15 Common Printing Terms You Should Know

Here at Impress By Print, we feel that anyone who is considering having any elaborate printing done should be aware of a few terms which are used. These aren’t all terms which are used inside a printing company, and if you are an artist, photographer or designer, many will refer to what you are doing as well as your printer of choice.



DPI stands for dots per inch. The higher the DPI, the better the print.

Basic inkjets print around 700dpi which is okay for proofing of images. This raises to 1440dpi for general output and 2560dpi for really high quality.

Lines are smoother, but it takes longer to print and uses more ink.


This is a color model used for printing. You often hear full-color printing or 4/4 which means all four colors will be used on the front and the back of the page. Colors used are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black).

Spot Color

In offset printing, the spot color (or solid color) is generated by ink which is pure or mixed and is then printed in a single run. Process color, on the other hand, is built up using a series of dots of different colors. Spot color produces a more accurate color.

Trim or Crop Marks

These are printed on the corners of a print, these will be where the final piece is to be cropped to its final size.


To make sure there are no unprinted edges of images or color, the printing goes beyond the boundary of the final size, so as the piece is cropped, there will be print all the way up to the edge. Many printers use a 3mm bleed.

Die Cut

This is the process where low strength materials which have been printed are cut to shape. These can include paper, cardboard or anything which has been run through the print machine process.

Die Lines

The die lines serve as a package template which ensures the correct layout for printed products. The diagram shows all the cut lines as well as the folds of cartons before they are assembled.              They are also used for pocket folders, envelopes and more.



Offset Printing

This is the process which is best suited to bulk printing. Plates are used which are usually constructed from aluminum. The image is transferred from the plate to a rubber blanket before being transferred to the print stock (paper).

Digital Printing

These are printing methods where the print information is taken directly from an image and transferred to the print media. It is commonly used in professional printing where smaller print jobs are conducted from desktop publishing or other digital sources. Most often Large format or high volume laser or inkjet printers are used.


This is a standard color identification system that uses numbers and letters to distinguish colors. This enables all printers to match colors no matter where they are located.


This is where there is a slight pressing of the paper, and which gives images a three-dimensional look and feel.


This is where one color is printed over another. It is used as a means of creating special effects which otherwise couldn’t be replicated.

Print File Formats

These are set file types printers will accept for print jobs. The most popular are:

  • PDF – Portable Document Format
  • Jpeg – Joint Photographic Expert Groups
  • Tiff – Tagged Image File Format
  • PNG – Portable Network Graphics
  • EPS – Encapsulated PostScript

Print Ready File

These are files printers can send directly to their print machines. All the necessary specifications are included, and there will be no need for them to edit or make changes.


This is how detailed an image will be. The higher the DPI (dots per inch), the better the lines and the less pixelation you will be able to see.

300 DPI is recommended for high-quality prints.


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