with another set.

Shingling – Shingling is the allowance made for the creep and is made during paste-up or stripping.

Side Stitch – Unlike saddle stitch, the side stitch involves binding by stapling along one edge. Also known as side wire or cleat stitch.

Signature – A printed sheet that is folded more than one – can even be multiple times – to become part of a larger publication, such as a book or magazine.

Size – A compound is mixed with paper or fabric to ensure it is much stiffer and less likely to absorb moisture.

Slip Sheets – Slip sheets are the sheets that are independent from the original run, positioned between the ‘position run’. This positioning can be due to a number of reasons.

Snap Apart Mailers – Designed to look like official documents, such as government notices, where consumers tear the perforated edge to look inside.

Solid – Unlike screen tint, the paper or sheet receives 100% solid ink coverage.

Soy Based Inks – The inks used for the direct mail printers are made from vegetable oils, instead of petroleum products, thus better for the environment.

Specifications – The complete directions for a printing job for direct mail services, UK and international, including type size and leading, paper quantity and grade, as well as printed and binding methods desired.

Spine – The binding edge or, in fact, the back of a marketing publication.

Spiral Bind – Binding methods using a spiral of continuous wire, or even plastic, through looped holes. You may recognise this printing service on the likes of notepads and journals.

Split Run – Another term with two meanings. (1) The first term is the number of images, such as company advertisements, printed in a publication but in different editions. (2) A book, for instance, has covers printed in one method and the second cover in another.

Spoilage – Mistakes or accidents that spoil the paper and must be thrown away.

Spot Colour of Varnish – An ink or varnish applied to sections of the sheet, instead of complete coverage. Also known as Spot UV printing.

Spread – Two pages designed as one visual and face each other.

Standard Tariff – This refers to the industry standard pricing for first and second postage – with all mailing houses – without any sortation or discount applied.

Subtractive Colour – The model of mixing colours, such as if you illuminate coloured filters with a white light behind. The common subtractive primary colours are CMYK.


Tabloid – This term refers to using a broadsheet and a measure, with a tabloid one half of a broadsheet.

Template – A template is a standard layout or design that often a mailing house may use, but can be adapted.

Thermography – This is a method of printing that uses colourless resin powder to take on the colour of the underlying ink, and can also be described as raised printing.

Thumbnails – Thumbnails can be dotted on anything and are initial ideas for a larger project.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) – The computer file format that stored images from video devices and or scanners.

Tint – Adding white to a solid colour to lighten to meet requirements.

Tip In – Again, typically, reserved for books and consists of adding another page beyond the norm.

Transparency – Light travelling through a positive photographic image on film.

Trap – To print an ink over ink, or a coating or varnish over ink.

Trim Marks – Can also be regarded as crop marks and are lines printed on the paper to show where the printer needs to trim the paper.

Trim Size – The final size of the print after it has gone through the trimming process.


Uncoated Paper – Paper that has not gone through the print finished technique and is not coated with clay. Can also be thought of as offset paper.

Up – Multiple copies of one image on a sheet. For example, ‘two up’ means printing the identical image twice on the sheet.

URN – A unique reference number or sequential number identifying an item – or data record – for retrieval or controlling through a mechanical process.

UV Coating – A liquid is applied to a printed sheet before it is cured and bonded with UV (ultraviolet) light.


Value – The value, or brightness, refers to the shade (darkness) or tint (lightness) of a particular colour.

Variable Data Printing – Variable data allows you to segment your customers and deliver personalised print pieces to boost responses.

Varnish – A varnish is applied as a coating for printing to protect and also improve appearance of the finished project.

Vignette – A decorative print design or illustration that sees it fade to white.

Virgin Paper – Paper is made exclusively from cotton or the pulp of trees.


Wallet (envelope) – Envelope with an opening on the long edge, and can be gummed or self-sealing.

Wallet with Insert – This type of technique is often used to mail out coupons and special marketing letters, along with the direct mailing.

Wash Up –  Clean the ink and other solutions from the rollers, fountains and screens as well as any other printing components.

Waste – Unlike spoilage and refers to the paper that is damaged during the makeready process, printing or any binding operations.

Watermark – A translucent logo that is created in paper when entering the manufacturing process, produced by slightly embossing from a dandy roll while the paper is around 90% still in the water.

Web Press – A web press prints images or copy from rolls of paper, generally cutting it into sheets after printing.

Wet Proofs – 

Window – A window is a die-cute hole that reveals an image or an address on the sheet enclosed. A window can also refer to a an area that has been market for a particular piece of artwork on a mechanical. Often used for transactional direct mail and personalised direct mail.

With the Grain – As opposed to against the grain, this term is parallel to the grain direction of the paper used for the print.

Woodfree Paper – This type of paper is only ever made with chemical pulp and is, usually, classified as calendered or supercalendered.

Wove – This paper is, generally, fine-textured and without visible wire marks.

Wrong Reading – The image is backwards when reading and compared to the original image.


Xerography – This printing and photocopying process relies on electrostatic charges that reproduce images and copy.


Yellow – One of the four main colours from the CMYK printing method.


Zip File – This file makes for easy file transfers with a mailing company, by compressing and reducing the original size.

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