It can sometimes feel like you are speaking a foreign language when working with a printing or design company. The field has its own lingo that might be unfamiliar to the average person. It would be worth your time to become accustomed to this terminology so that your final product looks exactly the way you want. Knowing the lingo makes it easier to communicate with the printer or designer, saving you time and money. The last thing you or your printer wants is to go through the reprint process. Here is a list of the most common terms you will come across in the print design world.


Refers to red, green, and blue, which make up the colour combinations on a computer screen. Images and documents intended for screen viewing are usually in RGB. Images in this format need to be converted to CMYK using PhotoShop before they can be printed.


Stands for cyan (blue), magenta, yellow, and key (black), which are the most common colours and shades used digital or 4-colour process printing. Print document images are always printed in CMYK before printing and must be converted from other formats unless it is a low-Pantone colour run.

Pantone Colours

Also referred to as the Pantone Colour Matching System, it is a set of universal colours any printer can replicate. Every Pantone colour has Pantone, CMYK, RGB, and hexadecimal colour codes. These codes ensure colour uniformity throughout digital and print branding materials.

Digital Printing

Can also be called 4-colour process printing, is explicitly designed for CMYK colour. This type of printing is most cost-effective for small quantities (250 to 1,000 prints) because it entails less prep work for the printer.

Crop Marks

Usually, a printer can fit several prints on one large sheet. Crop marks are where cuts should be made on the final product. They are used to cut excess paper on prints as well.


This is what the quality of the surface of the paper is referred to as. You can choose between matte, glossy, lustre, or textured finishes. The most common finishes are matte and glossy.

Offset Printing

This technique is used for large print jobs (1,000 prints or more). Printing this way requires different plates for each colour, and every print is run through each of those colours to create the final product. The printer must put more effort into setup when printing this type of job. It allows for the usage of both Pantone and CMYK colours and larger runs of larger print jobs.


Stands for pixels per inch and dots per inch, respectively. They reference the resolution of images and can be used interchangeably. The optimal resolution for a computer screen is 72ppi, while the optimal resolution for printing images is 300ppi. Images that are taken from the internet usually need to be converted from 72ppi to 300ppi so that they are large enough to print.


Once designs are finalized, the printer will produce a proof usually using a PDF format. It is essential to view a proof before it is mass produced. Proofs help identify design or content flaws so that they can be rectified before a batch created. Once a proof has been approved, you cannot make further changes. The best way to review a proof if it is a PDF is by viewing it in Adobe Acrobat. You should not try to examine it by printing it at home because home or office printers use different ink and techniques than professional printing machines. A proof will look closest to the final product on a computer screen.

Now that you know the basics of printing terminology, you are ready to get going with your project. Call Lamin-8 for a quote, and if you come across any other terms you do not understand, feel free to ask us. Your finished product will benefit when you have a better understanding of printing design terms.