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Understanding Technical Details in Printing: Terminology and Specifications Explained

Understanding Technical Details in Printing_ Terminology and Specifications Explained

Navigating the world of printing can be a daunting task, especially with all the technical jargon and specifications involved. However, understanding these details is crucial to achieving desired print quality and ultimately saving time and money. To make this process more accessible, our blog post will demystify 100 essential printing terms and phrases you need to know.

Understanding printing terminology

Learn about key printing terminology such as DPI (dots per inch), bleed, CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key/Black), spot colours, paper weight and types, and print resolution to enhance your understanding of the printing process.

DPI (Dots Per Inch)

DPI, or Dots Per Inch, is a critical aspect of printing that directly impacts the quality and detail of your printed materials. It refers to the number of individual dots of ink placed within one square inch on a piece of paper by a printer. For instance, consider two images both sized at 5 inches x 7 inches—one has a resolution of 150 DPI and the other boasts 300 DPI. The image with 300 DPI will display far superior print quality because it packs in twice as many dots per inch compared to its counterpart.


Bleed is a printing term used to describe when the ink extends beyond the finished size of a document. This is done intentionally to ensure that there are no white edges or gaps after trimming. For example, if you’re printing a flyer with an image that goes right up to the edge of the paper, you’ll need to include a bleed so that when it’s cut down to its final size, there won’t be any white space showing. Without a bleed, your design may not look as professional as you want it to.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key/Black)

CMYK stands for the four primary colours used in most printing processes: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). These colours are combined in different percentages to create a wide range of colours on paper. For example, when all four colours are printed in equal amounts (also known as 100% values), they create a rich black colour. The CMYK model is used for digital and offset printing processes because it can produce high-quality prints with accurate colour reproduction.

In addition to CMYK, there are also spot colours which refer to pre-mixed ink that comes from specific Pantone Ink books. Spot colours can be more precise than using CYMK as each colour has its own specially mixed ink rather than being ‘built’ via the combination of other colours like with CYMK.

Spot colours

Spot colours are used in printing to achieve a specific colour that cannot be achieved with CMYK alone. These colours are pre-mixed in ink and applied to the paper directly, rather than being created by combining cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks. For example, if a company has a logo with a unique shade of green that can’t be replicated with CMYK, they would use spot colour printing to ensure that the final product accurately represents their brand.

Paper weight and types

One important aspect of printing that often gets overlooked is the type and weight of paper used. Paper weight is measured in GSM (grams per square metre) and can range from light, flimsy types to heavy, sturdy cardstock.

Different types of paper also have different finishes such as glossy, matte or textured. The choice of paper can have a significant impact on the overall look and feel of printed material.

It’s crucial to work closely with your printer to select the best paper type for each specific project. If you’re not sure where to start, your printer should be able to offer samples and advice based on their experience working with various materials.

Print resolution

Print resolution refers to the level of detail that can be printed on a page and is usually measured in dots per inch (DPI). A higher DPI means more dots are printed per inch, resulting in sharper and more detailed prints.

Typically, printers have a maximum resolution they can achieve, so it’s important to consider this when choosing your printer. For example, if you’re printing high-quality images or graphics for marketing materials, you’ll want to choose a printer with a higher DPI.

To ensure the best print quality possible, it’s also essential to provide high-resolution artwork that matches the printer’s capabilities. Low-quality images may appear grainy or fuzzy when printed at a high resolution.

Printer specifications explained

Printer specifications explained

Learn about the different printer specifications such as print speed, paper capacity and connectivity to help you choose the right printer for your needs.

Print speed

Print speed refers to the number of pages a printer can produce in a particular amount of time, usually measured in pages per minute (PPM). It’s an essential specification to consider when choosing the right printer for your needs. A printer with high print speed is ideal if you have large printing jobs that require fast delivery. For example, if you’re running a busy print shop and need quick turnaround times, then investing in printers with high PPM should be on your priority list. However, bear in mind that faster printers may cost more than slower ones.

Paper capacity

Paper capacity is an essential printer specification to consider when choosing the right printer for your needs. The paper capacity determines how many sheets of paper a printer can hold at one time, and it’s usually measured in pages or reams. For example, a printer may have a paper capacity of 150 pages or three reams of paper.

Having the right paper capacity ensures that you don’t need to reload the printer frequently, saving you time and making the printing process more efficient. It also minimises interruptions during long print runs, allowing you to focus on other tasks while printing is ongoing.


In addition to print speed and paper capacity, printer connectivity is an important factor to consider when choosing a printer. Connectivity refers to how the printer can be linked with other devices, such as computers or mobile phones, in order to send print jobs.

Most printers today offer USB and Wi-Fi connectivity options, allowing for wireless printing from multiple devices. Ethernet ports are also common on larger office printers which allow them to be connected directly to a network.

