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OUR GOAL at Creative Digital Printing is to make your printing experience as smooth and easy as possible! Open the tabs below to get answers to questions you might have concerning your printing experience.
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What is the best way to make digital images to be used in my print job?

How to Make Proper Digital Images

If your design or layout makes use of raster (bitmap) images, then it is important to make sure your images are sufficient quality for output on press. Please follow these guidelines before placing images in your design or layout.

Use only high-resolution images. Resolution is measured in dpi (dots per inch) or ppi (pixels per inch).


Use only high-resolution images. Resolution is measured in dpi (dots per inch) or ppi (pixels per inch). Your images must be 300 dpi or greater.

To ensure your image is created at the highest resolution possible, make sure you:

  • Scan your images at 100% the final, used dimension at 300 dpi or greater (that is, if you are going to use your image at 5’x7″ in your design or layout, make sure to scan the image at 100% at 5″x7″ at 300 dpi.
  • Set your digital camera settings to the highest quality possible. If you are using a digital camera that is 2.4 megapixels or smaller, you may not be able to obtain images large enough for your final usage.
  • If using downloaded stock images, make sure that you are acquiring high-resolution images for print, preferably at the dimension size you will use in the final design or layout. Do not use Web media stock images.
  • Do not convert (interpolate) low-resolution images to high-resolution. This is often done in Photoshop by using “Image Size” and checking the “Resample Image” option at the bottom. If your image is 72 dpi, or other resolution setting less than 300 dpi, the only way to properly convert to 300 dpi is to deselect the “Resample Image” option and change the resolution to 300 dpi. (this will make the “Document Size” smaller though). This will preserve the original “Pixel Dimensions” of the image without interpolating the image. The key to remember is that you cannot make an image any higher-resolution than it already is. You may need to re-shoot or re-scan an image that is low-resolution or too small for your final use.
  • Do not use images taken from screen captures or off the web, unless it is specifically a high-resolution image you are downloading from a stock image site or other web page. Almost all images you see on Web pages are 72 dpi and highly compressed and not adequate for press. Even though the image may look clear on your computer monitor, it will not be clear on press.
  • Furthermore, if you are placing your hi-res image in another application, like Quark or Illustrator for instance, do not “scale” the image up higher than 125%. This is the same as interpolating your image (see above) and your image will become softer and softer the more you scale it up.


The image above is considered “high-resolution” at 300 dpi or greater and works well for press.


The image above is considered “low-resolution” at 72 dpi, which may work well for Web pages and look fine on your computer screen, but will not be sufficient quality for press.

Image Color Mode

The color mode of your image is just as important as the image resolution. For press, we can only accept image types that are CMYK, Grayscale or Bitmap. If your image is RGB, like all images that come from your scanner or digital camera, you will need to convert the file to CMYK. This process will not preserve the RGB colors perfectly, but it is the only way to make the image suitable for press. This also applies to all non-image elements in your design. Make sure all items in your design are set for CMYK.


DO NOT use “Indexed Color,” “Duotone,” or RGB color spaces. They lack the quality required for printing.

CMYK is also called 4-color Process. Colors in CMYK images are composed of varying amounts of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. This is the way a printing press prints color, so it is vital that your image be in this color mode, or, grayscale/bitmap (which only use Black). The image below is a “separation” of the butterfly image above into it’s CMYK components.


Image File Type:

When saving your high-resolution, CMYK/Grayscale/Bitmap image to use in another application, be certain to save in one of the following acceptable file formats:

  • EPS (make sure not to use JPEG compression)
  • TIFF
  • JPEG (only if you use maximum quality setting when saving your file). The previous two file formats are more preferred. If you do not use maximum quality settings, your image can be degraded to varying degrees, even if it is high-resolution. See above as an example of LOWER quality image settings on a JPEG file.
  • Photoshop .psd files. Only if you are placing the image into a more advanced Adobe application like InDesign or Illustrator. You need to be careful to flatten your PSD file before submitting though, especially if you are using type layers in your PSD file.
Learn more about monitor calibration for color accuracy.

Monitor Calibration

The main purpose of calibrating is to set white and black points, contrast, brightness, and gamma (midtone density).

Since monitors differ from one to the next (even same brand and models), no two will respond in exactly the same way. The older your monitor is, the more likely it will lessen in both brightness and clarity. For color critical work, most monitors are dependable up to only two years. Some are better. Some are worse. You will have to be the judge. Calibrating your monitor is very important for color critical work. Do this a minimum of once a week. Even high-end soft proof workstations require frequent recalibrations.

You will need software to calibrate your monitor. Adobe Gamma (supplied with the Windows version of Photoshop) and Monitor Calibrator (Mac OS only) are simple to use. Both programs have “wizards” that can guide you, step by step, through the process. There are also a variety of more sophisticated software that can be purchased from third party developers, as well as high-end software that is included with the purchase of a monitor that is specifically designed for color critical applications.

