P – ‘packing’ to ‘pyroxylin’

This dictionary covers graphic design, prepress and print terminology
Click a letter to see more layout, printing and binding terms of this glossary



Paper used as underlay on the impression cylinder of a letterpress or under the plate or blanket on the offset presses. Used to build up the desired pressure for the best impression.


In finishing a binding method whereby a stack of sheets are kept together using a flexible adhesive so that the sheets can easily be removed. A notepad is a typical example of padding.


One side of a leaf of paper.

page description language

A language that can describe an entire page or a document containing multiple pages. The description includes all the text and graphics that appear on the page(s). A page description language defines page elements independently of a particular operating system, printer, or viewing application. The page’s appearance is consistent regardless of the specific printer or viewer used. PostScript is by far the most popular page description language for electronic publishing. A complete section of this site is dedicated to it. XPS, PDF, and PCL are other examples of page description languages.

page geometry

The description of the position and shapes of each element in a composed page.


A software program used for page makeup, originally published by Aldus corporation, later a part of Adobe’s product range. PageMaker is no longer available but used to ship for Macintosh and Windows.

page makeup

The assemblage of all the necessary elements required to complete a page.

page makeup software

The category of desktop software that is used to create composed pages of text and graphics.


The numbering of pages in consecutive order.

paint program

Software, sometimes referred to as painting software, that creates black and white or color digital images with bitmap graphics.


In a graphics file, these are the colors that make up a picture or drawing. In a computer program, it is an on-screen display containing the set of colors or patterns that are available.


Refers to a film that is sensitive to all colors of light. Orthochromatic film is not sensitive to red light.

panorama plate

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 “double-truck” in the States.


Codename for Mac OS X 10.3


Security background, a technique used to create patterns that are difficult or impossible to reproduce. One technique that is used consists of an overall screen pattern of one tone value but two different screen rulings. The secret message “VOID” is generally filled with a tint of about 15%, approximately 65 lpi. The entire background of the document is filled with the same 15% but using a 150 line screen. Often a secondary pattern such as a coarse mezzotint is added to both the text and background to obscure the artwork from the casual observer.

Pantone Matching System

A registered name for an ink color matching system


Any paper with a thickness (caliper) of 12 points (0.3mm) or more.


A high-grade soft paper used for personal stationery because it accepts handwriting well.


The type and amount of operator error caused by the difference between the observer position and the instrument optical axis.

parallel processing

The capability of a computer to simultaneously perform multiple computations.


A variable that is used to define the limits of any given area or system.


A hard finished paper that emulates animal skin; used for documents, such as awards, that require writing by hand.


punctuation marks used interject text within other text. These are left and right parenthesis: ( )

parent sheet

A sheet that is larger than the cut stock of the same paper.


A system for detecting errors in a stored or transmitted data character. Each data bit is checked out to make certain that the parity is odd or even, as specified. If parity is not achieved, then an error has occurred.

parity check

A verification technique that is used to check that a string of data has been correctly transmitted. A character or number is added to the string of data to make it odd or even, depending on which has been chosen for parity.

paste drier

Any of a variety of compounds used in enhancing the drying properties of printing inks.

paste ink

An ink having a high level of viscosity.

paste up

Placing graphics and text in a mechanical, either manually or electronically.


Abbreviation for Printer Command Language, a page description language that is similar to PostScript but that is mainly used in the office market. PCL was created by Hewlett-Packard to provide an efficient method to control printer features across a number of different printing devices. PCL was originally devised for HP’s dot-matrix and inkjet printers. The first printer in HP’s LaserJet series, the “HP LaserJet” (introduced in 1984), released with the PCL 3 language. Currently (annex 2001) available versions of PCL:

  • PCL5: designed for more complex desktop publishing, graphic design, and presentation applications.
  • PCL5e: provided bidirectional communication between the printer and the PC.
  • PCL5c: provided the commands needed to support color printing.
  • PCLXL: object-oriented printer language that is tuned for graphics-rich documents.
  • PCL6: a dual interpreter consisting of PCL5e or PCL5c and PCLXL.


