Dummies, Bleeding and Creeps: A Short Translation Guide for Speaking to Your Printer
Just like any other, the printing industry has its own specialised terminology. The language used by printers may make their lives easier, but it can be highly confusing for an outsider when talking to them. Most businesses will encounter a printer at some juncture, and understanding some of the key terms involved can help make the whole process much more straightforward.
To help you out the next time you need printed marketing materials, we put together this short translation guide covering a few of the key terms that you might find your printer using in conversation.
An Introduction to Printer Terminology
There are certain basic terms that not only make it easier for you to understand what your printer is going on about, but also have the added bonus of making you sound quite clever. Knowing these also spares your printer the hassle of having to explain them to you.
CMYK is a term you will hear a lot when it comes to printing. It simply refers to the inks involved: cyan, magenta, yellow and ‘key’, which is a way of referring to black. You often need to be careful when sending files over to a printer, as many computer programs use RGB (red, green, blue) colour palettes. Printing a RGB image in CMYK without converting the file formats first means that the colours will be completely wrong.
When supplying designs, you’ll need to be aware of the bleed. This is an extra area of image that overlaps the actual boundaries of the finished design. If your images and design only stretch to the edge of the page, you could end up with a thin border of plain paper around the edges after it has been cut.
A really good term for making you sound like you know what you’re talking about is to refer to the left-hand page of a book or magazine as verso and the right-hand page as recto.
Printing Terminology: Things You Want
You want to get your specifications right. This is perhaps the easiest printing term to guess, as it simply refers to the exact details of your printing job. Give your printer the wrong specifications, or inaccurate ones, and you’ll end up with something that looks very different to what you wanted, and not in a good way.
There are several different ways you can check to make sure your finished product is going to turn out all right. The first thing you might like to do is look at a dummy; this is a rough mockup of your finished product, which could be as simple as having blank pieces of the right paper cut to the size of the finished product and stacked to mimic its thickness so you can get an idea of its final dimensions. Once all the design and formatting is finished, you will be shown a soft proof on a computer or other kind of screen. A physical copy is known as a hard proof. Once the printing press has been set up to produce your order, you can get a wet proof, which is a hard copy produced to specification on the machine specifically set up to make your final order.
From a marketing point of view, you want your branding to register i.e. get noticed and remembered by your target reader. But if the finished project doesn’t register from a printing point of view it’s not going to look very good. Register refers to the alignment of overlapping colour images (when each colour is printed as a separate image on top of one another to create the final, full-colour result). Everything is fine and dandy when the images are in register, but if they’re out of alignment, with one colour overlapping the others, it is out of register and it’s going to make your finished product look scruffy.
Staying at your friend’s house uninvited for a month would likely be a bad imposition, but in printing you want an imposition. This is where the pages of your document are arranged on the plate in the right way so that once the big sheet has been cut and folded down to size all of the pages are in the right order. If your imposition was wrong during the printing phase, you could find yourself with a pamphlet where the pages are the wrong way round or arranged out of sequence.
Printing Terminology: What You Don’t Want
If your printer warns you about hickeys, creeps, or dot gain then it’s worth paying attention. Each of these is a form of printing defect that can, at the very least, lessen the impact of your beautiful designs, and at worst make the finished product look messy and unprofessional.
Hickeys are small imperfections or spots that can show up on your printed materials if there is dirt on the printing press. Creep is slightly self-explanatory, and is where the edges of the middle pages in a section that is folded stick out past the edges of the outside pages. It can look pretty unprofessional; imagine a magazine where all the pages extended to different lengths, rather than finishing in a smooth flat edge.
Dot gain can affect the colour, detail, and shade of the final image. If you squint really closely at anything printed (unless the print resolution is incredibly high) you will see that the colours, pictures, and text are actually composed of tiny dots. If those dots are too large it can blur the edges of shapes and affect the quality of the overall image.
And when a second, unsightly pattern appears on an image - that’s a moiré. It’s an optical effect comes about as a result of overlapping patterns being scanned or printed at the wrong angle. A common example is when you see a person on the television wearing a shirt with thin stripes: the stripes often become jagged, fuzzy, or appear to move, and that secondary pattern that you are seeing is a moiré.
You can probably also guess from the word that you don’t want any scum. This is where a film of ink is accidentally printed on an area of the material that is meant to remain blank.
Remember These Key Terms for Hassle-Free Printing
Keep this guide on hand when talking to or emailing a printer and you’ll find it helps to avoid similar bumps and pitfalls in the road to getting your marketing materials.