Common UK Printing Terms Explained

Here is a guide to some common terms used in the print industry


CMYK refers to ink colours Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – these are the four process colours used in full colour printing.


The colours of light – Red, Green, Blue on a computer monitor. One of the most difficult aspects of desktop publishing in colour is colour matching – properly converting the RGB colours into CMYK colours so that what gets printed looks the same as what appears on the monitor.

Spot Colour

Refers to a method of specifying and printing colours in which each colour is printed with its own ink rather than a composite of the process colours (CMYK). Spot colour printing is effective when the printed matter contains only one to three different colours, but it becomes prohibitively expensive for more colours. Spot colours are used when you want to print a specific shade, metallic or a fluorescent colour.


PMS stands for Pantone Matching System used by the printing industry to print spot colours. It is not always possible to match PMS colours using CMYK.


PDF is a way of saving a document that protects the document formating so that it will look exactly the same when viewed on any computer or when printed.


The sharpness and clarity of an image. The term is most often used to describe monitors, printers, and bit-mapped graphic images. To ensure the best reproduction of images in printed jobs, we require the images to be 300dpi at the size they are to be printed.


Abbreviation of dots per inch, which indicates the resolution of images. The more dots per inch, the higher the resolution. Minimum required for printing is 300 dpi for all images.


There are two main types of images – Vector Graphics and Bit-Mapped Graphics. Vector images use a composite of lines and nodes while Bit-Mapped Graphics use a composition of a pattern of dots (sometimes called Raster Graphics). Programs that enable you to create and manipulate Vector Graphics are often called drawing programmes (e.g. Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand). Programmes used for creating and manipulating Bit-Mapped images or photographs are sometimes refered to as image editing or paint programmes (e.g. Adobe Photoshop or MS Paint).

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