Fairly unsophisticated and outdated graphics file format that uses RLE encoding to compress data.


Abbreviation for Portable Document Format. Half this web site is dedicated to this file format. Click here for a quick introduction.


PDF/VT is a special flavor of the PDF file format that is specifically geared towards variable data printing (VDP).


A series of ISO standards that define versions of the PDF standard that are optimized to facilitate graphics exchange. PDF/X files adhere to a series of printing related requirements that do not apply to standard PDF files. More detailed information is available on these PDF/X versions: PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3, PDF/X-4, PDF/X-5.


Abbreviation for Page Description Language, a programming language that describes the layout of pages in device-independent commands. PostScript and PCL are two prime examples of PDLs.


Abbreviation for Printer’s Error, a problem with either the type, color separation, plates, or printing. The cost of the correction will be borne by the printer or the prepress service, rather than the author, designer, or publisher.


– A color scanner unsharp masking function that electronically adds two signals and increases the edge contrast of an image to be reproduced.
– Electronic edge enhancement produced on the color separation negatives by exaggerating the density difference of image edges.




Network architecture in which computers exchange information as equals; the opposite of client-server.


A certificate which guarantees that the wood pulp used to produce paper is from sustainably managed forests.


Acronym for picture element. Pixel is more commonly used than pel. Pel refers to video picture elements.


Interface that is often used in newspaper imagesetters and platesetters to connect them to a RIP. Pelbox was developped by ECRM but it is used in other manufacturers’ equipment as well. It is a unidirectional system, meaning that data are sent from the RIP to the engine but the engine cannot use Pelbox to return error messages or logging data to the front end system.

percent sign



– A term used to describe the binding process where the signatures of a book are held together by a flexible adhesive.
– As a verb: to print the reverse of (a printed sheet).

perfect binding

Method of binding of which pages are held together and fixed to the cover by means of a flexible adhesive. Widely used for paperback books.

perfecting press

A printing press that prints both sides of a sheet or web in one operation.

perfect binding

In finishing the binding process in which pages are fixed to a cover or spine using glue. This process is used for paperback books, magazines, telephone guides,…


Printing both sides of the paper (or other material) on the same pass through the printing machine.

perfecting press

A printing press that prints on both sides of the page in a single pass.

perfector press

A flatbed press for printing both sides of a sheet in one operation.

perf marks

Markings usually dotted lines at edges showing where perforations should occur.


Punching small holes or slits in a sheet of paper or cardboard to facilitate tearing along a desired line.


Lines of tiny holes cut into a sheet, either on or off press, so that the sheet may be easily torn at the perforation line.


Any device that is an add-on component to a computer system. Each is physically separate from the main unit and connected to it by a wire or cable. In the case of the PC, a peripheral is hardware, such as a disk drive, scanner, printer or modem, that is used in conjunction with the computer and controlled by it.


Abbreviation for Printer Font Binary.


Abbreviation for Printer Font Metrics.

photo CD

CD that contains images that have been saved in the proprietary photo CD image format developed by Kodak. Photo CD images are stored in a multitude of resolutions and can be used for professional prepress, even though they often contain a color cast and lack sharpness.

photochrom or photochrome print

A color print created using the Aac process. This technique was popular between 1890 and 1910 when it was used to print photochrome postcards.

Photo YCC

A color space definition used in the Eastman Kodak Photo CD System. It is based on the use of one luminance and two chroma record channels.


A light-sensitive photocell on a computer chip that can measure the amount of light falling on the surface.

photodiode array

In a scanner, a series of photodiodes arranged in a line to sense numerous pixels, either simultaneously or sequentially, during input scanning.


The main pigment in the manufacture of cyan ink.

physical dot area

The actual coverage of halftone dots in a given area expressed as a percentage.

physical dot gain

The increase in actual dot size from the halftone dot on the film or the dot in a computer file to the same dot printed.

pica or pica point

Unit of measurement, mainly used by designers. Check this page for more information.