If you are unsure about the accuracy of colors as seen on your screen or on your desktop printer versus what will come off the press, please request a hardcopy color-proof from your printer. This may be an added expense, but will give you a better representation on how the colors may print on press. This is also covered under terms and conditions.

Please remember that all color is relative to the computer screen you are using, the lighting conditions, the display settings on your computer, the paper you are printing on, etc.

For more information that may help you with color, please visit

What is the difference in CMYK vs RGB or Pantone?

CMYK, RGB and Pantone Colors

RGB Color

RGB (red, green, blue) MUST be converted to CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) prior to printing. Be aware that the CMYK color conversion may not preserve the colors from RGB exactly as you expect.

Pantone Colors/Spot Color

Pantone colors are considered “spot color” and not CMYK Process. Spot colors refers to a method of specifying and printing colors in which each color is printed with its own ink. For the most accurate conversions, Pantone sells conversion guides for spot color to process. Visit for more information.

CMYK versus RGB (Full Color Printing)

The color mode of your image is very important. All color elements of your design should be set for CMYK color space. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K). This means that all colors are created by varying percentages of each of those 4 process colors. For press, we can only accept color elements that are CMYK (for black and white elements, use Grayscale or Bitmap which only use black (K of CMYK).


RGB is a color space used for non-press uses such as images displayed on a computer monitor, television, etc. RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue. If your image is RGB, like all images that come from your scanner or digital camera, you will need to convert the file to CMYK. This process will not preserve the RGB colors perfectly, but it is the only way to make the image suitable for press. This also applies to all non-image elements in your design. Make sure all items in your design, like graphic elements or type, are set for CMYK.


The above example of converting from RGB to CMYK is from Photoshop. Every application we accept uses a color palette that allows for a CMYK color space. DO NOT use “Indexed Color,” “Duotone,” or RGB color spaces.

CMYK is also called 4-color Process. Colors in CMYK images are composed of varying amounts of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. This is the way a printing press prints color, so it is vital that your image be in this color mode, or, grayscale/bitmap (which only use Black). The images above show a CMYK image and the same image “separated” into its 4-color components as an illustration.

Postal regulations and other information to help prepare your mailings.

Postal Regulations

The US Postal Service has specific requirements about printed products that are mass mailed using pre-sorted, automated methods like First Class Presorted or Bulk Standard. Please use the guidelines below to assist you in creating postcards that will be accepted by a mailing house or the USPS for delivery and answer some common question regarding the mailing service process. Our downloadable templates for postcards include postal clearzones to help you.

4″ X 6″ – Standard


4″ X 6″ – Optional


5″ X 7″ or larger – Standard


5″ X 7″ or larger – Optional


RED ZONE – No text/graphics greater than 7% grayscale.

The only text allowed in the addressing area is the recipient mailing address. Any graphics, text or images that enter this area may cause your postcard to be rejected from mailing by USPS. We are not responsible for any rejections based on the artwork supplied by customer.

Postal Indicias

If we will be mailing your order, please contact us for our indicia.

Return Addresses.

We recommend including a return address on the back of your postcards. Including a return address enables you to update your list after each mailing and helps branding and identification of your company. First class mail is returned free of charge. Bulk rate mail is not returned unless an ancillary service is printed on your card.

First Class versus Standard Bulk-Returns

When you send out your postcards via First Class Mail, the USPS automatically forwards your mail to individuals or companies that have moved and submitted a Change of Address (COA). However, that forwarding is only good for 12 months. For the next 6 months, the Post Office will return the pieces to the sender and indicate the new address that they have on file. This allows you to update your list for future mailings.

After 18 months, returned cards will only say “Undeliverable As Addressed” with no new address indicated. However, if you have not included your Return Address, they won’t know where to return your cards and they will be thrown away. The same holds true for cases where someone has moved and NOT submitted a COA to the Post Office. They can’t notify you of the move without a Return Address, and you will continue to send out pieces that will simply be disposed of. That is a waste of money for postage & printing plus Mailing Services fees or your labor in preparing the mailing.

When mailing using Standard Bulk Rate you get significantly reduced postage rates, however mail is not forwarded or returned. Bulk Mail that cannot be delivered to the person at the mailing address on the card will be disposed of unless you provide specific instructions to the Post Office via an Ancillary Service Endorsement. An ASE is a phrase that tells the USPS how you want undeliverable pieces handled:

  • RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED tells them to return the piece to you with updated address information.
  • ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED means you want them to forward the piece to the new address they have on file and to separately send you a notice with the new address information.

For Bulk Mail, both of these services are provided at an additional fee on just the forwarded or returned pieces. FORWARDING SERVICE REQUESTED is an endorsement that will forward pieces at no charge but will not provide a separate new address notification back to you. For all ASEs, your Return Address must be on the card.

For more information on Ancillary Service Endorsements, go to the USPS website.

