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Common printing terminology

The world of print can be intimidating with confusing technical terminology and seemingly archaic codes. This reference should help you become familiar with the most common of these.

Paper Sizes

The base A0 size of paper is defined as having an area of 1 m2 and a dimension ratio of 1 to √2. Successive paper sizes in the series A1, A2, A3, and so forth, are defined by halving the preceding paper size across the larger dimension. This also effectively halves the area of each sheet. The most frequently used paper size is A4 measuring 210 by 297 millimetres (8.27 in × 11.7 in).

ISO A Series used for standard printing and stationery
ISO Millimetres Inches Uses
4AO 1682 x 2378 66.22 x 93.62 Oversize plans, technical drawings
2AO 1189 x 1682 46.81 x 66.22 Oversize plans, technical drawings
A0 841 × 1189 33.1 × 46.8 Technical drawings, large posters
A1 594 × 841 23.4 × 33.1 Technical drawings, posters, year planners
A2 420 × 594 16.5 × 23.4 Flip charts, diagrams, drawings, small posters
A3 297 × 420 11.7 × 16.5 Diagrams, tables, drawings, newspapers
A4 210 × 297 8.27 × 11.7 Letters, magazines, forms, catalogues
A5 148 × 210 5.83 × 8.27 Leaflets, flyers, notpads, books
A6 105 × 148 4.13 × 5.83 Books, postcards, invitation cards
A7 74 × 105 2.91 × 4.13 Large post-it notes, tickets
A8 52 × 74 2.05 × 2.91 Playing cards
A9 37 × 52 1.46 × 2.051 Note cards
Other common sizes
ISO Millimetres Inches Uses
DL 99 x 210 3.9 x 8.27 Flyers (1/3 A4)
85 x 55 3.35 x 2.17 Business Cards


A C sized envelope is suitable for holding an A series of the same number value. These can also be used for folder and postcards.

ISO Millimetres Inches Uses
C0 917 x 1297 39.1 x 51.1  
C1 648 x 917 25.5 x 36.1  
C2 458 x 648 18.0 x 25.5  
C3 324 x 458 12.8 x 18.0  
C4 229 x 324 12.8 x 9.0 Envelopes for A4 (Unfolded)
C5 162 x 229 6.4 x 9.0 Envelopes for A4 (Folded once)
C6 114 x 162 4.5 x 6.4 Envelopes for A4 (Folded twice)
C7 81 x 114 3.2 x 4.5  
C8 57 x 81 2.2 x 3.2  
C9 40 x 57 1.6 x 2.2  
C10 28 x 40 1.1 x 1.6  
DL 110 x 220 4.33 x 8.66 Envelopes DL (1/3 A4 paper size)

Large Poster Sizes

Large scale poster work is expressed in sheet size (e.g. 12-, 16-, 32-, 48-, 64- or 96-sheet). The individual sections used to construct these posters are known as 4-sheet, this being the size of Double Crown (1016 x 1524mm / 40 x 60 in).

Conversion Chart

Inch fraction Inch decimal Millimetres
1/16 0.0625 1.5875
1/8 0.125 3.175
3/16 0.1875 4.7625
1/4 0.25 6.35
5/16 0.3125 7.9375
3/8 0.375 9.525
7/16 0.4375 11.1125
1/2 0.5 12.7
9/16 0.5625 14.2875
5/8 0.625 15.875
11/16 0.6875 17.4625
3/4 0.75 19.05
13/16 0.8125 20.6375
7/8 0.875 22.225
1 1 25.4


Paper Weight & Bulk

Paper is manufactured to a given specification . Usually this will involve a substance (weight), a thickness (bulk), and a shade or colour.

GSM ‘Grams per Square Metre’. Weight is expressed as gsm or gm². It is calculated by the physical weight of one sheet of paper measuring 1 x 1m (but usually scaled down to 10 x 10cm) .
Paper and board Substances up to 170gsm are generally classified as ‘paper’ weights. Anything higher is usually classified as ‘board’.
Ream A standard ream for paper is usually 500 sheets of paper.

