This glossary includes the many terms used in printing terminology and offers to provide a quick explanation…

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Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) – A facility found on multi function printers that lets the user scan or copy several pages at a time, without having to manually feed sheets of paper into the device.

All In One (AIO) – A printer that has a scanner and copier built in.

Apple – A popular American consumer electronics company, best known for computers and mobile phones such as the iPhone 5.

Automatic Paper Sensing – The printer has an optical sensor that detects what type of paper is being used and optimizes the printer for that paper type.

Automatic Double Sided Printing – The printer can automatically print on both sides of the paper without the user having to turn the pages over manually.

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Back to Back – Both sides of the paper are printed on.

Bitmap – A “raster” graphic and common file format for digital images. It has the file name extension .BMP.

Black Print Speed – The maximum pages per minute (ppm) that black text can be printed.

Borderless Printing – The print goes to the edge of the paper so there is no white border around the outer edges.

Brother – A Japanese Printer and electronics manufacturer founded in 1908.

Blow-Up – The image is made larger which can result in a loss of quality if a raster based graphic image e.g .JPG and .BMP

Border – The area around the print that is sometimes just blank paper, but can be decorative.

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Canon – A Japanese printer and electronics manufacturer founded in 1937.

Carriage –  Internal part of a ink jet printer that holds the cartridges and print heads, it moves across the page so the print heads can put ink on the paper.

Cartridge Flush – A solution that is used to clean dry ink from the print heads to give better quality prints.

Charging Roller – Found in a laser printer it gives an electrostatic charge to the image drum which repels toner .

Chip Re-Setter – Used to reset the chip on a toner or inkjet cartridge back to zero and “fool” the printer to allow further printing. Can also be used on laser image drums where required.

CMYK – Stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, the main four colours used in the printing process. “K” stands for Keyline or Keyplate which is Black.

Collated Printing – A printer function that prints the pages in a specific order eg if printing multiple copies prints page 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 rather than 1, 1, 2, 2, 3,3.

Colour Separation – A type of printing where each colour is added in separate layers and the combination of the layers make the different colours.

Compatible Cartridges – Cartridges that are made by a third party rather than the original manufacturer of the printer.

Contrast – The difference between the darkest and lightest tones.

Contrast Enhancement  – Automatically adjusts dark tones to appear brighter but be the correct tone for the image.

Coverage – How much ink is on the page, usually measured as a percentage E.g. if half of the page had ink on it there would be 50% coverage. When it comes to the industry standard quoted on inkjet and toner cartridges, it is 5%.

Corona Wires –  Wires inside laser printers that give a static charge to the paper, this attracts the toner to the paper. If they get dirty from spilled toner they will cause streaks on the paper.

Crop – Removing the edge of an image or photo to make it smaller and remove anything unwanted from the edge.

Fast Colour Inks – Coloured inks that retain their density and so resist fading for longer, normally associated with Pigmented Inks.

Cyan  – A blue colour that is one of the main four process colours. E.g CMYK

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Data Compression – Reduces the amount of storage space needed to hold files on a hard drive/memory stick.

Dell – An American PC/Server/Printer and services company founded in 1984 by a pre-med student at the University of Texas at Austin called Michael Dell. He was ranked the 41st richest person in the world on 2012 Forbes Billionaires list, with a net worth of US$15.9 billion

Desktop Publishing  – A software program that is used to design and layout pages of text/images for publishing onto paper at a later date.

Digital Proofing – A sample print from a digital format onto paper to see how the prints will appear.

Dot Matrix – An old type of printer than used pins to press on a ink ribbon to make small dots on the page that made up the image or text.

Dots-Per-Inch (DPI) – The amount of dots per square inch that the device can display, print or read. It is a standard measurement of resolution on printers, scanners and monitors.

Driver – The software that allows the computer to communicate with the printer or other device.

Duplex – A feature of computer printers and multifunction printers (MFPs) that allows the automatic printing of a sheet of paper on both sides

Duty Cycle – The number of pages the printer can print per month without risking failure. This is set by the printer manufacturer.

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Electronic Image Assembly – Assembly of a composite image from portions of other images and/or other page elements using a computer.

Enlargement – Making the image larger than it is.

Epson – A Japanese manufacturer or printers and electronics founded in 1942

Equivalent Paper – Paper that is not made by the printer manufacturer, but is of the same quality and weight.

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Feeding Unit – Part of the printer that feeds paper in to be printed on.

FireWire – A serial bus interface developed by Apple known as IEEE 1394 and used to connect devices such as external hard drives and video cameras to the computer.

Firmware – Software that is embedded in a device to control it.

Font – A group of characters in word processing and graphics software etc.  that have the same distinctive appearance and format. Some come pre-installed on a PC, whilst others can be purchased.

Four Colour Process Printing – Printing using the four process colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black to make all the other colours in the print.

Fuser – A pair of heated rollers in a laser printer that heats and fuses the toner to the paper.

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GIF – A file format for images commonly used on the internet.

Gloss Paper – Paper with a sheen to it that reflects light.

Graphics – Visual elements on a page that inform or illustrate.

Gray Scale – Printing with just the black cartridge so the print is in shades of gray.

GSM  – The measurement of paper weight, stands for Grams per square meter. Further reading: What Does the Weight of Paper Mean?


Header  – Added at the top of the page normally on text documents, used for things like adding the page numbers etc.

High Fidelity Colour – Printing with 6 or more colour cartridges rather than the standard four.

HLS – Short for hue, lightness and saturation, three of the colour control options found in printing.

Hewlett Packard (HP) – American printer and computer company founded in 1939

Hue  – A widely accepted theory of colour based on the idea that all colours or hues are derived from the three primary colours red, yellow and blue. All other colours or hues come from mixtures of these primary colours.

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Individual Ink Cartridges –  For printers that have a cartridge for each colour rather than one cartridge for all of them (known as a tri-colour).

Image Area  – The area on the printed media that is printed upon.

Imaging drum – The imaging drum is the part of the laser printer responsible for the transfer of printer toner onto the paper..

Infra Red – A type of connection found on some computer peripherals that allows them to connect without wires. Far less popular today with the proliferation of other wireless technologies.

Ink – A special fluid that contains pigments or dyes and is used to colour a surface to create images and text.

Ink Cartridge – A cartridge that contains the ink used in ink jet printers.

Inkjet Printer – A common type of printer popular with home users that creates the image by spraying the ink onto the page through nozzles in a print head.

Ink Holdout  – How well the paper can hold ink on the surface rather than absorbing it.

Ink Jet Printing – A type of printing that spays ink onto the paper or other media.

Ink Refill Kit – Everything you need to refill empty ink jet cartridges your self.

Ink Tank – Part of the ink cartridge that contains the ink.

Integrated Print Head  – A print head that is part of the actual inkjet cartridge, rather than the separate print heads found in some printers. For instance HP put the print head on the cartridge in most of its printer models, whereas Epson place the print head on the printer carriage.

ISO – Short for International Organization for Standardization.

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JPEG – A common file type for graphics, has the file extension .JPG. Created by the Joint Photographic Experts Group it is one of the “lossy” compression  algorithms used in graphics.

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K – Stands for “keyline” or black plate, also sometimes called the key plate; which is the black in CMYK colour model.

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Kodak – An American printer and photography company founded in 1888.


Landscape – Orientation where the width is greater than height.

Laser Bond – Paper that is made specifically for use in laser printers with the built-in durability to perform well in high-speed laser print applications.

Laser Imprintable Ink – Ink that wont fade as the paper on which it is printed is used in a laser printer.

Large Format Printer – A printer that uses media, usually paper, size A3 and over.

Laser Printer – A popular type of printer that uses electrophotography (electrostatic printing with photography,) to fuse toner powder onto the media to create the text or image.

Lexmark – An American printer manufacturer founded in 1991.

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Magenta – A pinky purple colour that is one of the four main colours used in CMYK colour space.

Margin – The blank space between the edge of a page and the printed area.

Matte Finish – Dull finish the opposite of gloss.

Media – The material that is printed on, usually paper.

Monochrome Printer – A type of printer that only uses a black cartridge so cant print in colour.

Multicolour Printing – Printing with more than one colour.

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Network Printer – A printer that is shared by several computers on a network .

Novelty Printing – Printing on media such as cups, mouse mats and T shirts.