First Class versus Standard Bulk-Rates and Delivery Times

First-Class Mail is your best choice for time-sensitive mail. It is generally delivered in 3-5 days nationally and 1-3 days in California and the Southwest. U.S. Bulk rate, also known as Standard Mail, offers lower postage rates but with a longer delivery time. You can expect delivery in 10-14 days nationally and 4-6 days in California and the Southwest U.S. Additionally, First Class delivery is consistent throughout the year while Bulk rate can take considerably longer at peak mailing periods such as the holidays.

Size requirements and mailing rates for postcards.

According to the USPS requirements, the smallest mailable size is 3 1/2″ x 5″. The largest size for mailing at the Postcard rate is 4 1/4″ x 6″. The letter rate applies to any piece larger than 4 1/4″ x 6″ up to 6 1/8″ x 11″. For Bulk Mail, there is no Postcard rate so all of our postcard sizes use the Bulk Mail letter rate.


If you have any leftover (non-mailed) postcards with your postal indicia pre-printed, you cannot mail those directly without adding the proper postage. When you specify a quantity of postcards to be sent to our selected mailing house, you are only paying for the postage on those postcards. Any leftover postcards not sent through the mailing house have not had the postage paid for, so the post office will return these postcards or not deliver them if the proper postage is not applied via stamp or metering.

Have questions about the jargon we use? Refer to our glossary of printing terms.

Glossary of Printing Terms



Acid-free Paper Paper made from pulp containing little or no acid so it resists deterioration from age. Also called alkaline paper, archival paper, neutral pH paper, permanent paper and thesis paper.
Against the Grain At right angles to the grain direction of the paper being used, as compared to with the grain. Also called across the grain and cross grain. See also Grain Direction.
Alteration Any change made by the customer after copy or artwork has been given to the service bureau, separator or printer. The change could be in copy, specifications or both. Also called AA, author alteration and customer alteration.
Aqueous Coating Coating in a water base and applied like ink by a printing press to protect and enhance the printing underneath.
Artwork All original copy, including type, photos and illustrations, intended for printing. Also called art.


Back Up To print on the second side of a sheet already printed on one side.
Basis Weight In the United States and Canada, the weight, in pounds, of a ream (500 sheets) of paper cut to the basic size. Also called ream weight and substance weight (sub weight). In countries using ISO paper sizes, the weight, in grams, of one square meter of paper. Also called grammage and ream weight.
Bind Usually in the book arena, but not exclusively, the joining of leafs or signatures together with either wire, glue or other means.
Bindery Usually a department within a printing company responsible for collating, folding and trimming various printing projects.
Blank Category of paperboard ranging in thickness from 15 to 48 points.
Bleed Printing that extends to the edge of a sheet or page after trimming.
Book Paper Category of paper suitable for books, magazines, catalogs, advertising and general printing needs. Book paper is divided into uncoated paper (also called offset paper), coated paper (also called art paper, enamel paper, gloss paper and slick paper) and text paper.
Bulk Thickness of paper relative to its basic weight.


C1S and C2S Abbreviations for coated one side and coated two sides.
Camera-ready Copy Mechanicals, photographs and art fully prepared for reproduction according to the technical requirements of the printing process being used. Also called finished art and reproduction copy.
CMYK Abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black), the four process colors.
Coated Paper Paper with a coating of clay and other substances that improves reflectivity and ink holdout. Mills produce coated paper in the four major categories cast, gloss, dull and matte.
Color Correct To adjust the relationship among the process colors to achieve desirable colors.
Color Gamut The entire range of hues possible to reproduce using a specific device, such as a computer screen, or system, such as four-color process printing.
Color Separation (1) Technique of using a camera, scanner or computer to divide continuous-tone color images into four halftone negatives. (2) The product resulting from color separating and subsequent four-color process printing. Also called separation.
Color Shift Change in image color resulting from changes in register, ink densities or dot gain during four-color process printing.
Composite Proof Proof of color separations in position with graphics and type. Also called final proof, imposition proof and stripping proof.
Comprehensive Dummy Simulation of a printed piece complete with type, graphics and colors. Also called color comprehensive and comp.
Continuous-tone Copy All photographs and those illustrations having a range of shades not made up of dots, as compared to line copy or halftones.
Cover Paper Category of thick paper used for products such as posters, menus, folders and covers of paperback books.
Crop Marks Lines near the edges of an image indicating portions to be reproduced. Also called cut marks and tic marks.
Crossover Type or art that continues from one page of a book or magazine across the gutter to the opposite page. Also called bridge, gutter bleed and gutter jump.
Cure To dry inks, varnishes or other coatings after printing to ensure good adhesion and prevent setoff.
Customer Service Representative Employee of a printer, service bureau, separator or other business who coordinates projects and keeps customers informed. Abbreviated CSR.


