This dictionary covers graphic design, prepress and print terminology
Click a letter to see more layout, printing and binding terms of this glossary
A footnote reference that is used after the asterisk has been used.
A dampening system for printing presses that utilize more alcohol (25%) and less water, greatly reducing the amount of paper that is spoiled.
Abbreviation for Digital Asset Management, which refers to either the process or the computer software used to collect, annotate, catalog, and store digital assets, such as images, artwork, videos, and music.
Rollers on offset presses that carry and apply the dampening solution to the printing plate
An essential part of the printing process whereby cloth-covered rubber rollers distributes the dampening solution to the plate.
During the papermaking process, while the paper is still 90% water, it passes over a wire mesh cylinder (the dandy roll), which imparts surface textures on the paper such as wove or laid. This is at this stage that a watermark can be put onto the paper.
A horizontal rule used for punctuation.
Abbreviation for Digital Audio Tape, cassette tape that can be used to store digital information.
The process and tools used to automatically generate paginated documents from data that are retrieved from a database. It is typically used for catalogs, all types of directories, reports or direct marketing documents.
A technique to reduce the amount of data in an image file by removing large amounts of redundant data. This process reduces the storage space and the transmission time required per file.
Abbreviation for Paper Density, the density of paper to the blue filter (yellow channel). This measurement is inversely proportional to a brightness measurement and is, therefore, relative to paper grade.
Abbreviation for Double-Byte Character Set: these are actually multi-byte font encodings, a mix of 8-bit and 16-bit characters. Modern writing systems used in the Far East region typically require a minimum of 3k-15k characters.
Abbreviation for Desktop Color Separation, which is a particular type of EPS or encapsulated PostScript file. Check the DCS-page for more information
Abbreviation for Discrete Cosine Transform, a complex formula used in the JPEG compression algorithm.
Abbreviation for Digital Distribution for Advertising for Publications, an approved standard for electronically communicated ad files sent to publishers and printers for reproduction. Named by Dunn Technologies.
Abbreviation for Direct Digital Color Proof, a proof produced on a substrate directly from the digital data stored in a picture or page file in a CE’s or desktop computer. A peripheral device utilizing a photographic exposure, dot matrix, electrophotographic thermal transfer, or inkjet printer is used to produce the color proof without the need for halftone films. These proofs reduce the need for some of the traditional color proofing materials that are often used during the production cycle.
Abbreviation for Digital Data Exchange Standards, a set of established protocols, formats, and values that allow one vendor’s equipment to communicate with another vendor system. This is an approved ANSI/ISO standard that is used by high-end vendors.
dead cut or dead-cut
When imposing pages this is a cut where you place unbound elements with the trim boxes next to each other without a margin. This can be done with pages that have no bleed.
In finishing a strong letterpress impression of an image on the front surface of a sheet of paper. The image is recessed.
Detecting and correcting defects in hardware or software that halt or alter the intended operation. The process of locating and eliminating defects in the computer program.
A decal is a substrate that has a design, pattern or image on it which is meant to be transferred to another surface using either heat or water.
In magazine and newspaper publishing, a smaller secondary headline set directly beneath a larger primary headline. Also known as a drop-head.
The rough or feathered edge of paper when left untrimmed.
The etching or removal of any unwanted areas of a plate to create more air or white space on the finished product.
A standard computer setting designated by the system designer or by the user. The setting is permanent unless specifically changed by the operator. For example, word processing software will, by default, use a 12 point type unless the user changes the type size setting.
A subjective expression of detail clarity.
A colored halftone tint that gradually changes in strength and hue from one edge to the other. It may vary in hue in both directions depending on which process color tint value changes. A vignette is only one color that varies only in strength (brightness or lightness); one color appears to fade away. Degradés are sometimes called graded tints, and are incorrectly called graduation.
The process of removing printing ink from paper so that it can be recycled.
