Printing Terms


Presses cannot print right to the edge of a sheet of paper. To create that effect, we must print on a sheet that is larger than the finished document size. Then we print beyond the edge of the document (usually 1/8”), and cut the paper down to the document size. It is the designer's responsibility to set the bleed correctly, and it can be critical to the look of the finished piece. Due to the larger paper size needed, bleeds can also increase the cost of a printing job. Magazine covers are usually a good example of the use of bleeds.


Printing presses grip the paper on one edge and then feed the paper through the rollers. It's important to know how large the gripper area is because it is an unprintable area, and grippers vary from press to press. Our smaller presses typically use a gripper of 3/8”, and if your document doesn’t have 3/8” margins or larger, we may have to run it on a larger sheet of paper.

Four Color/Process Color/CMYK:

To reproduce full-color photographic images, typical printing presses use four colors of ink. The four inks are placed on the paper in layers of dots that combine to create the illusion of many more colors. CMYK refers to the 4 ink colors used by the printing press. C is cyan (blue), M is magenta (red), Y is yellow, and K is black.

Think of it like a desktop inkjet printer. It has a color cartridge with cyan, magenta, yellow, and a black ink. Your printer combines these four colors to give you a full colorprint. Unlike an inkjet, a press puts these four colors down separately, and each color requires a different ink tray and rollers to lay down that color. 

Spot Color:

Spot color is typically what we call two color or three color. It usually consists of black and one or two other colors, however black does not have to be used. If a customer has the desire to add color to their document, but doesn’t want the higher cost of four color printing, they can choose from one to two colors that can be printed individually. These colors are chosen from a Pantone swatch booklet that you may view in the Wildcat Design and Print's main office. You must also setup your file to use these colors in order to print them as color separations.

Weber State University stationery is an example of spot color. It is printed in Pantone 2617 purple and Pantone 405 gray.


In order to print in four color or spot color, your document must be set up in an application that has the ability to separate all of the colors onto separate plates. Most professional page layout programs such as InDesign, have the ability to do this. Word processing programs such as Word Perfect and Microsoft Word do not have the ability to print separations and would have to be printed on our color printer. Microsoft Publisher and PDF files have very limited abilities to print color separations, and we usually have to open the file before we can determine if it is possible.