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Printing Glossary

This glossary of printing terms was created by people working in today's printing industry and is brought to you by It has been revised and edited and we have rewritten some technical descriptions in every day language to help the non technical person. Any suggestions that you may have on how we can improve this glossary will be carefully considered. Please send your comments and any new definitions to us at


A clear plastic sheet used as a source for artwork and overlays, Cellulose Acetate Film, or safety film, is used in photography as a base material for photographic emulsions. It was introduced in the early 20th Century by film manufacturers as a safe film base replacement for unstable and highly flammable nitrate film.

Made of a polymer that is composed of wood-pulp and/or cotton fibers, Cellulose Acetate comes in 2 derivatives, Di-Acetate and Tri-Acetate. Acetate film is produced by 2 mechanical methods; Solvent Casting or Forced Extrusion.

Additive Color

Additive Color involves light emitted directly from a source or illuminant of some sort. The additive reproduction process uses red, green and blue light to produce the other colors. Combining one of these additive primary colors with another in equal amounts produces the additive secondary colors cyan, magenta, and yellow. Combining all three primary lights (colors) in equal intensities produces white. Varying the luminosity of each light (color) eventually reveals the full gamut of those three lights (colors).


An airbrush works by passing a stream of fast moving (compressed) air through a venturi, or filter pump, which creates a local reduction in air pressure (suction) that allows paint to be pulled up from an interconnected reservoir at normal atmospheric pressure. The high velocity of the air atomizes the paint into very tiny droplets as it blows past a very fine paint-metering component. The paint is carried onto paper or other surface. The operator controls the amount of paint using a variable trigger which opens a very fine tapered needle that is the control element of the paint-metering component. An extremely fine degree of atomization is what allows an artist to create smooth blending effects using the airbrush.

The technique allows for the blending of two or more colors in a seamless way, with one color slowly becoming another color. Freehand airbrushed images, without the aid of stencils or friskets, have a floating quality, with softly defined edges between colors, and between foreground and background colors. A skilled airbrush artist can produce paintings of photographic realism or can simulate almost any painting medium.

Anodized Plate

In lithography, a plate manufactured with a barrier of aluminum oxide, which prevents chemical reactions that break down the plate; it provides optimum press performance.


Artwork usually refers to the master file that the customer provides for an order. It can be provided in a variety of formats, depending on what the customer is asking for. For print-ready computer files the minimum resolution is 300dpi.

Authors Alterations

An Author's Alteration, or AA, is when a client requests a change in text or artwork after the project has already been submitted, approved and gone out for printing.


Autoflow is a type of text placement in which text flows continuously onto successive pages or columns. Additional pages are usually created as needed, depending upon the type of project.