Printing dictionary

Welcome to the graphic design, prepress & print dictionary.  Stan Schwartz supplied many of the printing and finishing terms of this online glossary. I added the publishing and computer-related terminology. Click a letter to go to that page.


Trilingual dictionary from the 17th century

Recent additions

Rainbow printing – A special security printing technique in which two or more inks are applied on one printing plate.
– The process of applying a metallic foil as a decorative element. Silver or gold foil are sometimes applied to the outer edges of books or business cards to conjure up luxury and elegance.
Lead paragraph – A short paragraph set in a larger font size or different typeface that opens an article. It gives readers a quick summary of the story and provides a hook to entice further reading.
Acid-free paper – Paper containing no acidity or acid-producing chemicals. Acid-free paper degrades less over time than acidic papers.
Slug – In layout applications such as Adobe InDesign, the slug is an area outside of the trim and bleed area that can be used by the designer to add comments or other information related to the publication. It is not visible in the final printed pieces since it disappears when the document is trimmed to its final size.
– 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.
Scratch off printing – the process of applying a foil to specific areas of a document. The foil can be removed with the edge of a coin or a fingernail to reveal the information printed beneath it. The process is often used on giveaway and contest printed materials, such as lottery tickets.
Short grain web press – A web press that uses printing plates whose long dimension is along the cylinders.
Ghost bar – A ghost bar of take-off bar is a rectangular solid line or pattern that is added to a press sheet and trimmed away after printing. It helps equalize ink lay down on the sheet by extending and evening out the printed area, thus avoiding ink starvation in any one place.

Other reference pages

These are popular reference pages on this site:

  • Paper sizes – list of common American and European paper sizes, including the ISO standards.
  • Character names – 70 frequently used characters, punctuation symbols and signs, their name, and the keystroke that is needed to type them.
  • Interesting typefaces – short descriptions of 30 fonts that I happen to like.

Other dictionaries or reference sites that can be useful for printing or graphic arts in general:

8 thoughts on “Printing dictionary

  1. It was interesting when you explained that acid-free paper will degrade less over time than their acidic counterparts. My boss mentioned that she wants to start working with a digital imaging company to publish some marketing materials for us. I’ll pass along this info to make sure we choose the right paper for the materials we need!

    1. I wonder what kind of marketing material is relevant for so many decades or centuries that it necessitates the use of special paper to minimize the risk of paper degradation?

  2. Working in Prepress almost my entire adult life. This is a wonderful resource for those who are just getting in. Thanks for keeping this knowledge together in such an easy site.

  3. Hello, I’m interested in finding a working 1860s- 1900 print shop. Do you know of any?
    Even in a tourist re-created sight.
    Thank you for your time.

    1. Try the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Massachusetts (just north of Boston) for fulfilling your curiosity.

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