Square Back Binding

Brochures, hardcover books and magazines with a thickness greater than 5mm will use ne of these three main types of adhesive binding.

Section sewn Machine folded into 16pp sections (unsually), then sewn in the folded spine using thread. Sections are gathered and glued together along the spins. The traditional method for great strength and durability. Best for hard cover books and quality soft cover brochures.
Perfect binding Machine folded into 16pp sections which are colated and gathered. Folded spines are then shredded off (for better glue adhesion). Then glued together along the spine. Used for most magazines larger as it is economical.
PUR (Polyurethane reactive hotmelt) Same method as perfect binding but uses a much stronger adhesive whch should not fall apart. Used for longer lasting, more durable brochures, manuals, reports and accounts.

Specialist Binding

Stud or screw binding Holes are punched through text and cover. A nut and bolt is then inserted and screwed together. Good for a more unique brochure or document.
Glue tear-off One edge is glued and there is a board backing, each page can then be torn off in turn. Commonly used for note pads or sheets with notes to be added and passed to customer.
NCR forms and duplicate pads “No Carbon Required” forms are perfect for making 2, 3 or 4 part copies of customer or business related forms. These can be in a variety of sheet colours, formats and numbering options.

Wire Stitching

Saddle stitching Industry term for ‘stapling’. The folded sections and cover are put over a ‘saddle’ and the stitching wire is punched through the outside of the spine. The ends of the wire are pressed flat on the inside. It is then trimmed on all three remaining sides.
Case binding Industry term for a hardback book. The pages are arranged in signatures and glued together into a “textblock.” The textblock is then attached to the cover or “case” which is made of cardboard covered with paper, cloth, vinyl or leather.

Wire-O Bindings

A popular commercial binding method. With this binding method, punched pages are inserted into a onto a “C” shaped spine and then use a wire closer to squeeze the spine until it is round. Documents that are bound with wire binding will open completely flat on a desk and allow for 360 degree rotation of bound pages.

Standard Wire-O Wire loops go through the front, back cover and tpages, the wire is left exposed on the spine. Available in a selection of colours.
Concealed Wire-O Like standard Wire-O but with the end paper or back board glued into a soft cover.
Half-Canadian Wire-O A Canadian bind has a full covered spine while a Half-Canadian has the spine partially exposed.


Die cut Process that uses a steel die to cut away sections of a design. Often used to create cutom designs, pockets, hangers and apertures in designs.
Duplexing/triplexing The bonding of two materials (duplexing) or three (triplexing) to form a single one. Allows stock to have different colours, textures and finishes on each side.
Embossing and debossing A design is stamped into a material with ink or foil resulting in a 3-D, raised, decorative or textured surface. Embossed is a raised impression and debossed is recessed.
Foil blocking Coloured foil is pressed onto a material with a heated die causing the foil to separate from its backing and adhere to the paper.
Lamination A plastic film is heated onto the paper in either gloss, silk, matt or soft-touch finish.
Gloss Reflects light and adds to sharpness and saturation of images.
Matt Non-glossy (dull), smooth finish, diffuses light and increases readability.
Satin In between gloss and matt. Provides some highlight but not as dull as matt.
Soft-touch A ‘soft feel’ texture – short-napped velvet or smooth suede with almost no sheen.
UV varnish Clear liquid shellac cured by ultraviolet light. Highlights by providing more shine than varnish.
Spot UV Applied to highlight discrete areas of a design, especially on matt surfaces.

Type of paper

Coated A smoother sheet, more receptive to the ink, giving a better printing surface.
Matt coated A smooth matt finish.
Silk finish Slight polishing using heat, pressure and polished rollers.
Textures and finishes A variety of textures and finishes can also be applied to paper both during the papermaking process (e.g. laid, feltmarked) and after (e.g. embossed papers).
Uncoated Often described as ‘Offset’ or ‘Cartridge’, these are rougher and used generally for envelopes and pads. Laser papers are smoother and are designed for office printing. Uncoated ‘Text & Cover’ papers are usually of the highest quality for reproduction in brochures, with good results printing solids and four-colour imagery.

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