Considering your printing needs will help in determining what kind of connectivity options you require. If you work in an office environment where multiple people need access to the same printer regularly, Ethernet or Wi-Fi connectivity may be necessary for easy sharing of resources between devices.

Print quality

Print quality is an important consideration when choosing a printer. It refers to the sharpness, clarity, and detail of the printed output. High-quality printing gives your materials a professional look and enhances their visual appeal. To achieve excellent print quality, you need to use high-resolution images and graphics that are suitable for print. You should also choose the right paper type and weight to complement your design.

Understanding technical details in printing can help you make informed decisions about print quality. For instance, knowing how many dots per inch (DPI) are needed for detailed images can help you optimise your artwork for better results.

Different printing techniques

Printing techniques include offset, digital, letterpress, flexography, and screen printing.

Offset Printing

Offset printing is a traditional printing technique that involves transferring an inked image from a metal plate to a rubber blanket, then onto paper. It gets its name from the fact that the image is offset or transferred onto another surface before being printed on paper. One of the benefits of offset printing is its ability to reproduce vibrant colours and sharp images with precision. It also allows for customisation, such as using different types of inks, papers, and finishes. Offset printers are ideal for magazine publishing, brochures, flyers, business cards, and more.

Digital printing

Digital printing is a modern printing technique that uses digital images to produce high-quality prints on paper, cardstock, and other materials. It’s ideal for small runs of printed material such as brochures, flyers, and business cards. Digital printers have no plates to set up like in offset printing; therefore the time and cost involved are relatively low. This allows the customer to get their products quickly with a fast turnaround time. Additionally, digital printing offers more colour accuracy than traditional methods because it doesn’t require separate plates for each colour used in a design.

Moreover, another significant advantage of digital printing is its ability to print variable data at no additional cost or setup fees. With this technology, businesses can easily personalise marketing campaigns by adjusting names or changing promotional messages depending on the targeted audience while retaining good quality prints without affecting productivity and costs negatively.


Letterpress is a traditional printing technique that has been used for centuries, and it involves pressing inked raised surfaces onto paper or other materials. This method creates an impression on the surface of the material, which gives the final printed product a unique texture and tactile quality.

While it’s an old-fashioned way of printing compared to modern digital techniques, letterpress is still used today due to its classic aesthetic and ability to create high-quality prints.

It’s often utilised for wedding invitations, business cards, stationery, and art prints because of its distinctive style.


Flexography is a printing technique that uses flexible plates made of rubber or plastic to transfer ink onto various surfaces. It is commonly used for packaging materials such as plastic bags, labels, and corrugated boxes.

The flexibility of the print plate allows it to conform to uneven surfaces, resulting in high-quality prints even on rough substrates. Flexographic printing uses quick-drying inks that can be water-based or solvent-based depending on the application.

Screen printing

Screen printing is a technique that involves transferring ink onto a material through a mesh stencil, also known as a screen. The image or design to be printed is first transferred onto the stencil using light-sensitive emulsion.

Screen printing is commonly used for producing t-shirts, posters, signage and other promotional items. It’s especially useful for designs involving bold colours and striking graphics with sharp lines.

Tips for choosing the right printer

Tips for choosing the right printer

Consider your printing needs, budget and operating costs before choosing a printer that has user-friendly features for ease of use and maintenance.

Determine your printing needs

Before choosing a printer, it is important to determine your printing needs. This includes the type of materials you will be printing, the quantity needed, and the level of quality desired. For example, if you need to print business cards or brochures with high-quality graphics and images, a digital printer may be more appropriate than an offset printer. If you require large volumes of prints in a short amount of time, look for printers with fast print speeds and high paper capacity.

Consider budget and operating costs

As you consider your printing needs, it’s crucial to keep your budget and operating costs in mind. While there are a variety of printers available at different price points, each with their unique features and capabilities, it’s important to find one that fits both your technical requirements and financial constraints. For example, if you’re looking for a printer that can handle high-volume jobs but have limited funds, you may want to explore options like refurbished or second-hand printers which may provide the necessary functionality without breaking the bank.

Be sure to factor in ongoing expenses such as ink or toner cartridges as well as maintenance costs when making your decision.

Look for user-friendly features

When choosing a printer, it’s important to consider user-friendly features that can make your printing experience smoother and more efficient. Look for printers with intuitive interfaces and clear instructions to minimise confusion and mistakes. Some printers offer features like automatic document feeders or duplex printing (printing on both sides of the paper), which can save time and reduce paper waste. Other helpful features include the ability to print directly from USB drives or memory cards and mobile apps for added convenience.

