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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

Uncoated Paper

Paper which has not had a coating applied. Coatings are used to enhance the whiteness, opacity and gloss of paper.

Undercolor Addition

This is a means of lightening dark neutral gray areas of a reproduction by adding dots of cyan, magenta, and yellow ink to the color separation films.

Undercolor Removal

This term refers to a means of reducing the amount of cyan, magenta, and yellow ink used in neutral gray areas of a reproduction by reducing the dots on the color separation films where the three colors overprint and increasing the black dots by an equivalent amount in the same areas. UCR allows the use of less of the more expensive process color inks.

Universal Copyright Convention (UCC)

UCC is a system that was created to protect unique work from unauthorized reproduction. To qualify, one must register their work(s) with the United State Copyright Office and publish a (c) indicating registration.

Unsharp Masking

In image processing, an edge enhancement process performed either photographically (when exposing color separation negatives), optically (by a scanner), or digitally (in image-processing programs such as Photoshop). The latter two methods derive from the photographic process, in which a blurry unsharp mask is used when exposing color separation negatives from a transparency. The photographic method is commonly employed for reasons of color correction, a side benefit being an exaggeration and enhancement of the edges of images.
Optical unsharp masking is performed during scanning utilizing two types of apertures: the small, primary signal aperture, which captures the individual red, green, and blue image signals, and a larger unsharp masking aperture, which captures a larger amount of the same signal. The two signals are combined to create a single exaggerated signal which causes an enhancement where image edges occur.
Digital unsharp masking utilizes the application software to analyze each set of adjacent pixels of a digital image, locate where the edges occur, and adjust the tonal values of the pixels on either side of the edge in opposite directions, increasing the contrast along the edge. Some advanced programs allow the user to specify the number of pixels to modify, allowing greater or lesser degrees of unsharp masking.
Unlike photographic USM, neither the optical nor the digital USM techniques can be used to color correct the image, and actually neither of them technically use "unsharp masks."

UV Coating

UV Coating, or Ultraviolet Curing Ink, is a type of radiation-curing ink that dries, or "sets," with the application of ultraviolet light. UV curing ink vehicles are composed of fluid oligomers (small polymers), monomers (light-weight molecules that bind together to form polymers), and initiators that, when exposed to ultraviolet radiation, release free radicals (extremely reactive atoms or molecules that can destabilize other atoms or molecules and start rapid chain reactions) that cause the polymerization of the vehicle, which hardens to a dry ink film containing the pigment. UV curing inks are designed to replace heatset inks whose solvents emit potentially toxic gaseous emissions. However, UV curing inks are as much as three times the cost of regular heatset inks, and are used only in specialty printing, such as liquor cartons, cosmetic packaging, metal decoration, screen printing, and flexography.
The most common configuration of UV curing equipment is a mercury vapor lamp. Within a quartz glass tube containing charged mercury, energy is added, and the mercury is vaporized and ionized. As a result of the vaporization and ionization, the high-energy free-for-all of mercury atoms, ions, and free electrons results in excited states of many of the mercury atoms and ions. As they settle back down to their ground state, radiation is emitted. By controlling the pressure that exists in the lamp, the wavelength of the radiation that is emitted can be somewhat accurately controlled, the goal being of course to ensure that much of the radiation that is emitted falls in the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum, and at wavelengths that will be effective for ink curing. UV radiation with wavelengths of 365:366 nanometers provides the proper amount of penetration into the wet ink film to effect drying. (See Photo-Reactive Vehicle.) A newer variation of radiation curing inks, Electron Beam (EB) Curing Inks, have some advantages over UV curing inks, but although the formulation of the inks is less expensive, the EB curing equipment is more expensive.