Do you sometimes struggle to understand your packaging designer when they discuss using package design and printing terminology? Were you confused by technical packaging printing and cardboard printing box terminologies that don’t mean anything? Did you wish you could understand packaging printing terminology in plain English?
It’s not just you!
Even though there are sometimes no alternatives to packaging design and printing terminology, you can easily avoid certain levels of jargon.
And what about those packaging printing terminologies specific to a certain niche? Until now, there has been no single place where anyone explained packaging printing terminology. And that’s why this guide is aimed at resolving that problem.
This quick reference guide contains not only package design and printing terminologies but also features a wide range of brand, product, and process names you might not be familiar with, all available in one quick reference guide.
You can use this article to boost your knowledge of packaging in addition to getting an explanation of a wide range of packaging printing terminologies.
Industry-specific package design and printing terminologies
Dots per inch; a measure of a printer’s resolution. The higher the number, the better the print quality. A minimum of 300 dpi usually is required for professional-looking results and 72 dpi for web results.
It stands for the colors Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black. In print design, colors are defined as a percentage of each of these 4 colors. For example, the CMYK abbreviation for the color black would be 0-0-0-100. In contrast, display devices (i.e., computer monitors) typically define colors using RGB.
Most print shops use offset printing to produce large volumes of high-quality documents. Although the equipment and setup costs are relatively high, the printing process is relatively inexpensive. It’s a printing technique whereby ink is spread on a metal plate with etched images, then transferred to an intermediary surface such as a rubber blanket, and finally applied to paper by pressing the paper against the intermediary surface. The equipment is a multi-station (up to eight) printing machine to print and/or coat up to six colors onto sheets or a fast-moving web.
Also called back printing. Printing on a transparent film so that the printing will be on the inside of the package and be observed through the film. Permits a higher gloss package because no printing is on the outside but usually places the printing in contact with the contents.
The printing process is more expensive and with poorer quality than offset printing but good for small runs and saving time. Digital printing eliminates numerous mechanical steps in the conventional printing process, including making films, color proofs, manually stripping the pieces together, and making plates.
A type of hardcopy sample output directly from digital files, provided by the print provider and used by the client to verify the accuracy of their print application before the actual production of the project. Digital proofs assure clients that their print applications will be produced accurately.
The printing of silkscreen images and text produces a clean, sharp finish. Setup costs are very affordable in most cases, making it an excellent choice for smaller volumes. A wide range of materials can be printed using this packaging method, including fabric, corrugated packaging, and plastic.
Businesses that use pre-made or stock packaging can benefit from this method of printing for packaging. Its versatility makes it a perfect option for branding and marketing materials like t-shirts and mugs.
Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK) are the four ink colors used in full-color printing. Full-color printing can also be called four-color process printing, which uses process colors.
Black should be the color formed when mixing Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow inks, but due to the pigments used, in practice, we get a muddy dark color. Therefore, Black was introduced as a fourth color in four-color process printing to improve contrast and detail in printing.
Pantone Matching System (or PMS)
The Pantone matching system is used for specifying and blending match colors. It provides designers with swatches of over 700 colors and gives printers the recipes for making those colors. This is a way to spec out an exact universal color, whereas a 4 color process has a margin of error.
Bleed or Bleeding Edge
When a page or a cover design extends to and off the edge of the paper, it is called a “bleed”. In print design, the artwork or block of color must extend off the edge of the page. The artwork or block of color is then printed on larger-size paper. Then the printed page is trimmed to the desired size.
The graphic design technique of using inkless embossing to create raised art on paper is known as blind embossing. In this technique, the characters or logos are raised from the paper. The embossing can be felt when printed.
A crop mark also called a trim mark, is a line that appears in the corners of the pages of your publication so that the printer knows where to trim the paper. Commercial printers use them for bleeds, which extend the image and color of the page to the edge of the paper. Printing to the edge of the paper isn’t possible for most printers, so they print on a larger sheet and then cut it down to the correct size, using crop marks to help them define where to cut.
A “dieline” is a template used in packaging and printing to ensure a package’s final layout is correct. A flattened version of this template marks all the folds and cuts of a package in a single diagram.