– When the tack of ink is stronger than the surface strength of the paper, some lifting of the paper surface occurs; this is referred to as picking.
– An occurrence in printing whereby the tack of ink pulls fibers or coating off the paper surface, leaving spots on the printed surface.


A unit of measurement for liquids – one trillionth of a liter or roughly one-millionth the size of a raindrop. Picoliter is used in the specifications of inkjet printers to indicate the size of the ink droplets. Smaller droplets enable sharper text and images as well as smoother flat tints. Many inkjet devices support multiple drop sizes for different applications.


Abbreviation for Picture ICON, usually a single frame of video, representing a sequence of video or animation.


Native file format of the Apple QuickDraw system software. Click here for more information.

picture framing

In printing, picture framing refers to a large build-up of ink outside the paper area on the plates or blankets.

Pi font

A typeface that contains characters that are not usually included in a font, such as mathematical signs.

pilcrow sign

This punctuation symbol is used to mark a paragraph break. It is also called the paragraph mark, paraph, or alinea.

Pilcrow Sign
Pilcrow Sign


A build-up of pigment or paper coatings onto the plate, blankets or rollers.


The particles that give ink its specific color by absorbing and reflecting certain light frequencies.


Small, light passing holes in the emulsion of a photographic negative. Must be opaqued out before plate making.


Failure of printed ink to form a completely continuous film, visible in the form of small holes in the printed areas.

pin register

Using metal pins fitted into preset holes of copy sheets, films, plates and presses that will assure the proper registration.


– Rotation about the y-axis.
– An expression of a halftone screen frequency.
– The material used to hold glass blanks during the manufacturing of lenses.


Abbreviation for Picture Element, the smallest discrete element of an image or picture on a computer screen; the smallest image-forming unit of a video display; a single element of a raster image.


A special image effect created by averaging and reducing the number of pixels in an image. The result is that much of the detail of the original object is lost.

plastic comb

A method of binding books whereby holes are drilled on the side closest the spine and a plastic grasping device is inserted to hold the pages together.


An ink additive that adds flexibility, softness, and adhesion.


Reproduction of type or cuts in metal, plastic, rubber, or other material, to form a plate bearing a relief, planographic or intaglio printing surface.

plate cylinder

The cylinder on a printing press on which the plate is mounted.

plate finish

Any bond, cover, or bristol stock with an extremely smooth finish achieved by calendaring.

plate layout form

A drawing or diagram showing the position of all images to be printed by the plate, together with margins, fold and trim marks, and all other dimensions necessary to print the sheet


Making a printing plate from a film or flat. In the past this included preparation of the plate surface, sensitizing, exposing through the flat, developing or processing, and finishing. Nowadays the term refers to the process of making sure that a computer-to-plate system (a platesetter) does all the hard work.

plate-ready flat

A film flat having all its images in position, ready for proofing or plate making


A device used to output pages at high resolution onto printing plates.


The uncontrolled movement caused by loose-fitting mechanical parts.


A device that exposes photographic film or paper, printing plates, or cylinders in a sequential manner, one line-at-a-time.


An add-on to a software application that gives it additional functionality.


Abbreviation for Pantone Matching System, a popular system for describing specific ink colors.


Abbreviation for PhotoMultiplier Tube, a color-sensing device used in high-end drum scanners. Photomultiplier tubes convert light into electrical impulses which can be interpreted by a computer. PMTs are much more sensitive and offer much greater resolution and detail-resolving ability than the cheaper competitive CCD technology.


Abbreviation for Plug and Play – on Windows systems sometimes referred to as ‘Plug and Pray’


Abbreviation for Print On Demand – Printing a limited number of new copies of a book or other document only after receiving an order (sometimes called publish on demand, sometimes the run length is limited to a single copy).


A consortium of companies in digital printing. PODi has developed PPML, a specification for a print language to handle documents that have reusable content.


A unit of measure in page layout. There are 72 PostScript points in an inch. Type sizes and line thicknesses are usually measured in points.


A polythene bag that is used to package a publication, such as a magazine, newspaper or catalog, and possibly some additional stuff, such as inserts, booklets, or a freebie. A polybag may have an address label and postage indicia (PPI) applied to it.

polybagging or polywrapping

A service offered by mailing houses for inserting items into polybags and preparing them for collection by a postal operator.


