Printing Lingo 101

Even in today’s digital world, print collateral plays a large part in business. Whether it is business cards, packaging, letterhead, or marketing materials - print is still a major player.

If you are unfamiliar with the world of printing you may not understand all of the options available when ordering your collateral. Because of that, we want to share with you some common print lingo that you may run across.


4/0 – This abbreviation is used to denote the number of colors on each side of a print. In digital printing, 4 represents the 4-color process, CMYK, mixing to create a full-color image. The second number, 0, means that there is no color on the backside of the print. Using 1/0, in digital printing, denotes black ink only. However, In the world of screen printing (where screens or plates are used for printing) the 1 can represent any color.


CMYK, RGB, & Pantone – CMYK, RGB, and Pantone indicate different color types. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (K) and refers to the primary colors of pigment that are used in the ink for color printers. RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue which are the primary colors that are used in computer monitors, TVs, and other digital screens. Pantone (literally meaning “all colors”) is a color matching system that ensures that the color you want is the color that is printed. It is comprised of over 1,800 colors and is a great option to make sure that your branding is always is using the correct color. When sending artwork to a printer it is important that your print file is in the CMYK format, however, if you want a specific color without the worry of variation, you will need to make sure that you include the Pantone colors used in the file.



2 UP – This refers to how many prints can be done on a single sheet. You may see this referenced more often when printing packaging, but it can also apply for items such as business cards or postcards. Printing multiple items on a single sheet saves in cost and cuts down on waste by maximizing the use of the paper.


Digital Printing – Digital printing is the process of printing without the use of printing plates or screens. Documents can be sent directly to a digital printer and be imprinted on paper, canvas, and a variety of other surfaces. Digital printing also enables the ability for variable data to be used, as well as print-on-demand, short runs, and short printing times. Traditional printing, or offset printing, is the use of printing plates/screens to print an image. Offset printing is typically used when large quantities are being printed.



Gutter – This term refers to an additional margin that is added to a design to allow space for different finishing techniques such as binding, folding, stapling, or varnish.


Weight – Weight refers to the thickness or sturdiness of the paper used in your printed piece. For example, something like company letterhead would be printed on a lighter weight paper while business cards, postcards, and most packaging require heavier weight card stock.


Bleed – This term refers to the area of print that goes beyond a finished print’s cut lines. If you are asked if you are wanting a “full bleed,” this is referring to when the image goes completely to the edge of the paper.


Variable Data – This is a form of printing in which elements such as text or images can be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process. Invoices and printed envelopes use variable data to insert the different names, addresses, and amounts on to each individual page. With our print technology, variable data can be printed with embellishments such as foil and varnish. This is something that has not been possible in the past.



While these terms do not fully cover the vast amount of options that are available when printing, they will allow you to better understand some of the processes that are used. Thankfully, a comprehensive understanding of print is not necessary with the right print partner.


At DMS Color we pride ourselves on the experience that our team brings to you. We are more than a print shop. We are a print technology company that is continually breaking new ground in the print world.


Contact us today and let us know how we can help you with your print needs.

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