Often written DE, a given amount of color change. Delta refers to the Greek letter D that is used to indicate changing characteristics. In colorimetry, it is common to use a scale to indicate the change in a color hue and strength. A reading can be taken by pushing a button on a colorimeter that automatically displays a computational value that represents the amount of color change. Industry research has shown that many customers will accept a variation in their printed products of six DE’s.
A term that describes a standard-sized printing paper measuring 17.5 x 22.5 in.
An electronic process control instrument that is used to measure the density (darkness) of visual images and colorants. Color ink or dye densities are measured through their complementary filter to indicate their relative strength. A densitometer should not be used to indicate a point in a three-dimensional color space model. Density measurements are used to calibrate color systems and to control color processes.
Tonal range, the maximum range of tones in an original or reproductions, calculate the mathematical difference between the maximum and the minimum density (the darkest and the lightest tones). For example, a transparency might have a 3.0 shadow density and a 0.25 highlight density. The lowest tone value, 0.25 is subtracted from the highest tone value, 3.0; the result is a 2.75 density range. A printed density range is 2.0 maximum or less.
The visual darkness of a material caused by its capability to absorb or reflect the light illuminating the material. Density is measured with a densitometer. Colored materials are measured through their complementary filters. Density differences are sometimes called grey levels. As density increases the amount of reflected or transmitted light is reduced. The amount of light absorbed is inversely proportional to the amount of light from or transmitted through the sample.
The part of the lowercase letters “g, j, p, q” and “y” that extends below the body of the letter or baseline.
The process of removing a halftone screen pattern from an image, either optically or with the use of the filters. A new screen can then be added.
– Refers to the size of a computer or a peripheral. A desktop device is small enough to use on a desk or a table as part as desktop publishing system.
– On the Macintosh graphic display, the area of the finder seen when the computer is first turned on before any application is launched.
desktop publishing system
A standard platform computer, off-the-shelf software, and an output device that are used to compose pages. The system components use a device-independent page description language – usually PostScript. A desktop publishing system is one type of electronic publishing system.
The process of creating fully composed pages using a standard platform computer, off-the-shelf software, and an output device. These components form a system that is driven by device-independent page description language, such as PostScript. The pages, comprised of text and graphics, are output to a printer or imagesetter.
A scanning term, the technique of exaggerating picture image edges with the unsharp masking or peaking scanner control, so that the observer can see all the detail of the original in the reproduction.
The alphabet of India and Nepal that is written from left to right and lacks distinct letter cases. The top of all the characters is connected by a horizontal line. Devanāgarī is used to write Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, and a slew of other languages including Sanskrit.
The characteristic of a computer system or program that allows different output devices to image the same file more or less identically. PostScript was the first major device-independent page description language
A concept referring to color images that appear the same on different output devices, including monitors and various printers.
Abbreviation of Digital Front End, a sophisticated workflow system capable of rendering data for output on a digital printer or press while also handling additional tasks like imposition or variable data processing. The EFI Fiery is a popular DFE.
Special type of TrueType font used on Macs. More information can be found here.
A mark, point, or sign added or attached to a letter or character to give it a particular phonetic value, to indicate stress, etc. Examples are the cedilla, tilde, circumflex and macron. A diacritic is also called a diacritical mark.
A non-silver coating for photographic contact printing, in offset plate making and coating used wipe-on.
The point system used in most European countries. One Didot point is equal to 1.07 American points.
Celebrated Parisian designer (1764-1836), son of the printer Francois Ambroise Didot. He was the director of the Imprimerie Impériale type foundry and has a beautiful typeface named after him.
– Design, letters, or shapes, cut into metal (mostly brass) for stamping book covers or embossing.
– An engraved stamp used for impressing an image or design.
A finishing method of using sharp steel ruled stamps or rollers to cut various shapes i.e. labels, boxes, image shapes, either post press or in line. The process of cutting paper in a shape or design by the use of a wooden die or block in which are positioned steel rules in the shape of the desired pattern.
An intaglio process for printing from images engraved into copper or steel plates.
The whitest neutral area of an original or reproduction that contains detail and will be reproduced with the smallest printable dot. A diffuse highlight should not be confused with a specular highlight, which is a direct reflection of a light source on a shiny surface, has no detail, and is printed with no dot.