Dielines are used to create many different types of packaging, including pocket folders, envelopes, boxes, and more, which are designed by graphic designers or die cutters.
Three different types of lines are present on them: the perforation line, the cut line, and the fold line. Your design will be printed with dielines that indicate where the machine will cut and perforate the package, allowing it to be folded. Perforation lines and cutting lines are usually on separate layers and should appear as dots, as they are two separate pieces of information.
Two stages of cutting and perforating are performed by the printer.
Light is absorbed rather than reflected by matte finishes. Thus, they will conceal bumps and other small flaws in your wall quite well. Despite their inadequacy, these types of finishes are relatively easy to touch up.
When you score on the paper, you draw a line that guides the fold. You can avoid cracked and sloppy creases by learning how to score paper. Several methods can be used to score paper. Some ways to score a paper are:
Start by using a dull knife and a ruler. Firmly press the ruler into the fold you want to make. Next, draw a line with the knife by staying right next to the ruler. To fold the paper easily, you need to create a deep enough valley in it so you can press down hard enough to do so.
Bone folders are another option. The bone folder is used in the same manner as a knife, but with a bone folder instead of a knife. You can find these in craft stores, usually next to card-making supplies in the paper crafts section.
You can make your paper trimmer look more professional by adding a scoring blade. A rotary trimmer usually has interchangeable blades that can score, perforate, and add decorative edges to your papers.
Varnish is used to highlight a specific part of the printed sheet. In spot varnishing, only a portion of the page is coated with varnish. The choice of gloss or dull can either enhance or emphasize a photo or text or be used as a subtle accent.
Special plates are needed for spot varnishing. Think of it as an extra color, just like any varnish. It is almost as easy to control a spot varnish as it is a spot color; spot varnishes can be solids or screens. Using a tint can give the varnish a particular effect.
A three-dimensional picture that is made on a photosensitive glass plate using a laser as the light source. From this plate, a shim is made, and the image is stamped into a metallic foil.
The application of holograms in packaging printing is very different but equally significant. Holograms can be used in many different products. They are considered to be a symbol of high quality and excellence. In addition to being a high-quality demonstration element, it is one of the most beautiful packaging designs.
A hologram has a shiny layer that changes color depending on the angle from which it is viewed. Holograms can be customized with logos instead of quality seals to make your brand more appealing to buyers. The packaging of a product is generally enhanced by holograms.
Combining opaque and translucent inks with optical technology allows designers to enhance brand identities, attract customers’ attention, and revitalize mature or aging pack designs. Printing, gift wrapping, packaging, lamination, and eye-catching marketing stickers are common uses of wide-web holographic films.
Hot stamping is a lithography printing technique in which metal foils or inks are transferred onto a surface by heating the image mold or stamping die. Using hot stamping, you can mark a variety of materials, such as plastics, rubber, leather, fabrics, and paper.
Stamping with hot stamps is a relatively clean process since there are no inks and other messy consumables involved. The process is quick and easy. Hot stamping involves loading a metal die into a press, adding hot stamping foil, then fixing your part and stamping.
Magnesium, brass, and steel are all common materials used for dies. Mark depth, mark quantity, budget, and press operation may differ based on your needs.
Packaging applications commonly utilize UV coatings. Both high-gloss and matte UV coating styles provide a premium feel to the packaging.
In spot UV coating, the UV coating is applied to just one part of a product or to both sides. Coatings are used on specific points on your packaging, enticing attention to the design features.
For small pieces of branding, spot UV coating creates visually-impressive backgrounds. Using it on garment tags can also enhance their appearance and feel. You will save time, enjoy better quality, and reduce your environmental impact.
In printing, the varnish is applied as a clear, transparent coat during or after printing. Packaging is often varnished to protect the printed material against fingerprints, smudges, and scuffs, as well as to enhance the overall look and feel.
Custom printed packaging can be given a whole new look with varnish.
Consider adding varnish to your printed material or packaging when you want it to stand out. This will add depth to the colors. You’ll create a subtle look that reflects your branding.