Samples also help determine whether your chosen paper type is suitable for your project. If you’re unsure about which paper stock would be best suited for your needs (or simply want to see how different finishes look), requesting samples can provide a helpful visual guide. Seeing a physical copy of your design helps identify any formatting issues such as incorrect margins or bleed settings.

Tips for effective communication with printers

To ensure smooth communication with your printing service provider, provide clear specifications and expectations, ask questions and clarify doubts, request a sample before finalising and collaborate closely with designers and printers.

Provide clear specifications and expectations

Clear and concise communication is essential when working with printers. To ensure your project meets the desired outcome, provide printers with detailed specifications and expectations from the outset. It’s also important to ask questions to clarify any doubts or uncertainties you may have about printer capabilities or settings. Requesting a sample before finalising your project can help avoid costly mistakes down the line.

Ask questions and clarify doubts

To ensure that your printing project runs smoothly, it’s important to ask questions and clarify any doubts you may have with your printer. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your printer if you’re unsure about anything in the process. For example, if you’re unclear about a certain printing requirement or specification, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification from your printer. It’s better to address any potential issues before the printing job begins rather than dealing with them during or after the job is completed.

Request a sample before finalising

To ensure that you get the best possible results from your print job, it’s essential to request a sample before finalising. This will give you an idea of what the finished product will look like and allow you to catch any errors or issues before committing to the entire print run.

Collaborate with designers and printers

Working with designers and printers is crucial in achieving high-quality prints that meet your needs. It’s important to collaborate with them throughout the printing process, from concept to final output. By collaborating with both designers and printers, you’ll be able to create a cohesive print job that meets all of your requirements. For example, if you need a brochure to showcase your products or services, working closely with a designer can help ensure that the layout and graphics are compelling and informative.

Remember that open communication is key when collaborating with designers and printers. Be clear about what you want to achieve from the printing project so they understand what needs to be done.

Common printing mistakes to avoid

Avoid low-quality images and graphics, always check bleed and margin requirements, choose the correct paper type, and proofread carefully to avoid common printing mistakes.

Low-quality images and graphics

Low-quality images and graphics can be a major pitfall when it comes to printing. These images may appear blurry, pixelated, or distorted when printed, affecting the overall quality of the final product. One way to do this is by using high-resolution images with 300 DPI (dots per inch) or higher for best results. It’s also essential to use file formats that are suitable for printing such as EPS (Encapsulated PostScript), TIFF (Tagged Image File Format), or PDF (Portable Document Format).

Ignoring bleed and margin requirements

Ignoring bleed and margin requirements is a common mistake that many people make when working with printers. Bleed refers to the extra bit of background or design that extends beyond the edge of the printed page, while margins are the empty spaces between the text or graphics and the edge of the paper. Ignoring these requirements can result in an incomplete print job, as important details may be cut off or missing.

To avoid this issue, it’s essential to communicate with your printer about their specific requirements for bleeds and margins before submitting any artwork for printing. By doing so, you can ensure that all important elements will be included in your final print job without getting cut off at edges.

Choosing the wrong paper type

Choosing the wrong paper type can have a significant impact on the quality of your printed material. The weight, texture, and finish of paper can affect how ink is absorbed and how colours appear. For example, using a glossy paper for a brochure with lots of text may result in glare that obscures the content.

It’s important to consider the intended use of your printed material when selecting paper types. Some common options include coated vs. uncoated papers, matte vs. glossy finishes, and specialty papers like textured or recycled materials.

Not proofreading carefully

One common mistake that people make when it comes to printing is not proofreading their work carefully. This can lead to errors in the final product, which can be costly and time-consuming to correct. It’s important to take the time to review your artwork and text for any spelling or grammatical errors before sending it off for printing. For example, imagine you’ve created a brochure for your business, and you accidentally leave a typo in the contact information section. If you don’t catch this error before printing, it could impact how potential customers perceive your professionalism and attention to detail.

Everything you need to know about printing now explained

Everything you need to know about printing now explained

Understanding technical details in printing is crucial for achieving the desired print quality, avoiding mistakes and reprints, saving time and money, and enhancing communication with printers. By learning printing terminology like DPI, CMYK, spot colours, paper weight types and understanding printer specifications like print speed, paper capacity, connectivity & print quality will help you choose the right printer.

Knowing about different printing techniques such as offset printing or digital printing can also be helpful in making informed decisions. Effective communication with printers by providing clear specifications & expectations also prevents any confusion or miscommunication.

Remember to avoid common mistakes such as low-quality images or ignoring bleed requirements and always proofread before submitting any work to ensure that you have the best printing experience for your business materials.



The Jezweb team designs, builds, manages and promotes websites for businesses, not for profit organisations, small business owners and individuals in Australia, New Zealand and all over the world.