Nozzles – Part of a print head that sprays the ink onto the page.

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OEM – Stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer.

Opaque – Not transparent.

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Page – In printing terms one piece of papers worth of print, there are often an number of pages that make up the document.

Page Count -The number of pages.

Pages Per Minute (PPM) – A measurement of how many pages the printer can produce in a minute.

Paper Capacity – How much paper the printers paper trays can hold.

Paper Guides –  Plastic guides that make sure the paper is correctly positioned when it enters the printer.

Parallel Port – An old style connection that allowed peripherals to connect to computers. This has been superseded by USB ports.

Peripheral – External hardware that is used by a computer such as printers, scanners and web cams.

Photo Paper – A special type of paper designed specifically to be use for photo printing.

PictBridge – Allows printers to print directly from digital cameras without the need of going through a computer.

Pixel –  Short for “picture element” and is a single block of colour and the smallest visual element on a screen. Thousands or even millions of them are grouped together to make up the image.

Port Connection – The communication link between the computer and the peripheral, the most  common in printing is the USB port.

Portrait – Orientation where the height is greater than width.

Printing – Making a copy of an image or text on paper or other media.

Print Buffer – Memory that stores the data to be printed before its printed eg if its in a print queue.

Print Cartridge – A plastic cartridge that the ink used for printing is stored in.

Print Driver – Software that allows the computer to communicate and operate the printer.

Printhead – Part of an ink jet printer that spays the ink through nozzles onto the page to create the image.

Print Quality – How good the printing is. This is one of the settings found in the print window that appears when you select the print icon on a PC. You will see options such as Best and Draft mode.

Print Resolution – Measured in dots of ink per square inch, the higher the better the quality of the print. A common setting would be 600dpi.

Printer Ribbon – Used in dot matrix printers and some typewriters it is a ribbon covered in ink  and when pins from the printer press against it the ink is transferred onto the paper.

Print Zone – The portion of the paper that the printer is capable of printing on.

Printer Server – A computer or other device that controls, looks after and shares printers on a network.

Print Media – What the printer is printing on to, the most common is standard paper but also includes envelopes, and novelty printing items such as cups.

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Queue (Print) – A queue of items waiting to be printed on a printer.


RAM Cartridge – Extra RAM in a cartridge that can be added to a printer to hep improve overall performance.

Random Access Memory (RAM) – Internal memory of a printer that stores the data of what’s to be printed – before its printed.

Ream – 500 sheets of paper, a popular quantity that paper is often sold in here in the UK.

Recycled Paper – Paper made from reused old paper.

Refill Kit – Everything needed to refill an ink cartridge by hand.

Remanufactured Cartridge – Previously used OEM cartridge that has been tested, cleaned and refilled.

RGB (Red, Green, Blue) – A colour model that is used by computer monitors and other electronics to display colours. Not to be confused with the CMYK colour model used in printing.

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Satin Finish – A mix and of matte and glossy paper, has a sheen to it but not as much glare as glossy and not as dull as matte.

Scalable Printing Technology – HP’s newest ink jet technology allows the integration of thousands of nozzles and multiple colours onto a single printhead.

Saturation – The amount of grey in a colour and how vivid it is. Minimum saturation corresponds to gray, whilst maximum saturation corresponds to the pure colour.

Scanner – A device used to scan a physical picture or document on to to a computer.

Shade – A darker version of the colour made by adding black.

Separate Ink and Silicon – When the print head is fixed in the printer and not part of the cartridge.

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Transfer Belt – Used in Laser printers where the toner is applied to the belt which is then transferred to the paper.

Tri Colour Cartridge – A cartridge that contains cyan, magenta and yellow ink – all in one cartridge.

Toner – Dry powdered ink used in laser printers.

Toner Cartridge – A consumable cartridge used in laser printers.

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Universal Serial Bus  –  A fast type of connection used to connect peripherals to computers. Often shortened to the letters USB there are 3 versions available today: USB 1 (Full Speed) /
USB 2.0 (High Speed) / USB 3.0 (Super Speed)

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Xerox – An American company founded in 1906 that specialise in printers and photocopiers.


Yellow – One of the four colours used in the CMYK colour space.

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