The scattering of light by reflection or transmission
A photographic system consisting of: (1) a photographic emulsion on which a negative is made, and (2) a receiver sheet on which a positive of the image is transferred during processing. Polaroid film is based on the diffusion transfer system.
Digital Asset Management
A computer software and/or hardware system that archives, tracks and manages digital page elements (including but not limited to text, graphic and photo images, pages, templates, line art, logos, finished layouts, PDFs, and more recently, video and audio clips). DAM systems allow users to quickly recall these elements for re-use in new jobs, saving the production time of recreating them. Though some would argue that a plain paper job bag is a form of DAM, in the last 10 years, DAM has been referenced as a digital software and/or hardware solution.
Color separation data is digitally stored and then exposed to color photographic paper creating a picture of the final product before it is actually printed.
Two regular characters to which one sound is applied, e.g., ‘ph’ in English is pronounced ‘f.’
The qualities of paper to stabilize its original size when undergoing pressure or exposed to moisture.
A non-alphanumeric character, such as a bullet or arrow. Some fonts like Zapf Dingbats only contain such characters.
Typeface that consists entirely of dingbats. It is sometimes also referred to as an ornamental typeface.
The examples above are taken from ‘Wingdings 2’ and ‘Webdings’.
A vowel sound combined with i (pronounced ‘ee’) or u (pronounced ‘oo’), e.g., the vowel sounds in house, might, which,….
A fine paper made specifically for the printing of diplomas, certificates and documents.
A specially coded hyphen that is only displayed when formatting of the hyphenated word puts it at the end of a line. Also known as a soft hyphen.
The separation of a beam of light into its component wavelengths
The transparent coating that is applied to print for protection and/or visual appeal. Dispersion lacquers can add a matt, semi-matt, glossy, or even pearl luster effect.
When a PostScript RIP processes a file, it creates an intermediate file called the display list, which is a list of objects to be placed on a page and their characteristics.
A method developed by Adobe Systems, Inc. to display composed pages of type and graphics (including color) on a computer screen using the same PostScript file that will generate the final printed output. Display Postscript offers the greatest accuracy for soft proofing files.
– A letter, figure, or another character that is used for headlines, titles, and signs. The strict definition for display type is type that has been set larger than 14 points. Display type is characteristically larger and bolder than text type. Standard text typefaces, such as Times Roman, can be set as display type, although display type often uses special typefaces designed especially for the display function, such as Albertus or Cooper Black.
– Usually 14 point size or larger. Generally used for headline or attention.
In the printing process, the rubber-coated rollers responsible for the distribution of ink from the fountain to the ink drum.
Abbreviation for Darwin Information Typing Architecture, an XML-based standard for designing, writing, managing, and publishing technical documentation, Help systems and other information sets consisting of modular information with many topics of the same type(s).
A technique of interpolation to fill in a gap between two pixels with another pixel. The value of the new pixel is the average value of the two pixels on either side of it. The result is a smoother edge with fewer jaggies.
Altering the size or shape of adjacent pixel spots to create an effect of intermediate shades of gray or additional colors on a display or printing device.
Describes non-parallel lines that spread
Abbreviation for Dynamic Link Library
Abbreviation for DigitAl linear Tape, a form of magnetic tape used for high-speed storage, for backups and archiving
Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
An international trade association representing users, creators and suppliers of direct-mail advertising and other direct marketing techniques.
Acronym for maximum density – the highest level of density on a film negative.
Acronym for minimum density
Abbreviation for Domain Name System
A term in gravure printing which refers to the knife-edge that runs along with the printing cylinder; its function is to wipe the excess ink away from the non-printing areas.
Document Exchange Format
A mysterious animal that lived on the Page Setup screen of Macintosh computers. Apple engineers published a document, tech doc 31, with background information on the dogcow. This instantly made a star out of this humble animal. The dogcow mysteriously disappeared when OS X was launched. There are rumors that it was eaten by some of the developers. Apple has always denied this, stating that their R&D teams only have Microsoft engineers for breakfast.