Density (1) Regarding ink, the relative thickness of a layer of printed ink. (2) Regarding color, the relative ability of a color to absorb light reflected from it or block light passing through it. (3) Regarding paper, the relative tightness or looseness of fibers.
Desktop Publishing Technique of using a personal computer to design images and pages, and assemble type and graphics, then using a laser printer or imagesetter to output the assembled pages onto paper, film or printing plate. Abbreviated DTP.
Die Cut To cut irregular shapes in paper or paperboard using a die.
Digital Proofing Page proofs produced through electronic memory transferred onto paper via laser or ink-jet.
Digital Dot Dot created by a computer and printed out by a laser printer or imagesetter. Digital dots are uniform in size, as compared to halftone dots that vary in size.
Direct Digital Color Proof Color proof made by a laser, ink jet printer or other computer-controlled device without needing to make separation films first.
Dot Gain Phenomenon of halftone dots printing larger on paper than they are on films or plates, reducing detail and lowering contrast. Also called dot growth, dot spread and press gain.
Dot Size Relative size of halftone dots as compared to dots of the screen ruling being used. There is no unit of measurement to express dot size. Dots are too large, too small or correct only in comparison to what the viewer finds attractive.
Dots-per-inch Measure of resolution of input devices such as scanners, display devices such as monitors, and output devices such as laser printers, imagesetters and monitors. Abbreviated DPI. Also called dot pitch.
DPI Considered as “dots per square inch,” a measure of output resolution in relationship to printers, imagesetters and monitors.
Drawdown Sample of inks specified for a job applied to the substrate specified for a job. Also called pulldown.
Drill In the printing arena, to drill a whole in a printed matter.
Dull Finish Flat (not glossy) finish on coated paper; slightly smoother than matte. Also called suede finish, velour finish and velvet finish.
Dummy Simulation of the final product. Also called mockup.


Emboss To press an image into paper so it lies above the surface. Also called cameo and tool.
Encapsulated PostScript file (EPS) Computer file containing both images and PostScript commands.
Estimate Price that states what a job will probably cost. Also called bid, quotation and tender.


Fine Screen Screen with ruling of 150 lines per inch (80 lines per centimeter) or more.
Finish (1) Surface characteristics of paper. (2) General term for trimming, folding, binding and all other post press operations.
Finished Size Size of product after production is completed, as compared to flat size. Also called trimmed size.
Flat Color Any color created by printing only one ink, as compared to a color created by printing four-color process. Also called block color and spot color.
Flat Size Size of product after printing and trimming, but before folding, as compared to finished size.
Flood To print a sheet completely with an ink or varnish. flooding with ink is also called painting the sheet.
Fold Marks With printed matter, markings indicating where a fold is to occur, usually located at the top edges.
Form Each side of a signature.
Four-color Process Printing Technique of printing that uses black, magenta, cyan and yellow to simulate full-color images. Also called color process printing, full color printing and process printing.
French Fold A printed sheet, printed one side only, folded with two right angle folds to form a four page uncut section.


Gang To reproduce two or more different printed products simultaneously on one sheet of paper during one press run. Also called combination run.
Gate Fold A sheet that folds where both sides fold toward the gutter in overlapping layers.
Gloss Consider the light reflecting on various objects in the printing industry (e.g., paper, ink, laminates, UV coating, varnish).
Grain Direction Predominant direction in which fibers in paper become aligned during manufacturing. Also called machine direction.
Grain Long Paper Paper whose fibers run parallel to the long dimension of the sheet. Also called long grain paper and narrow web paper.
Grain Short Paper Paper whose fibers run parallel to the short dimension of the sheet. Also called short grain paper and wide web paper.
Graphic Arts The crafts, industries and professions related to designing and printing on paper and other substrates.
Graphic Design Arrangement of type and visual elements along with specifications for paper, ink colors and printing processes that, when combined, convey a visual message.
Graphics Visual elements that supplement type to make printed messages more clear or interesting.
Gray Scale Strip of gray values ranging from white to black. Used by process camera and scanner operators to calibrate exposure times for film and plates. Also called step wedge.
Gripper Edge Edge of a sheet held by grippers on a sheetfed press, thus going first through the press. Also called feeding edge and leading edge.
Gutter In the book arena, the inside margins toward the back or the binding edges.


Hairline (Rule) Subjective term referring to very small space, thin line or close register. The meaning depends on who is using the term and in what circumstances.
Halftone (1) To photograph or scan a continuous tone image to convert the image into halftone dots. (2) A photograph or continuous-tone illustration that has been halftoned and appears on film, paper, printing plate or the final printed product.
Halftone Screen Piece of film or glass containing a grid of lines that breaks light into dots. Also called contact screen and screen.
HLS Abbreviation for hue, lightness, saturation, one of the color-control options often found in software, for design and page assembly.
House Sheet Paper kept in stock by a printer and suitable for a variety of printing jobs. Also called floor sheet.
Hue A specific color name such as yellow or green.


