Guides & Glossary

Guides For Creating Artwork

To assist you in creating your own artwork for printing, the following guides explain everything from dpi to margins – if you’re already confused, don’t worry, there’s a helpful glossary below!

Links open in a new window:

Spot colour (litho print) guide ⇗

Four colour (litho and digital print) guide ⇗



all original copy, including type, photos and illustrations, intended for printing.

A3 paper
297 x 420mm.

A4 paper
210 x 297mm.

A5 paper
148 x 210mm.

A6 paper
ISO 105 x 148mm.


printed area which extends off the trimmed area. to achieve this effect printers print a larger area than is required on oversized paper and then trim the paper down after printing. typically a graphic designer would allow an extra 3mm to 5mm of bleed to printed areas to allow a little leeway when trimming.

bond paper
type of paper commonly used for writing, printing and photocopying.


abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black), the four process printing colours.

coated paper
paper with a coating of clay and other substances that improves reflectivity and reduces dot gain. paper mills produce coated paper in four major types – cast, gloss, silk and matt.

the process of putting the various sections or sheets of a document in the correct order.

extent to which ink covers the surface of a substrate – usually expressed as light, medium or heavy.

crop marks
lines near the edges of an image indicating portions to be reproduced. also called cut marks and tick marks.

one of the four process printing colours. also known as process blue.


(1) regarding ink, the relative thickness of a layer of printed ink. (2) regarding colour, the relative ability of a colour to absorb light reflected from it or block light passing through it.

digital printing
a recent development has entered the market in the shape of digital printing. these systems work directly from electronic data and avoid the intermediate stage of films. they are very cost effective for short runs.

dot gain
phenomenon of halftone dots printing larger on paper than they are on printing plates, reducing detail and lowering contrast.


to press an image into paper so it lies above the surface.


finished size
size of printed product after production is completed, as opposed to flat size.

any process that follows the actual printing. this can include folding, collating, numbering, perforating, creasing, stitching, binding and so on

fold marks
with printed matter, markings indicating where a fold is to occur

four-colour process printing
method of printing that uses black, magenta, cyan and yellow to simulate full-colour images. also called process colour printing or full colour printing


grey scale
strip of grey values ranging from white to black. used by pre-press staff to calibrate exposure times for printing plates. also called a step wedge.

abbreviation for “grams per square metre”. this indicates the weight of paper or board. for example; a photocopier paper would be 80gsm – a letterhead paper might be 100gsm – a postcard would be about 350gsm.

a space allowed for cutting after printing.



arrangement of pages on printing plates so they will appear in the correct order after press sheets are folded and bound.



lines on a mechanical or negative showing the exact size, shape and location of photographs or other image elements


a plastic coating which protects the printed surface with a matt or gloss finish.

layout style in which width is greater than height. (portrait is opposite.)

a sample of the original showing position of printed work needed.

lithographic printing
lithographic printing is the most common form of commercial printing. the basic principle on which it works is that oil and water do not mix. a litho printing plate has non-image areas which absorb water. during printing the plate is kept wet so that the ink, which is oily, is rejected by the wet areas and adheres to the image areas.


One of the four process colours with a pinkish colour.

mock up
a rough model of the original printed matter. also known as a dummy



offset printing
printing technique that transfers ink from a printing plate to a rubberised blanket to paper instead of directly from the plate to paper.

a quantity of printed material in excess of the amount ordered to allow for losses in print finishing post press


the number of pages in a document.

the brand name of a colour matching system produced by pantone inc of the usa. a large range of inks are specified and identified by number to produce standardised results across the print industry.

perfect bind
to bind sheets that have been ground at the spine and are held to the cover by glue. also called soft bind and soft cover.

short for picture element, a dot made by a computer, scanner or other digital device.

sheet of metal or polyester carrying an image to be reproduced using a printing press.

layout in which the height is greater than the width. (opposite of landscape.)

functions performed by the designer or printerprior to printing.

test sheet made to reveal errors or flaws, predict results on press and record how a printing job is intended to appear when finished. this is what a customer will see before approving the job.



500 sheets of paper or 100 or 250 sheets of board

register marks
cross-hair lines on mechanicals and film that help keep plates and printing properly aligned.

resolution sharpness of an image on film, paper, computer screen, disc, tape or other medium. measured in lpi or dpi


saddle stitch
to bind by stapling sheets together at the folding spine, as compared to side stitch.

special colours
this refers to colours which are produced using specially mixed inks from one of the commercially available colour ranges such as pantone, dic or focoltone. they are most commonly used when using two colour printing.

spiral bind
to bind using a spiral of continuous wire or plastic looped through holes.

a general term for any paper or board which is used as a printed surface.

any surface or material on which printing is performed.


printing a solid colour as smaller dots to lighten that colour.

trim size
the size of the printed material after finishing

two colour printing
two colour printing is commonly used for letterheads and business cards. the typical design includes a pantone spot colour ink along with black. the special ink is for the ‘company colour’ for use on the logo and the black is for text.


uncoated paper
paper that has not been coated with clay.


variable data
a file of information is used in conjunction with a print run. this file would include unique information like names and address, for use in mail merging from MS Excel in MS Word


translucent logo in paper created during manufacturing by slight embossing.

work and turn
when a whole job is printed on one side of sheet, the sheets turned and printed again using the same plates. for example, a single sheet a4 flyer is printed with back and front adjacent to each other on one side of an sra3 sheet. the sheets are flipped over and printed with the same plates again to reduce the cost of printing



One of the four process colours.


we hope we haven’t bored you too much!

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