Abbreviation for Point of Purchase – used to refer to printing signage and information for use in retail stores. The name POP comes from the fact that most of the signage is displayed at the checkout lanes or cash registers. Also called POS (Point of Sale)


A connector or electrical plug on a computer or peripheral device for input and/or output of data.


An adjective describing a vertical orientation of a page format, as opposed to landscape, which is a horizontal orientation.


Abbreviation for Point of Sale – used to refer to printing signage and information for use in retail stores. The name POS comes from the fact that most of the signage is displayed at the checkout lanes or cash registers. Also called POP (Point of Purchase)

position proof

Color proof used to verify that all the elements for the reproduction (text, graphics, and picture) are in the correct location and in register with each other. Usually, a position proof does not contain the correct color strengths or hues for color judgment. Common types of position proofs are IMPRINT, Recoprint and Double-check.

position readout

Method to determine position after each movement.


– A film that has the same light and dark tonal relationships as compared to those of the original copy.
– The film image of a complete page that is used to make a positive working offset plate, which will produce a positive printed image.

positive working plate

A lithographic printing plate that is exposed through a film positive and used in printing a positive image.

positive working

The process of printing using positive separation films, flats of assembled film positives, and positive printing plates, rather than negative separations and printing plates as used in negative working printing. Alternatively called reversal process.


A special visual effect created by setting a defined number of gradient steps in a bitmap graphic.


The effect on images and blends that is caused by the reduction of the number of tints. It can be unintentional or done on purpose to increase the contrast of an image.


A page description language, developed by Adobe Systems, consisting of a specific set of software commands and protocols that form images on output printers and film recorders when translated through a RIP. The key feature of PostScript is device independence which allows many different outputs devices from different manufacturers to print the same file in more or less the same way. This site has a dedicated PostScript section.

PostScript clone

A RIP, in hardware or software, which interprets PostScript files, designed and/or manufactured by PostScript company without authorization or engineering assistance from Adobe Systems. Images generated by PostScript clone RIP’s ordinarily appear identical to those that would be created by true PostScript RIP.

power stabilizer

A transformer used to ensure that the electrical power feeding a computer or system has a constant voltage.


Abbreviation for PostScript Printer Description file, a file specification set by Adobe Systems, containing information about specific performance characteristics of an output device.


Abbreviation for Pixels per inch, a measurement of resolution.


Abbreviation for Personalized Print Markup Language, an industry-standard print language to make it much faster to print documents that have reusable content. The language uses XML as its syntactical base. PPML has been developed by PODi.


Abbreviation for Product Representation Compact, a file format that is used to embed 3D data in a PDF file (PDF 1.7 and later).


The average deviation from the required position; accuracy with which a device can position an object.


A generic marketing term that for the printing industry refers to a change in customer thinking toward the reduction in waste and a predisposition toward recyclable packaging and packaging or manufacturing components that make products easier to recycle


The practice of inspecting incoming or outgoing jobs (ads, pages or complete flats) before trying to process or send them.


All of the processes and procedures that occur between the conception of a publication and its reproduction. This includes customer briefings, scanning, design, retouching, proofing, and file delivery. It may involve technologies such as digital asset management, web-to-print, preflighting, and color management.


Any paper that is considered better than #1 by its manufacturer.


A collective term for the steps taken to prepare original artwork for printing.


Linerboard that is printed and rewound prior to the manufacture of combined board. Linerboard is used to make high-quality corrugated boxes.

presensitized plate

A plate that has been treated with light-sensitive coatings by the manufacturer.

press gain

Dot gain caused by the spreading of ink on the press, especially in the midtones. Printers must compensate for this tendency, which can vary with ink type and paper type.

press proof

An image printed before the production press run to verify that the desired effect can be achieved, using the production inks and production substrate. The press run may or may not be the one used for the production press run.

press sheet

The untrimmed, full-size sheet as it leaves the press.