Image Area The actual area on the printed matter that is not restricted to ink coverage,
Imposition Arrangement of pages on mechanicals or flats so they will appear in proper sequence after press sheets are folded and bound.
Impression (1) Referring to an ink color, one impression equals one press sheet passing once through a printing unit. (2) Referring to speed of a press, one impression equals one press sheet passing once through the press.
Ink Holdout Characteristic of paper that prevents it from absorbing ink, thus allowing ink to dry on the surface of the paper. Also called holdout.
Ink Jet Printing Method of printing by spraying droplets of ink through computer-controlled nozzles.


Job Number A number assigned to a specific printing project in a printing company for use in tracking and historical record keeping.


Laid Finish Finish on bond or text paper on which grids of parallel lines simulate the surface of handmade paper. Laid lines are close together and run against the grain; chain lines are farther apart and run with the grain.
Layout A sample of the original providing (showing) position of printed work (direction, instructions) needed and desired.
Leaf One sheet of paper in a publication. Each side of a leaf is one page.
Letter fold Two folds creating three panels that allow a sheet of letterhead to fit a business envelope. Also called barrel fold and wrap around fold.
Linen Finish Embossed finish on text paper that simulates the pattern of linen cloth.
Lithography Method of printing using plates whose image areas attract ink and whose nonimage areas repel ink. Nonimage areas may be coated with water to repel the oily ink or may have a surface, such as silicon, that repels ink.
Live Area Area on a mechanical within which images will print. Also called safe area.


Makeready (1) All activities required to prepare a press or other machine to function for a specific printing or bindery job, as compared to production run. Also called setup. (2) Paper used in the makeready process at any stage in production. Makeready paper is part of waste or spoilage.
Margin Imprinted space around the edge of the printed material.
Mark-Up Instructions written usually on a “dummy.”
Matte Finish Flat (not glossy) finish on photographic paper or coated printing paper.
Midtones In a photograph or illustration, tones created by dots between 30 percent and 70 percent of coverage, as compared to highlights and shadows.
Mock Up A reproduction of the original printed matter and possibly containing instructions or direction.
Moire Undesirable pattern resulting when halftones and screen tints are made with improperly aligned screens, or when a pattern in a photo, such as a plaid, interfaces with a halftone dot pattern.


Offset Printing Printing technique that transfers ink from a plate to a blanket to paper instead of directly from plate to paper.
Opacity (1) Characteristic of paper or other substrate that prevents printing on one side from showing through the other side. (2) Characteristic of ink that prevents the substrate from showing through.
Overprint To print one image over a previously printed image, such as printing type over a screen tint. Also called surprint.
Over Run Additional printed matter beyond order. Overage policy varies in the printing industry. Advance questions avoid blind knowledge.


Page One side of a leaf in a publication.
Panel One page of a brochure, such as one panel of a rack brochure. One panel is on one side of the paper. A letter-folded sheet has six panels, not three.
Parallel Fold Method of folding. Two parallel folds to a sheet will produce 6 panels.
Perforating Taking place on a press or a binder machine, creating a line of small dotted wholes for the purpose of tearing-off a part of a printed matter (usually straight lines, vertical or horizontal).
Pixel Short for picture element, a dot made by a computer, scanner or other digital device. Also called pel.
Plate Piece of paper, metal, plastic or rubber carrying an image to be reproduced using a printing press.
Platemaker In commercial lithography, a machine with a vacuum frame used to expose plates through film.
PMS Obsolete reference to Pantone Matching System. The correct trade name of the colors in the Pantone Matching System is Pantone colors, not PMS Colors.
Point (1) Regarding paper, a unit of thickness equating 1/1000 inch. (2) Regarding type, a unit of measure equaling 1/12 pica and .013875 inch (.351mm).
Prepress Camera work, color separations, stripping, platemaking and other prepress functions performed by the printer, separator or a service bureau prior to printing. Also called preparation.
Prepress Proof Any color proof made using ink jet, toner, dyes or overlays, as compared to a press proof printed using ink. Also called dry proof and off-press proof.
Press Check Event at which makeready sheets from the press are examined before authorizing full production to begin.
Press Proof Proof made on press using the plates, ink and paper specified for the job. Also called strike off and trial proof.
Press Time (1) Amount of time that one printing job spends on press, including time required for makeready. (2) Time of day at which a printing job goes on press.
Price Break Quantity at which unit cost of paper or printing drops.
Printer Spreads Mechanicals made so they are imposed for printing, as compared to reader spreads.
Printing Any process that transfers to paper or another substrate an image from an original such as a film negative or positive, electronic memory, stencil, die or plate.
Printing Plate Surface carrying an image to be printed. Quick printing uses paper or plastic plates; letterpress, engraving and commercial lithography use metal plates; flexography uses rubber or soft plastic plates. Gravure printing uses a cylinder. The screen printing is also called a plate.
Process Color (Inks) The colors used for four-color process printing yellow, magenta, cyan and black.
Production Run Press run intended to manufacture products as specified, as compared to makeready.
Proof Test sheet made to reveal errors or flaws, predict results on press and record how a printing job is intended to appear when finished.


Quality Subjective term relating to expectations by the customer, printer and other professionals associated with a printing job and whether the job meets those expectations.
Quarto (1) Sheet folded twice, making pages one-fourth the size of the original sheet. A quarto makes an 8-page signature. (2) Book made from quarto sheets, traditionally measuring about 9′ x 12′.
Quotation Price offered by a printer to produce a specific job.


Raster Image Processor (RIP) Device that translates page description commands into bitmapped information for an output device such as a laser printer or imagesetter.
Reader Spread Mechanicals made in two page spreads as readers would see the pages, as compared to printer spread.
Recycled Paper New paper made entirely or in part from old paper.
Register To place printing properly with regard to the edges of paper and other printing on the same sheet. Such printing is said to be in register.
Register Marks Cross-hair lines on mechanicals and film that help keep flats, plates, and printing in register. Also called crossmarks and position marks.
Resolution Sharpness of an image on film, paper, computer screen, disc, tape or other medium.
Reverse Type, graphic or illustration reproduced by printing ink around its outline, thus allowing the underlying color or paper to show through and form the image. The image ‘reverses out’ of the ink color. Also called knockout and liftout.
RGB Abbreviation for red, green, blue, the additive color primaries.
Rule Line used as a graphic element to separate or organize copy.


Saddle Stitch To bind by stapling sheets together where they fold at the spine, as compared to side stitch. Also called pamphlet stitch, saddle wire and stitch bind.
Scanner Electronic device used to scan an image.
Score To compress paper along a straight line so it folds more easily and accurately. Also called crease.
Screen Angles Angles at which screens intersect with the horizontal line of the press sheet. The common screen angles for separations are black 45 degree, magenta 75 degree, yellow 90 degree and cyan 105 degree.
Screen Density Refers to the percentage of ink coverage that a screen tint allows to print. Also called screen percentage.
Screen Ruling Number of rows or lines of dots per inch or centimeter in a screen for making a screen tint or halftone. Also called line count, ruling, screen frequency, screen size and screen value.
Self Cover Usually in the book arena, a publication not having a cover stock. A publication only using text stock throughout.
Self Mailer A printed item independent of an envelope. A printed item capable of travel in the mailing arena independently.
Separations Usually in the four-color process arena, separate film holding qimages of one specific color per piece of film. Black, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. Can also separate specific PMS colors through film.
Shade Hue made darker by the addition of black, as compared to tint.
Shadows Darkest areas of a photograph or illustration, as compared to midtones and high-lights.
Sheetfed Press Press that prints sheets of paper, as compared to a web press.
Side stitch To bind by stapling through sheets along, one edge, as compared to saddle stitch. Also called cleat stitch and side wire.
Signature Printed sheet folded at least once, possibly many times, to become part of a book, magazine or other publication.
Solid Any area of the sheet receiving 100 percent ink coverage, as compared to a screen tint.
Soy-based Inks Inks using vegetable oils instead of petroleum products as pigment vehicles, thus are easier on the environment.
Specifications Complete and precise written description of features of a printing job such as type size and leading, paper grade and quantity, printing or binding method. Abbreviated specs.
Spine Back or binding edge of a publication
Spot Color or Varnish One ink or varnish applied to portions of a sheet, as compared to flood or painted sheet.
Spread (1) Two pages that face each other and are designed as one visual or production unit. (2) Technique of slightly enlarging the size of an image to accomplish a hairline trap with another image. Also called fatty.
Subtractive Color Color produced by light reflected from a surface, as compared to additive color. Subtractive color includes hues in color photos and colors created by inks on paper.
Subtractive Primary Color Yellow, magenta and cyan. In the graphic arts, these are known as process colors because, along with black, they are the inks colors used in color-process printing.
Surprint Taking an already printed matter and re-printing again on the same.
SWOP Abbreviation for specifications for web offset publications, specifications recommended for web printing of publications.


Tabloid 11×17 paper dimensions.
Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) Computer file format used to store images from scanners and video devices. Abbreviated TIFF.
Target Ink Densities Densities of the four process inks as recommended for various printing processes and grades of paper. See also Total Area Coverage.
Text Paper Designation for printing papers with textured surfaces such as laid or linen. Some mills also use ‘text’ to refer to any paper they consider top-of-the-line, whether or not its surface has a texture.
Tint Screening or adding white to a solid color for results of lightening that specific color.
Total Area Coverage Total of the dot percentages of the process colors in the final film. Abbreviated for TAC. Also called density of tone, maximum density, shadow saturation, total dot density and total ink coverage.
Trap To print one ink over another or to print a coating, such as varnish, over an ink. The first liquid traps the second liquid. See also Dry Traps and Wet Traps.
Trim Size The size of the printed material in its finished stage (e.g., the finished trim size is 5 1\2 x 8 1\2).