Occurs when you fold into a fold (such as a letter fold). At the side of one of the creases, you get an indentation. It may look like a small inverted triangle.
A small piece of computer hardware supplied by software companies to prevent unauthorized software duplication. The software will check for a digital serial number on the computer hardware and will not operate if the hardware is not connected to the computer system. Dongles can use the ADB, parallel, or USB port of a computer.
a USB dongle
Abbreviation for Digital Offset Printing
Abbreviation for Distill Once, Render Many, a workflow system that converts (distills) documents to PDF files which can then be output on multiple devices.
The individual element of a halftone. Dot should not be confused with spot, the smallest diameter of light that a scanner can detect, or an imagesetter or film plotter can expose
The percentages of an area covered by a halftone dot ranging from no dot at 0% to a solid ink density at 100%. The size of the dots is stated in the percentage of the area they occupy. A square dot at 50% creates a checkerboard pattern.
A technique that physically reduces the dot sizes on film by immersion in acid, by using photographic overexposure on contact and dupe films, or by electronic etching or airbrushing on a computer. Dot etching is done to change hues in specific areas of the reproduction.
An increase in the size of halftone dots.
dot gain compensation
The technique of reducing the printing dot sizes of halftone separation films to compensate for the expected dot gain on press. The reduction is done mostly with the midtone controls as that is where the gain is the greatest.
A reduction in the size of halftone dots and/or the disappearance of small halftone dots.
The total spread of dot sizes from the maximum size to the maximum size for a given film or device.
The form of the halftone dot that may be intentionally varied from round to elliptical to square. Halftone dots are made with specific physical configurations to minimize dot gain and moire. The dot shape is varied to minimize the dot gain at the point where dots join one another. Elliptical dots minimize the sudden dot gain where corners of dots connect; they may connect in their short direction at 40% dot area and in their long direction at 60% dot area. Round dots, often used for newsprint, may not connect until 70% dot area.
double bump or double hit
Printing the black twice to make that color denser. This can be an alternative to using rich black.
Combining multiple sets of rendered bitmap data on a single printing plate or digital output
double page spread
Two facing pages of a newspaper or magazine with the textual material on the left-hand side continuing across to the right-hand side. Advertisements can also be double-page spreads.
Two thicknesses of regular weight cover papers pasted together
US term to describe a newspaper plate that contains 2 pages. These plates are sometimes used when there is an image that crosses over from one page to another. Such a plate is called a ‘panorama plate’ in the rest of the world.
A tray or two-piece folding box with double side walls for rigidity.
A printing defect of lithographic caused by a mechanical problem on a press that results in a second set of dots printing. The defect appears as color changes and a darker than expected reproduction.
The communication link sending data down from a satellite to an earth station.
Sending information to another computer. For example, downloaded fonts are sent from a computer to a laser printer or high-resolution imagesetter.
A digital typeface that can be output to a digital output device, such as a laser printer or an imagesetter. Some digital fonts have been rendered only for display on computer monitors and are referred to as screen fonts.
Abbreviation for Dots Per Inch, a measure of resolution. When dpi is discussed by desktop publishers, they are actually referring to the number of spots per inch that can be input on a scanner or output on an imagesetter. DPI does not refer to halftone dot which is specified in lines per inch.
Abbreviation for Double Page Spread: two facing pages of a newspaper or magazine with the textual material on the left-hand side continuing across to the right-hand side. Advertisements can also be double-page spreads.
A method of binding a paper cover to a book by drawing the cover on and gluing to the back of the book.
Any additive added to ink that encourages the drying process.
Motion along the axis after input stops.
The actual drilling of holes into paper for ring or comb binding.
Software that aids the transfer of information between the computer and the peripheral controlled by the software program. In publishing, the most common are the printer drivers.
The large capital letter on the first letter of the first word of a paragraph that is aligned at the top with the rest of the type and is typeset at a size, at least, double the paragraph type size. A drop cap is set to drop down through two or more lines of text such that the remaining type must be set around it. Typesetting software and page makeup software sometimes offer automatic drop cap features.
