Printer’s Glossary

Essential vocabulary regarding book printing.

Files – Layout


It is important to familiarize oneself with the technical language of printing in order to make sure your book project is completed properly. In this section you will find the essential vocabulary about the printing process, a key step in the production process of a book.

Crop marks⮯

Digital printing⮯
Duplex (double-sided) cover printing⮯
Four-colour process⮯

Offset printing⮯




The cover of a book consists of the front cover, the spine, and the back cover. A book cover needs to be mounted as a single piece, in a separate PDF print file, including bleeds and crop marks.

Our detailed list of instructions regarding print files preparation can be found here: Printing Guide

Cover File (Softcover) Layout Instructions

Crop marks

Crop marks are used to indicate the trim line: that is, the line on which the cut to the finished format will be made. Crop marks are useful for the graphic designer in order to trace the edge of the paper in the finished format and thus be able to properly size the margins and to check if sufficient bleed is included in the file. We recommend a width of 0.125 inches or 3 mm for the bleed.


Thickness of the ink film that is applied to the paper to obtain the right colour. In offset printing, the recommended density to achieve a particular colorimetric result will vary depending on the paper that is used. This is less of a problem in digital printing because the ink does not penetrate the paper.

Digital printing

Printing process that uses either 1- or 4- colour process on a digital press. In contrast to offset printing, digital printing makes it easier to print different content with each print cycle. There are mainly two digital printing processes: laser and inkjet printing. Laser printing produces high-quality text and graphics by using an electrostatic digital printing process. Inkjet printing uses nozzles that project ink drops that are directed one by one by an electrostatic field. Until now the print quality of the laser has been superior but the cost has been higher. Progress in inkjet over the past decade is promising.

Duplex (double-sided) cover printing

Duplex cover printing involves printing colour on the C2 (inside front cover) and C3 (inside back cover) as well as on the C1 (front cover) and C4 (back cover).

Four-colour process

Also called quadrichromy, four-colour process is a standard printing process used for digital colour reproduction. Known as CMYK, this process uses three primary colours: cyan (blue), magenta (pinkish red), and yellow. We add black to give more contrast to the images, but also to stabilize the colours (see demonstration in our article on colour reproduction). This process only reproduces 50% of the colours visible to the human eye.


An advanced colour separation technique invented in the 1990s by Pantone based on the use of orange and green (or blue) in addition to cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Although a more accurate method for reproducing colour than standard CMYK, the technical difficulties and high operating costs associated with the hexachromic method have prevented it from becoming widespread. Today this method is all but abandoned.


The process whereby the pages of a print file are arranged so that they will appear in the correct order in the printed book. Imposition methods depend on the type of press being used as well as the particular printing methods adopted by the printer, and so will vary from one printer to another. Other factors which may affect the way in which imposition is done include the book’s trim size, the paper format, bleed and binding (perfect binding, hardcover, spiral, sewn, etc.). Given that the imposition method is determined by numerous factors, graphic designers should always provide their print file in pages mode, and not spreads.
Book Printing Imposition Process


The process of applying plastic film, either matte or glossy, to the front of a book cover. It not only gives a more aesthetic appearance to the book but also protects the cover which is exposed to scratches and fingerprints.

Offset printing

Printing process derived from lithography, which relies on a chemical balance between water and ink. The water acts like a negative: it lets the ink settle on the cliché (aluminum plate) only in the areas where you want to print. It is the most widely used printing process in the world.
Offset Printing Process


American company founded in 1866 manufacturing colour charts for the cosmetics industry first, then for printing from 1963 with its first Pantone Matching System (PMS) colour system. Pantone shades are referenced colours that make it possible to produce a direct tint by mixing multiple colours, for example to accurately produce the colour of an advertiser’s brand. The use of direct dyes in printing is expensive because it involves completely cleaning the press between runs. Pantone colours are interesting because they broaden the spectrum of colours visible to the human eye. There are now good Pantone colour conversion systems in the Four Colour Process (CMYK) process, however we recommend that you convert your colours to CMYK yourself, rather than leaving it to software.

Pantone Colours


Position of pages on the recto and verso of a page that ensures proper alignment.


A reprint refers to any print order of a book title which has been printed previously and for which the printer already has the print-ready files. A reprint order is typically produced with the same files as the first print run. In certain situations, new files can be provided by the client with revisions to the text or layout.

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© Cover photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash