Friday, 14 October 2016

The Horrifying Side of Print

The Horrifying Side of Print

Revealing the Dark Terminology of Print

In the spirit of Halloween and in an effort to take some of the fear out of print, here are the definitions of a few of the creepiest words we use as printers. Read on if you dare!


Including bleed in your artwork ensures that the ink will print all the way to the edge of the page without trimming off anything essential in your design. Bleed refers to a space around the artwork that falls outside of the final printed area. Bleed allows for a margin of error—to ensure that your document will look professional after it is cut to size.

The size of the bleed you use depends on its purpose. A document intended for print on standard paper or cover weight stock that bleeds off the edge of the printed sheet should have a bleed of at least 1/8″ (0.125 inches or 9 points) on each side of a document which requires bleed.


When printing a saddle-stitched (stapled) booklet, you need to consider the thickness of your finished product. If you tried using notebook paper and staples to build your own book as a child, you are probably familiar with the frustrating challenge of getting the edges of your booklet to line up neatly.

For a booklet with a lot of pages, it is more difficult to fold flat due to the combined thickness of the paper. This bulk causes the inside pages to extend out past the outside pages as shown in illustration A below.

The outer pages have more bulk to fold around, so they will appear to lose a little bit of width with each additional page. To prevent this from happening, printers use creep to adjust the size of each page just slightly. This creates a clean beautiful edge to your booklet and consistent margins on each page as shown in illustration B above.


Simply put, the cut is where the printed design is trimmed to its final size or shape. If a printed piece is in a shape other than a standard rectangle, then a die cut will be used. Occasionally, a printed piece will be kiss-cut which means that the cut does not extend all the way through the substrate, but it can be easily torn apart by hand later, such as with magnets or stickers. Very intricate designs will often be laser cut for crisp edges.

Die Line

When your printed project will be cut into a unique shape, it usually involves die-cutting. Examples of a die cut shape are hang tags, name tags, parking hangers, door hangers, or custom envelopes.

A die is similar to a rubber stamp, except it is used to cut a shape rather than leaving an ink impression. It takes a lot of skill to create a beautiful die, especially for more intricate designs. This means that complicated dies tend to be more expensive. Be sure to check with your printer before you design your artwork to make sure your die cut will fit in your budget.

When you are preparing your artwork for printing and cutting, you should include a die line which shows the printer where you want the design to be cut. The die line should only be created using vectors to prevent jagged edges. The die line is typically indicated using a spot color that contrasts with the artwork colors. Name your layer “die line” so that your printer knows what your intentions are for the project.


The gutter is a little extra space used to accommodate the binding in books and magazines. When your document has multiple columns or facing pages, you will need to set the gutter width. The amount of gutter required will vary depending on the binding method you choose. Gutter is also used to refer to the space between columns of text in a page layout, although the official term for that is the alley.


When a row of small holes are punched into a sheet of paper, it creates a part can be torn off easily. Perforation can be seen in coloring books where the pages can be torn out of the book. It is also commonly used with coupons, flyers, stamps, and tickets.



Although these three letters can cause dread in women (and men) everywhere, when it comes to print terminology, these letters refer to the Pantone Matching System. PMS colors allow printers to create consistent colors and maintain brand integrity.


The slug is part of a design document that is located outside the trim line or design artboard, therefore it will not appear in the final printed piece. However, it is occasionally included in the design file and contains information about the project such as the title and date or specific instructions for the printer.


Similar to bleed, trap refers to a fail-safe method which prevents possible problems with registration during the printing process. In offset printing, the different colors are produced on separate plates which are then layered individually onto the paper. Even the most careful and skilled printers can’t align each layer perfectly every time. Therefore, the use of trapping can make room for slight variations that happen naturally during printing.

When the layers of color are slightly misregistered, you get an effect similar to the one shown in the image below.

In order to prevent this from happening, high quality printers will use trapping to create a tiny overlap between the two layers.

Although we take care of the trapping when you print with us, it is important to keep in mind how trapping works as you design. For example, if you are printing small colored text on a dark background, make sure that your font isn’t too thin and choose a sans-serif font if possible to prevent the little serifs from getting lost during trapping. In this situation, it’s also a good idea to slightly increase the space between characters and lines.

As you can see, there's no reason to be afraid of your friendly neighborhood printer. At least not this year... Bwahahaha!