The other day I was walking through a project with a client, and the subject of “a bleed” came up. He looked at the print job, then to me, very worried and confused, and asked:
“What is a bleed?”
The print world is filled with odd terms like this. And while designers and production artists should be very familiar with these ideas, some processes may come across as puzzling to those new to printing.
With that in mind, I’ve made up a short list of definitions for common print terms and processes that one might encounter on a quote or during job discussions with a designer or a printer…
Cut size is the actual dimensions of your print job.
This is the total area (width & height) that will be printed for your job. Cut Size can also be referred to as “trim size” if a print job is going to be trimmed down from a larger sheet to meet a desired width and height.
Bleed is an area of a print job that falls outside the cut size dimensions.
Think of bleed like a buffer. Extending the image beyond the cut size protects against any tiny, mechanical variations of the printer, which could otherwise leave hairline white edges on your prints. Bleed guarantees your colors will always go right to the end of the print job, regardless of the printer you use.
TEXT SAFE AREA
Text safe area is the margins within a print job where and all crucial text, imagery, and elements should reside.
Printers can achieve pretty snug margins nowadays, but there’s always a risk of accidentally trimming away vital elements in the cutting process. Text safe area is another buffer to ensure nothing important from your print is ever lost. For most jobs, a text safe area of at least 1/16th of an inch will suffice.
CMYK stands for the four ink colors (C = cyan, M = magenta, Y = yellow, K = black) used in most common color printing jobs.
By overlapping the CMYK colors in various concentrations, a large number of other colors can be created. As a result, these four ink colors produce “full-color printing” capabilities, which can be used for most color jobs like flyers, labels on white, brochures, and posters. Basically, anything that gets printed to a white substrate.
CMYK printing has its limitations though, especially when it comes to generating bright, vibrant colors. Also, there can be small variations in CMYK coloring over the course of many printings and/or when using different printers, so no two jobs will ever be 100% the same in their coloring.
Pantone is a standardized color matching system that ensures a print is consistently the exact same color from job-to-job and printer-to-printer.
When it’s essential to have a color just right, every time, Pantone coloring is used. Each color on the spectrum comes with a specific code that makes it easy for printers to keep your coloring consistent no matter what machine you use or where in the world you print your job. Pantone is also used when your prints need brighter and/or more specific colors that go beyond the capabilities of CMYK, including metallics and fluorescents.
White backing involves layering an opaque surface over an otherwise transparent print area to create sharp, bright imagery and text.
The difference in printing surfaces will change the way colors appear on your print job. When you are printing on a transparent substrate, images will naturally appear muted and fall into the background.
Sometimes you want to achieve this subdued effect, but if you prefer certain text, images, or elements to stand out crisply and pop, your bottom layer must be opaque. This is achieved by first printing an solid surface (usually white) on your transparent substrate, then layering on your other inks on top of this white backing.
A diecut is a custom-made blade used to cut/trim your print job down to a specific shape or design.
A diecut, most simply put, is a cookie cutter for paper that’s personalized to your print job. Most prints use standard sized paper, but if you want to print a shape that’s not a boring rectangle a diecut blade is needed to trim standardized paper down to your specific shape or pattern. Diecuts are used for anything from a folded box to a uniquely shaped shelf dangler, or a customized sticker you add to wedding invitations.
Anna Kernbaum is the founder/owner and chief creative of Pixellent Design. You can contact Anna directly at email@example.com, or by calling (310) 896-5071
Charlie Kindinger can be reached at: www.linkedin.com/in/charlie-kindinger