The actual running of the press to print the job, immediately following the makeready.

primary colors

The colorants of a system that are used to print the colors for the entire reproduction. Cyan, magenta, and yellow are subtractive primary colors while red. green and blue are additive primary colors.


The most basic graphic entities, such as points, lines, geometric shapes and characters.


The quality of papers to show reproduced printed images.

print contrast

A method that is used to measure and optimize the solid ink density, dot gain, and shadow contrast, by adjusting the ink strength.

printer driver

A piece of software installed on a computer that tells the computer how a certain printer works, how to access the printer, and what capabilities (such as page size and resolution) the printer has.

printer fonts

Computer files containing the image outlines for type in PostScript format or in another page description language format. When type is created in a software program, the data in the printer font is called to supply the necessary typographic information to the file. Screen fonts supply the same type of information to the computer monitor.

printers pairs

Two consecutive pages as they appear on a flat or signature.

printing plate

An intermediate image carrier used on a printing press to transfer the image from the film to a digital file to the substrate.

printing sequence

The order in which different inks are laid down by a multi-head press. Worldwide, the most popular order for typography is black followed by cyan, magenta, and yellow. Many prefer yellow followed by magenta, cyan, and black.


An information exchange file format that is an amalgam of JDF and cXML which is designed for commercial printers. It focuses on business transactions for business cards, labels tags, commercial printing, and so on. It has limited adoption.


An industry standard that specifies a metadata vocabulary for syndicating, aggregating, post-processing, and multi-purposing magazine, news, catalog, book, and mainstream journal content. It is only used in the US.

process blue

Cyan, one of the primary colors associated with CMYK printing.

process color

The printing ink colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

process control

The tools and methods for keeping each production process within acceptable limits to minimize product variation.

process red

Magenta, one of the primary colors associated with CMYK printing.

process yellow

Yellow, one of the primary colors associated with CMYK printing.


Slang for a progressive proof

progressive, progressive proof

A series of color proofs that include the finished four-color proof, a three-color proof, each individual process color, and two-color combinations of each process ink, which makes it possible to see each combination of colors separately. Progressive proofs are printed with ink-on-paper and used for process control when visually compared to the press sheet.


A flashing signal, dialog box, or command on a computer monitor screen that waits for a response from the operator.


A check made at a strategic interval in a process to ascertain quality, e.g. a photographic print made from plate-ready films or flats before the press run to check for the accuracy of layout, type matter, and tone and color reproduction.

proof marks or proofreader’s mark

A widely-accepted system of notations used to indicate corrections or alterations required on an area of type.

proofing stock

Special paper for making proofs that will appear like the printed reproduction.


The technique of making a proof, the visual impression of the expected final reproduction. There are many proofing methods depending on the type of proof that is needed. The most common types of proofs are contract proof, DDCP, digital proof, hard proof, off-press, overlay color proof, position proof, press proof, prog, single sheet color proof, and soft proof.


To read and mark corrections in written matter.

proportional spacing

Letterspacing that is relative to the width of each character (e.g. the letter i takes up less space than the letter m)


A specific set of instructions that regulate data exchange between computers.


– Abbreviation for Point Size
– Abbreviation for PostScript, a printer control language


Abbreviation for point, a unit of measurement which usually refers to so-called PostScript points.


In inkjet printing puddling or coalescence is an image defect that causes images to appear blotchy or ‘puddled’, resulting in non-uniformity in solid fill areas.

pull for position

A guide sheet for the positioning of type, blocks, etc.


A quotation, extracted from the text and printed in larger type in the column, often blocked off with horizontal rules or on a tinted background.

pull quote

In magazine and newspaper publishing, a quotation or edited excerpt from an article that is placed in a larger typeface on the same page. It leads readers into the article, can highlight a key topic, and breaks up a wall of text so it appears more readable. Also known as a lift-out quote or a call-out.


Code name for Mac OS X 10.1

punctuation block

In typography a punctuation block refers to several consecutive lines of type that end with a punctuation mark, making the right margin look uneven.

pyroxylin paper

A paper type that is coated with pyroxylin lacquer to make it water-resistant and glossy.

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