Page number printed at the foot of the page.
In magazine and newspaper publishing, a smaller, secondary headline set directly beneath a larger, primary headline. Also known as a deck.
A half-tone with no dots in the highlight area.
A shadow image placed strategically behind an image or piece of text to create the effect of the object lifting off the page.
A high-resolution laser output device that utilizes either an internal or a revolving drum.
My own favorite, the Agfa SelectSet 7000 drum imagesetter
An optical scanning device for converting an optical image to an electrical image by analyzing the original copy mounted on a revolving drum or cylinder. As the drum revolves a spot of light illuminates the surface while a photodiode or CCD looks at each pixel spot as it passes by. After each row of pixels is analyzed, digitized and stored, the optics move sideways one row then repeat the process until the entire picture raster is stored.
Abbreviation for Druck und Papier, an important trade show for the graphic arts which takes place every 4 years in Dusseldorf, Germany. Highlights of each drupa show can be found in the history of prepress pages.
dry dot etching
A technique that is used to change halftone dot sizes in all or specific areas of color separations by overexposing positive or negative contact films that were made from the halftone separation films. Dots already on a film are reduced or enlarged as needed.
Pasting with heat-sensitive adhesives.
Process in which a metal plate is etched to a depth of 0.15 mm (0.006 in), making a right-reading relief plate, printed on the offset blanket, and then to the paper without the use of water.
Abbreviation for Document Structuring Conventions, Adobe’s rules on how PostScript files should be structured.
Abbreviation for Direct To Garment, the process of printing directly on T-shirts and other clothing. This is typically done using inkjet technology.
Abbreviation for Desktop Publishing, the process of creating documents using a personal computer, standard off-the-shelf software, and an output device like a laser printer. The term was coined by Paul Brainerd, the creator of PageMaker. Also see my pages on the history of prepress.
The roller between the inking and the dampening rollers.
Any matte finished paper.
– An approximate sample of a final printed piece prepared with a designer’s tools
– A press signature folded for proper page positioning during the imposition step.
– A layout drawing showing the position of art, photos, and text.
An image that contains shades of two different colors. In most cases, these two colors are black and a spot color such as a Pantone color. Sometimes duotones are printed using two black inks to increase the detail and saturation of the image. Applications like Photoshop create a duotone by applying two different tone curves to a gray-scale image.
A second-generation original, a reproduction of an original transparency made on transparency film for the purpose of changing its size or to make additional copies to supply multiple printing sites.
– In data communication, a mode that permits a user to transmit and receive data simultaneously. Half-duplex permits that user to either transmit or receive.
– A printer that prints both sides of a sheet simultaneously
Paper with different colors or finishing on each side.
See ‘jacket’. The protective paper cover of a hardbound book.
Any deckle-edged paper, originally produced in the Netherlands.
Abbreviation for Digital Versatile Disk, a storage format that uses optical disks similar to CD-ROMs to store information. A DVD disc is the same size as a CD-ROM, although it stores much greater quantities of information, up to 17 GB.
Abbreviation for Document eXchange Format, a file format that is used for CAD images. DXF was created for the AutoCAD program by Autodesk, Inc.
A substance used to color materials or liquids (such as ink)
Any ink that acquires its color by the use of aniline pigments or dyes.
A printing technique used in some printers, whereby ink on sheets of ribbon material is heated and fused to the surface of a sheet of special dye-sublimation paper. Dye sublimation printers produce high quality but their output is rather costly. This explains why this technology has virtually disappeared on the market.
A process in which a design is applied to a support (wood, glass or metal) by transferring a fine film of color from a carrier. A window transfer is used for transfer on a window.
A measure of the total range of tones in an image, from lightest to darkest. The greater the dynamic range of an image, the more visible detail it has in highlights and shadows. A scan with a wide dynamic range will reveal a wide range of tones and show visible detail in even the darkest shadows. To scan transparent originals, a scanner needs a far wider dynamic range than for scanning opaque originals.