Uncoated Paper Paper that has not been coated with clay. Also called offset paper.
Undercolor Removal Technique of making color separations such that the amount of cyan, magenta and yellow ink is reduced in midtone and shadow areas while the amount of black is increased. Abbreviated UCR.
Up Term to indicate multiple copies of one image printed in one impression on a single sheet. “Two up” or “three up” means printing the identical piece twice or three times on each sheet.
UV Coating Liquid applied to a printed sheet, then bonded and cured with ultraviolet light.


Varnish Liquid applied as a coating for protection and appearance.


Watermark Translucent logo in paper created during manufacturing by slight embossing from a dandy roll while paper is still approximately 90 percent water.
With the Grain Parallel to the grain direction of the paper being used, as compared to against the grain. See also Grain Direction.
Wove Paper manufactured without visible wire marks, usually a fine textured paper.


What is a PDF and how do I use it?

What is a PDF?

The Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) has revolutionized the printing industry and become the universal file format for preserving source document fonts, images, graphics and layout, regardless what application or operating system was used to create the file. PDFs are widely available, compatible, and easy to distribute. PDFs are intended to make sure that your job looks and prints the same no matter who opens the file. However, there are some pitfalls to avoid when making the best PDF possible for use in printing.

Not All PDFs Are Created Equal

One of the myths associated with PDFs is that they are all the same. Nearly all word processing and design applications have the capability to generate PDF files. Like the applications themselves, each of these files can have inherent flaws and limitations.

How you generate a PDF is as important as what program you generate it with. Because PDFs are designed for both print and web use, they can be generated to different standards. If you are not careful, you can damage a layout created perfectly in its native format when generating a PDF. Requirements for PDF publishing are very specific.

Three Common Ways to Generate PDFs

  1. Save As (Photoshop CS & Illustrator CS); This approach offers the least amount of user customization and has the potential for the most pitfalls. Office applications, the Windows and OSX operating systems themselves and low-end graphics software will give you little to no control over several crucial settings and will not generate viable PDF’s. High-end graphics applications, such as Photoshop CS and Illustrator CS, can correctly create PDFs using this method.
  2. Print Postscript and Distill to PDF : This is the best way to create PDFs using graphics applications prior to the Adobe CS applications and QuarkXPress 6, but it can also be complicated, time consuming, and difficult to configure (printer drivers, PPDs, Distiller settings etc.). Files are first output into PostScript (usually by “printing” to a file). Then the PostScript is Distilled that into a PDF using Acrobat Distiller.
  3. Export PDF (QuarkXPress 6 & InDesign CS). Some current design applications have an export feature built right into them. This method bypasses Distiller in favor of a built-in PDF export engine that generates press-ready PDFs, provided you know the correct settings. QuarkXPress 6 and InDesign CS offer this capability. (Older applications such as PageMaker require Acrobat Distiller.)

Best Ways to Get Good PDFs

When generating a PDF:

  • Always embed and subset fonts.
  • Set Transparency Flattening settings to the highest settings (when appropriate).
  • Turn off color management (except for Photoshop). All color settings should be set to “As Is” or “CMYK.”
  • If prompted, set Vector Output Resolution to 2400 or 2540.
  • Use Binary data format instead of ASCII.
  • If using Photoshop, flatten your file first.
  • If using a vector-based program such as Illustrator, convert all text to outlines. Leave the trapping to us.

After generating a PDF:

  • Check the size of your PDF. Is it at the bleed size?
  • Check the Document Properties in Acrobat (under the File menu) to confirm that fonts are embedded and subsetted.
  • Make a hardcopy proof of your job on your desktop printer to doublecheck accuracy.

Common Errors with PDFs:

  • Produced by PDF Writer
  • Saved using the OSX Quartz Engine
  • Saved from Microsoft applications such as Word or Publisher (text and colors are very unpredictable out of these programs)
  • Generic settings such as eBook, Screen, or Web
  • Downsampled images (High resolution images distilled to low resolution)
  • Built at the wrong size
  • High Resolution images not embedded (using OPI)

Using an application that is not listed as an accepted file format?

Your application may have the capability to generate a PDF, but it may not be capable of generating a PDF that meets 4-color-printing-specific requirements. Consult your owner’s manual to determine if this is the case.

Many manuals contain chapters on such topics as publishing PDF files or preparing files for commercial printing. Read those instructions carefully. We will accept any PDF file that meets our requirements and passes our preflight process, but we can only provide technical support for the applications listed on our website.

PDF/X – What is it and should I use it?

