Printing 101: Tips & Vocabulary for the Beginners

One of the most tried and true forms of advertising is the print ad. As early as the 18th century, print ads in England were taking shape. Print ads not only convey a brands image, they offer a creative and unique way to reveal a new product or promotion. However, printing in advertising is not limited to print ads. There are many ways an advertising agency can utilize printing, be it direct mail, brochures, banners, billboards, business cards, and more. Understanding the basic printing jargon is crucial for the beginning Account Executive. Below are a few key terms that are essential when working with your printer.

  1. CMYK – Stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key or black. It is the standard color model used in a four-color printing process in which all colors are described as a mixture of these four.
  2. 4/0, 4/1, 4/4 – Designates that four colors are printed on the front side and either no color (0), one color (1) or four colors (4) are printed on the back side.
  3. Pantone Color Matching System (PMS) – A largely standardized color reproduction system. Using the PMS makes for consistency from designer to printer to ink maker to client.
  4. Coated, Uncoated, and Matte – Coated paper produces a sharper, brighter image and is more suitable for certain types of overprint finishing techniques. Uncoated paper has no coating and is more absorbent which makes it more prone to ink bleed-through. Matte paper is coated paper with a dull, no-gloss finish in which the ink appears softer.
  5. Proof, press-ready PDF – A proof is a version of a document or illustration that is to be reviewed prior to printing. A press-ready PDF is an Adobe PDF file that is sent to the printer once revisions have been made on the proof and it is ready to be printed.

It is crucial to understand the key terms of printing so you correctly communicate your needs with your printer. It is important to not only proof whatever you are printing in-house, but also with your printer before it goes to your client. Always have the work sent to your agency so that you can see the finished product before your client does. The worst thing you could do is send a printed job with mistakes to your client.

As an Account Executive, you are the liaison between your printer and your client. Therefore, above all, you are your clients advocate in each step of the printing process and you must convey that to both your printer and your client to ensure they have full faith in you and your team.

Brittany Lough