Glossary of Self Publishing and Printing Terms

Check out this handy glossary of printing & self publishing terms! If you’re interested, feel free to check out our guide to self publishing in Canada too. Especially check this glossary out if you are trying to self publish in Canada or another country and finding yourself at a loss for words!

word cloud for a glossary of printing and publishing terms

Back Matter

All the material that follows the main text of the book such as appendix, bibliography, and glossary.


The methods used to create a book from individual printed pages and cover. Can be glued (perfect binding), sewn (smyth sewing), stapled (saddle-stitch), or coil (plastic or metal spiral) bound. The bound pages and the cover are then trimmed to the final size.


Usually a department within a printing company responsible for collating, folding and trimming various printing projects.


A printed image that extends beyond one or more of the finished page edges and is later trimmed so that the image “bleeds” off the edge of the sheet.

Body Text

The main portion of a book or other document, excluding front matter back matter.


A description or commentary about the author or book content placed on the book’s cover or on a website.


Any letter, figure, punctuation, symbol or space used in text.


Abbreviation for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black), the four ink or toner colours used for printing in full colour.

Coated Paper

Paper with a coating of clay or other substances that creates a smooth and sometimes reflective surface. Paper mills produce coated paper in gloss, silk, and matte.


To organize printed matter in a specific order as requested.

Colour Balance

Refers to the colours a photograph or illustration. Correct colour balance for a photo means it looks true to reality, with a visible colour problem eg: too yellow, too blue.

Colour Correct

The process required to fix a photograph or illustration that has an incorrect colour balance or poor contrast. First Choice Books uses Adobe Photoshop to correct images.


The degree of tones in an image ranging from highlight to shadow. Low contrast images look very dull and grey. High contrast images have very bright, punchy colours, but can lack detail in white and black areas.


Thick paper that protects a publication and advertises its title. Parts of covers are often described as follows: Front, Back, Spine, Inside Front, Inside Back

Crop Marks

Lines near the edges of an image indicating where the printout will be cut to final trim size.


Cutting off an undesired portion of a printed piece, photograph or other image.


To press an image into paper so it lies below the surface. Also called tooling.

Desktop Publishing

Technique of using a computer to design images and pages, and assemble type and graphics, then using a digital printer to output the assembled pages onto paper. Abbreviated DTP.


Device for cutting, scoring, stamping, embossing and debossing. Usually a block of wood with metal cut in the desired design.

Die Cut

To cut or emboss irregular shapes in paper or paperboard using a die.

Digital Printing

Printing using toner-based printers, which print from a digital file directly. Excellent for short run printing, as set up costs are minimal.


Considered as “dots per square inch,” a measure of output resolution in relationship to printers, image setters and monitors.


In the printing arena, to drill a hole in a printed matter.


To press an image into paper so it lies above the surface. Also called cameo and tool.

Em Dash

In typography, a dash the same width as the letter “m” for that font, used to set off parenthetical text or function in lieu of a colon. —

End Sheet

Sheet that attaches the inside pages of a case bound book to its cover. Also called pastedown or end papers.


Price that states what a job will probably cost. Also called bid, quotation, quote, and tender.

Facing Pages

In a double-sided document, the two pages that appear as a spread when the publication is opened.

Finished Size

Size of product after production is completed, as compared to flat size. Also called trimmed size.


Leaf, at the front and back of a hard cover bound book that is the one side of the end paper not glued to the case.

Foil Stamp

Method of printing that releases foil from its backing when stamped with the heated die. Also called block print, hot foil stamp and stamp.

Fold Marks

With printed matter, markings indicating where a fold is to occur, usually located at the top edges.


An assortment or set of type or characters all of one style and sometimes one size


Size, style, shape, layout or organization of a layout or printed product.

Four-color Process Printing

Technique of printing that uses black, magenta, cyan and yellow to create full-color images. Also called color process printing, full color printing and process printing.

Front Matter

In book typography and production, the pages of a book that precede the main text.

Galley Proof

A printout of text used for proofreading before final page assembly.


Light reflective finish on various objects in the printing industry (e.g., paper, ink, laminates, UV coating, varnish).


In the book arena, the inside margins toward the back or the binding edges.


At the top of a page, the margin that can contain the book title or author’s name.


Lightest portions of a photograph or halftone, as compared to midtones and shadows.

House Sheet

Paper kept in stock by a printer and suitable for a variety of printing jobs.


International Standard Book Number. A number assigned to a published work and found on the copyright page and forms the barcode.


In typography, setting lines of text so that they line up on the left and right, as opposed to ragged right, in which the lines do not line up on the right.


Type that aligns on both the left and right side. Alternate term for justified text, justified type, and justified composition.


In typography, the reduction of letterspacing between certain character combinations in order to reduce the space between them, performed for aesthetic reasons.


A thin transparent plastic sheet (coating) applied to usually a thick stock (covers, post cards, etc.) providing protection against liquid and heavy use, and usually accents existing color, providing a glossy (or lens) effect. Can be glossy or matte.

Leading (pronounced “led-ding”)

In typography, an alternate and more popularly used term for line spacing.

Letter Size Paper

In North America, 8 1/2′ x 11′ sheets.


Descriptive of an image–either on a computer display or in printed form–that has a low number of dots–or pixels–per square inch.

Manuscript (MS)

An author’s original form of work (usually a digital file) submitted for publication.


White space around the edge of the page or printed material.

Matte Finish

Flat (not glossy) finish on photographic paper or coated printing paper.

Mock Up

A rough version of a proposed book, with pasted in images, containing instructions or direction. Especially useful for children’s books to sort out image and text placement.

Offset Printing

Printing using metal plates and rubber rollers to transfer the image of the page to the paper. Each page of the publication requires 4 plates, one for each colour of ink in CMYK, plus any other plates for varnish or coatings. Excellent for long press runs, into the tens of thousands or millions. Set up costs are high, for the plate production. Most mass produced publications, like newspapers, magazines, paperback books, are printed on web presses, where the paper is fed through from a huge roll of paper, as opposed to individual cut sheets.


Additional printed copies from a press run. Produced so as to have extra copies in case any are damaged in the printing/binding/finishing process.


One side of a leaf, or sheet of paper, in a publication.

Page Count

Total number of pages that a publication has.

Perfect Bind

To bind sheets that have been ground flat at the spine and are held to the cover by glue. Also called adhesive bind, cut-back bind, glue bind, paper bind, patent bind, perfecting bind, soft bind and soft cover.

Perf Marks

On a file for print marking where the perforation is to occur.


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).


Short for picture element, a dot made by a computer, scanner or other digital device.


An art design in which the height is greater than the width. (Opposite of Landscape.)

Post Bind

To bind using a screw and post inserted through a hole in a pile of loose sheets.


Any early copy of to-be-reproduced material produced as a means of checking for typos or other similar errors, as well as positional errors, layout problems, and color aspects.

Printer Spreads

Pages of a document set up so they are imposed for printing on sheets, as compared to reader spreads.


Any process that transfers to paper or another substrate an image from an original such


500 sheets of paper.


Abbreviation for red, green, blue, the colours of light. Most digital images handle colour in RGB. Computer screens are RGB. RGB images should be converted to CMYK, the colours for printing.

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.


Hue made darker by the addition of black, as compared to tint.


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 which prints on rolls of paper.

Saddle Stitch

Binding style where sheets of paper are printed both sides, and folded in half to form 4 pages, and bound by stapling at the centre line.


Printed sheet with print on both side, folded in half to form 4 pages. Saddle stitch and Smyth-sewn books are sprinted in signatures, and must have a page count divisible by 4.


A binding style where signatures are printed, combined in sets, and stitched at the centre line. Smyth sewn books have a very durable binding, and lay almost flat when open.

Specular Highlight

Highlight area with no printable dots, thus no detail, as compared to a diffuse highlight. Also called catchlight and dropout highlight.


Back or binding edge of a publication


Abbreviation for Specifications for Web-Offset Publications, a set of standards for color developed by a joint committee to ensure that colors are reproduced consistently among different publishers and publications.

Spiral Bind

To bind using a spiral of continuous wire or plastic looped through holes. Also called coil bind.

Split Run

(1) Different images, such as advertisements, printed in different editions of a publication. (2) Printing of a book that has some copies bound one way and other copies bound another way.


Two pages that face each other and are designed as one visual or production unit.


Abbreviation Tagged Image File Format. A graphic and page layout file format for desktop computers. TIFF is compatible with many different applications and computer platforms.


In typography, the adjusting of the distance between letters along the length of a line of type.

Trim Size

The size of the printed material in its finished stage (e.g., the finished trim size is 5.5 x 8.5).


In typography, a specific variation within a type family, such as roman, italic, bold, etc.

Type Family

In typography, a group of typefaces created with common design characteristics. Each member may vary by weight (bold vs. regular) and width (expanded vs. condensed) and may have related italic versions.


The art and process of specifying, setting, or otherwise working with print-quality type, as opposed to typewriting. Typography involves the proper placement, positioning, and specification of type to ensure not only maximum legibility but also high aesthetic appeal.

Uncoated Paper

Paper that has not been coated with clay. Also called offset or text paper.


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.

Vector Graphic

Image created by a digital drawing program, not based on pixels like a photograph. The detail of the image remains the same whether small in size or larger. Usually created by programs such as Adobe Illustrator, with the file extension .ai or .eps.

Web Press

Press that prints from rolls of paper, usually cutting it into sheets after printing. Also called reel-fed press. Web presses come in many sizes, the most common being mini, half, three quarter (also called 8-pages) and full (also called 16-pages).


In typography, the lightness or darkness in print of a particular font, based upon its design and thickness of line.

White Space

The total amount of non-image areas on a page, particularly gutters and margins. More white space can give a sense of openness to your self-published designs, letting it “breathe”.


In typography, refers to one word or word part standing alone in a line of a heading or a caption.