The PDF/X standard was created by the Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards (CGATS) to eliminate many of the variables that lead to common printing problems such as missing fonts, incorrect color space, missing images and overprint/trapping issues. Many applications offer a default setting for exporting PDF files to variations of the PDF/X standard. We recommend following the instructions located in our Application Help Centers until more information about PDF/X is available.
What is the difference between UV or Aqueous Coating, Lamination and Varnish?

UV or Aqueous Coating, Lamination and Varnish

The two most common reasons for adding a coating over your printed piece are for protection: to avoid scuffing the ink, if you have included areas of heavy ink coverage; and for aesthetic reasons: to draw the reader’s eye to particular items, to add depth and interest to your printed piece. First consider why you are coating your job.

When making this decision, keep in mind the following:

  • Dried inks show fingerprints and scuffing, especially in dark solids.
  • Press coatings (like varnish) cost less than bindery (off-press) coatings (like UV coating and laminates) since bindery coatings are applied over dry ink at slow speeds. Because the chemicals used in aqueous coating damage press rollers, this coating is more expensive for the printer/binder to apply than varnish; therefore, the extra cost is passed on to the client.
  • Varnish is the least effective way to prevent scuffing, particularly when publications are multiply shrink-wrapped (as opposed to singly shrink-wrapped) prior to shipping. Bindery coatings like UV coating and laminates are far better for protecting loose books in transit. Even aqueous coating is much stronger than varnish and can therefore withstand books shifting around in transit without scuffing.
  • All printers can apply varnish, but not all printers can apply laminates, UV coating, or aqueous coating.
  • You cannot print (ink-jet or by hand), glue, or foil stamp over coatings, so you need to leave an uncoated window if you want to do any of these (coatings should be the final finishing step on a printed piece).
  • You should only varnish coated stock, or the coating will seep into the paper and be lost.
  • Some coatings deepen the ink color they cover, yellow with age, and/or discolor white paper.


UV Coating is a clear liquid spread over the paper like ink and then cured instantly with ultraviolet light. It can be a gloss or dull coating, and can be used as a spot covering to accent a particular image on the sheet or as an overall (flood) coating. UV coating gives more protection and sheen than either varnish or aqueous coating. Since it is cured with light and not heat, no solvents enter the atmosphere. However, it is more difficult to recycle than the other coatings.

UV coating is applied as a separate finishing operation as a flood coating or (applied by screen printing) as a spot coating. Keep in mind that this thick coating may crack when scored or folded.


Aqueous coating is more environmentally friendly than UV coating because it is water based. It has better hold-out than varnish (it does not seep into the press sheet) and does not crack or scuff easily. Aqueous does, however, cost twice as much as varnish.

Since it is applied by an aqueous coating tower at the delivery end of the press, one can only lay down a flood aqueous coating, not a localized “spot” aqueous coating. Aqueous comes in gloss, dull, and satin.


Laminates come in two types: film and liquid, and can have a gloss or matte finish. As their name suggests, in one case a clear plastic film is laid down over the sheet of paper, and in the other case a clear liquid is spread over the sheet and dries (or cures) like a varnish. Laminates protect the sheet from water (including perspiration from the hands) and are therefore good for coating items like menus and book covers. For more money, one can even specify a porous, lay-flat laminate (the interior of which is covered with numerous “V”-shaped cuts in the plastic that minimize the “curl” one often sees on paperback book covers due to moisture seeping into the uncoated side and causing it to expand). Laminates are slow to apply and costly but provide a strong, washable surface. They are the superior choice for protecting loose books in transit.


Varnish is essentially ink without pigment. It requires its own printing unit on press. It can be wet-trapped (printed in-line at the same time other inks are laid down), or dry-trapped (run as an additional pass through the press after the initial ink coating has dried). The latter often provides a glossier finish. Varnish comes in gloss, dull, and satin (in-between dull and gloss), and can be tinted by adding pigment to the varnish.

From an artistic standpoint, you can play a dull-varnished portion of the sheet against a portion without varnish or with a gloss varnish. This contrast can give emphasis to certain areas and/or give the impression of depth.

What are the differences in File Formats?

About Your File Formats

.ai / .eps Files

This is the editable format of your logo. An eps is a vector format. This means you can scale the image, up or down without any loss in quality.

  • Stationery & Business cards
  • Signage
  • Brochures
  • Vehicle graphics
  • Silk screen & Embroidered

.jpg / .gif / .png Files

A jpeg / gif / png is for web use only. This is a low-resolution file, not recommended for printing.

  • Web site
  • Email Marketing
  • Microsoft Office Programs (Word, Power Point etc.)

.tif Files

A tif is a high resolution file used for various printing processes. This format is usually used for personal printing. If you are to have this logo professionally printed/reproduced, you will need the .eps format.

  • Word
  • Power Point
  • Outlook
  • Most Standard Graphic Applications


A psd file is an editable Photoshop file. This format is only delivered on rare occasions when the design that is requested can only be produced in raster format.

Color Chart

color chart

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