Strange Words of Print – Round 2

In round one I tackled the printers meaning of words like bleeds and traps. You now know that bleeds can refer to something less gory than a horror movie, and traps can be used for more than catching animals. Thanks to requests for definitions to even more strange words of print – it’s time to tackle terms such as PMS, blankets, plates and much more.

Let us begin – More strange words of Print – Round 2

PMS: There is nothing emotional or painful about this version of PMS. The acronym PMS is an abbreviation for Pantone Matching System. PMS colors are exactly the same every time. They can be specifically matched. There are swatch books available that show each PMS color on different stocks with different finishes. A company like Coca Cola has a specific red that brands its products. This red should be the same red across the board every time. So they use a PMS color. Coke Red – Pantone 484 per the United States Patent and Trademark Office


CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black…wait, black? Black doesn’t start with a K…Well, there are 2 theories to the “K” in CMYK. One theory is correct, and the other is not. “Referred to as process colors, the “K” in CMYK stands for key because in four-color printing, cyan, magenta, and yellow printing plates are carefully keyed, or aligned, with the key of the black key plate. Some sources suggest that the “K” in CMYK comes from the last letter in “black” and was chosen because B already means blue. However, this explanation, although useful, is incorrect.” – Wiki

RGB: Red, Green Blue – Remember your color wheel in elementary school art class? These are – you guessed it – primary colors! “In additive color models such as RGB, white is the “additive” combination of all primary colored lights, while black is the absence of light. In the CMYK model, it is the opposite: white is the natural color of the paper or other background, while black results from a full combination of colored inks.” – Wiki



Blanket: A press blanket – while not warm and fuzzy, works a bit like your favorite blanket at home, but, I doubt you would want to sleep with it. It is made of a soft rubber surfaced fabric material that is wrapped around a cylinder and is used to transfer ink from the plate (not your dinner plate) to the paper.



Plates: Speaking of plates…you could try eating off these plates, but, I’m sure your pressman wouldn’t approve. Press plates are made of metal – normally aluminum and are generally used in offset printing. A plates primary job is to pick up ink from the ink roller in the desired areas and then transfers that ink onto the blanket. It basically determines where the ink will be distributed on the printed piece. Plates are slightly larger than the sheet of paper.

Signature: While commonly thought of as your name, written in cursive in a specific fashion that no other person could ever duplicate, thus making it solely yours – that isn’t the “signature” we are referring to in the print world. If you hear the term signature tossed around when talking about your booklet – your printer is actually making reference to the printed sheets in your booklet after they have been folded.

Against the grain: You want white while everyone else wants green – you’re going against the grain. Your walking to the grocery store while everyone else is driving – you are going against the grain. Somewhat similarly – is the print term “against the grain”. Paper has grain fibers that run one direction. When you fold against the grain you are folding the paper at a right angle to the direction of the grain. This generally makes for a bit messier of a fold.

Well – that is it for this round of strange words of print. I hope you are getting as much information out of this topic as I did when I first started learning all these terms.
Thanks for the suggestions of words to define, and let me now if you have others you would like to know a bit more about.


Contact us for a quote: