Definitions of design and printing terms

Common terms
Bleed / bleed edge

When a printed image, graphic or text is intended to run up to the very edge of a page, this is known as bleed.

The effect is achieved by allowing for additional space around the edges of the page in the artwork (the 'bleed edge') and the graphics extend into this area. The document is printed on oversized paper, including the bleed edge, and then cut down to size.

A minimum bleed edge of 3mm is required. If no bleed edge is provided, your document will either have a white margin, or be trimmed a few millimetres under size.


Paper over 160gsm in weight is charged as card.

CRC (Camera Ready Copy)

Refers to a hard copy document that is to be copied and printed from directly with no alterations.

"Camera Ready Copy" is a legacy printing term. A camera was used to take a shot of the final document. The negatives would then be used to create the printing plates. We still use the term today, but the plates are now generated using digital methods.

GSM (Grams per Square Metre)

A measure of paper weight. Higher paper weights mean thicker paper. Paper with a weight of 160gsm or more is classed as card.

Hard copy

A physical printed copy, usually of a digital document.

Mixed media

A document containing pages of different sizes (e.g. an A4 brochure with an A3 pull-out map).


One side (or face) of print. A double sided print counts as two pages.

Data processing
Mail merge

The process of extracting data from a spreadsheet and populating a document template. Mail merging is typically used in the preparation of bulk letter and envelope printing.

Transactional printing

The process of extracting transactional data (e.g. payroll, invoices) from a database, and populating a printed document. Software is used to process the data and format it correctly for the document.

File formats
DOC/DOCX (Microsoft Word Document)

A common digital word processing package. Microsoft Word is ideal for the creation of simple documents and mail merging. It is unsuitable for creating designed content intended for professional printing.

PDF (Portable document format)

A commonly used digital file format that can be viewed by any computer or device with a PDF reader. The recipient of a PDF document can view and print the PDF, but is unable to make changes to the document.


Refers to ‘cyan, magenta, yellow and black’, the four basic ink colours used to print colour documents and photography. CMYK colour is also known as ‘four colour process’. All full colour documents and colour photography are printed in CMYK as standard.


Also known as PMS (PANTONE® Matching System). PANTONE® colours are pre-mixed inks that can be chosen from a colour swatch and matched on a printing press. If you are reprinting a document, PANTONE® colours can easily be matched.

Each PANTONE® colour requires a separate printing plate to be created.

When to use PANTONE® Colour

PANTONE® colours are most commonly used to match brand colours for logos and graphics.

If your document requires fewer than four defined colours, PANTONE® colours can also be used instead of a four colour process.

PANTONE® colour in desktop publishing (DTP) applications

Professional DTP applications include PANTONE® colour libraries. The user can easily select the colour for their artwork, which can then be matched by the printer.


Professional software allows PANTONE® colour to be converted in to the four process colours (CMYK). This is necessary if your document contains colour photographs or more than three PANTONE® colours. Converting PANTONE® colours in this way will impact the colour accuracy, especially for brighter colours.

RGB (Red, green, blue)

Refers to ‘red, green and blue’. Digital displays use a combination of red, green and blue to display colour. Digital cameras and desktop scanners will also capture images using RGB as default.

If your document contains an RGB image, this will be converted to CMYK during the printing process. This conversion can impact the accuracy of the colours. Images can be converted from RGB to CMYK using photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop.

DPI (Dots per inch)

Refers to the resolution of a printed image. The number of dots printed in a line an inch in length.

PPI (Pixels per inch)

Refers to the resolution of an image on a digital display. The number of pixels in a line an inch in length.


The number of dots per inch that a printing device places on a page. A digital colour copier has a resolution of 600dpi, while a printing press has a resolution of 2400dpi.

All photographs and bitmapped images should have a resolution of at least 300dpi at the size they are to be used. If a lower resolution is used, the images may appear pixellated. Images supplied at higher resolutions will still be printed at 300dpi.

Binding and finishing
Clear cover sheets

Clear plastic sheets that can be added to the front and/or back of your document for added protection.


A clear plastic sheet covers both sides of a printed page with a 2-3mm lip around all sides of the page. The sheet is then heated to seal the plastic.

Foam board mounting

A printed document is glued onto a lightweight, ridged backing board. This process is often used for professional displays for presentations.

Heat binding

Pages are placed into a plastic cover with glue along the spine and a white card back. The spine is then machine heated and the glue is allowed to cool. A cost-effective and professional binding method for documents.


The application of a clear glossy plastic to one or both sides of a print. This process is often used to protect the front and back covers of a printed document.

Saddle stitch binding

Documents are printed on multiple sheets, which are folded in half to form a spine, then stapled twice along the spine.

Wiro binding

Loose sheets are punched and a plastic coated wire is fed through the holes to form a binding. Ideal for multi-page documents that need to be opened out flat.