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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


One of the three attributes of a color, descriptive of its degree of lightness or darkness, described apart from the hue or saturation of the image. Typically a function of the reflectance characteristics of the paper being utilized, brightness being an optical property of paper that describes its reflectance of blue light, typically that at a wavelength of 457 nanometers, which is the wavelength at which the yellowing of paper is most easily gauged.


In the production of printing ink, varnish can refer to either a combination of oils, resins, waxes, solvents and other materials used as an ink vehicle. The use of varnish tends to increase the gloss of a printed ink.
The term varnish also refers to an overcoating applied to a printed piece following printing, performed on or off the press. Varnish is typically added to a finished printed piece either for aesthetic reasons (i.e., to increase gloss and provide a better overall look) or to protect the printing from wear and tear due to handling or contact with moisture or chemicals. Varnish that is applied to an entire printed surface after printing is called overprint varnish; varnish that is applied only to certain portions of a printed surface, primarily for aesthetic reasons (as on book covers) is called spot varnish. If the varnish is added as an overcoating after printing, it is important to ensure that the formulation of the varnish is compatible with that of the ink, or bleeding and other printing defects can occur.


Strictly speaking, the trade name of a type of chloride papers developed by Kodak for producing photographic prints. The term Velox is commonly used to refer to a glossy black-and-white photographic print of halftone images or line art used for proofing negatives.

Vignette Halftone

Halftone whose background gradually and smoothly fades away. Also called degrade.

Virgin Paper

This means paper made exclusively from pulp made from trees or cotton, instead of recycled or partially recycled paper.


VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, which are petroleum substances used as the basis for many standard printing ink types.