As your promotions partner, it’s our job to help you through the technical and often complicated process of product manufacturing and decoration. But the creative process works more smoothly when both parties are speaking the same language.

To that end, we’ve compiled this glossary of industry terms. Use this page to learn more about your options—and never hesitate to contact us when you have questions.


The property that causes paper to take up liquids or vapors that come into contact with it. In optics, absorption is the partial suppression of light through a transparent or translucent material.

Ad copy

Lettering imprinted on any item. In the promotions industry, ad copy is often an advertiser’s name, sales message, trademark, or slogan.


A graphic technique in which ink is applied with compressed air, similar to spray painting, to render a soft, airy effect.

Analog color proof

An off-press color proof produced from separation films.


All illustration copy used in preparing a job for printing.

Art proof

Artwork submitted for client approval.

Author’s alterations (AAs)

Changes in type at the proof stages, made by and chargeable to the client.

Blind embossing

A design sampled without metallic leaf or ink, creating a bas-relief effect.

Blind stamping

Hot-stamping without fail. Often used with leather, blind stamping gives a more subtle imprint than hot-sampling and a shallower imprint than debossing.


Manufacturer’s identification mark printed on a form or product, usually in an inconspicuous area.

Camera-ready art

Any drawing, photos, illustration, or lettering suitable for photographic reproduction.


A method in which molten metal is forced into a mold of rubber or plaster, then cooled into the desired shape.

Clean-up charge (or wash-up charge)

A factory charge added for the labor costs involved in cleaning the printing press after using a nonstandard ink.


Hot-stamp procedure in which the desired logo/copy is foil hot-stamped on a solid brass or metal base, then covered with epoxy dome.


Product in which a colored paste, made from ground glass, is applied to recessed areas, then fired at 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit and polished by stone and pumice to achieve brilliant color. Since gullies and ridges separate each individual color, fine lines between colors are difficult to achieve.


Acronym for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, which are the subtractive colors for process color reproduction.

Color correction

Any method, such as masking, dot-etching, re-etching, or scanning, used to improve color rendition.

Color proof

First or early printing of a finished color ad, combining impressions from each of the separate progressive color plates.

Color separation

Separation of multicolored original art by camera or laser-scan techniques to produce individual separated colors. There are four common separations: yellow, magenta, cyan, and black.

Comprehensive layout

Final stage of a layout, finished to very closely resemble how the printed piece will look.

Continuous tone art

Photography, painting, or other piece of art in which black-and-white tones gradually merge into one another.


Written content of advertising or editorial matter in the media.

Cromalin proof

Chemically created facsimile of a full-color reproduction.


To eliminate a portion of a picture, illustration, or photography that contains unnecessary material, or to highlight a certain area of the image.

Crop marks

Indicators on artwork to show where an illustration is to be cut or sized.


Broad term encompassing all plates associated with letterpress and hot-stamp printing.

Deboss and color-fill

Combining hot-stamping with debossing, so foil fills an image that is pushed down into the product.


Depression of an image into a material such as paper, leather, or suede, so that the image sits below the product surface.

Decal transfer

Imprinting method in which the decal is printed on an offset or letterset press, submerged in water, and placed on the product. Excess water and air are squeegeed off and the product is kiln-fired, a process that fuses the decal with the glaze.


Mold into which molten metal, plastic, or other material is forced to make a specific shape; also, a tool of very hard material used to press a particular shape into or onto a softer material.

Die charge

Charge by the supplier for creating a die from artwork supplied by the supplier.


Process in which molten metal is injected into the cavity of a carved die.


Using sharp steel blades to cut shapes from printed sheets.


Steel plate engraved with the desired image, generally used to apply a gold or silver imprint.


Method of producing emblems and other flat specialties. A blank, cut from a metal sheet, is struck with a hammer that holds the die.

Digital artwork

Artwork created using computer-assisted design software.

Digital color proof

Off-press color proof produced from digital data without the need for separation films.


To transform a graphic image into digital form for computer processing; also, to assign a discrete numeric value to an analog variable by analog-to-digital conversion

Drop shadow

Graphic device in which type is reproduced with an offset second image on one edge, giving a shadow effect that visually lifts the primary type and makes the image appear three-dimensional.


Simulation of a finished printed piece.

Dye transfer

In photography, a process of producing color prints by tanning photographic emulsions and using them to transfer dye solutions to film or paper coated with gelatin.

Electronic (engraving)

Any type of artwork or copy can be reproduced through engraving, as long as the artwork can be wrapped around a cylindrical drum.


Method in which a medallion, logo, or everyday object is buried deep in what appears to be solid glass, but is actually acrylic.

Emboss and color-fill

Combining hot-stamping with embossing, a raised image is stamped with foil. True embossing cannot be performed on vinyl.


Raising of an image on a product, accomplished by pressing the material between concave and convex dies.


Design stitched onto fabric through the use of high-speed, computer-controlled sewing machines.


Cutting an image into metal, wood, or glass by one of three methods: computerized engraving, hand tracing, or hand engraving.


Imprinting method in which the product to be imaged is coated with a protective coating that resists acid. The image is then exposed, leaving bare metal and protected metal. The acid acts only upon the exposed metal, leaving the image etched onto the surface.

<h5>Fired decals</h5>
Decal that actually becomes part of the piece to which it is applied.

Imprinting method for paper in which a flexible rubber plate is wrapped around a cylinder. As the paper moves under the plate, it is pressed against it by another roller, and the ink is transferred on the paper.

<h5>Foil stamping (or hot-stamping) </h5>
Process in which a metal plate or die is heated and then pressed against foil into a surface, causing the pigments of the foil to transfer to the surface.

<h5>Four-color process</h5>
Printing process that creates color productions by overprinting screens that individually print reds, yellows, blues, and blacks of variable specified intensities.


Engraving made by photographing through a glass screen that breaks the subject into small dots of varying intensities of gray, ranging from white to black.

Hand or manual (engraving)

Used for detailed work on materials ranging from metal to eggshells. Not practical for volume orders.

Heat-transfer printing (direct-transfer process)

Imprinting method in which an image is screened onto a transfer substrate, which is then laid directly on the material to be imprinted. The image is transferred from the substrate to the material through heat and pressure.

Heat-transfer printing (sublimation)

Process in which a design is transferred to a synthetic fabric by heat and pressure. The heat changes the inks into a gas that penetrates the fabric and combines with it to form a permanent imprint. Also called a plastocal transfer.


Combination of several layers of refractive material that causes the image to have a three-dimensional effect.

Hot stamping

Dry imprinting process in which a design or type is set on a relief die that is subsequently impressed by heat and pressure onto the printing surface.

Hot type

Type composed by machine and made from molten metal.

Injection molding

Process in which molten metal or plastic is injected into the cavity of a carved die.

Ink jet

Printer that reproduces by projecting ink onto paper without the mechanical impact of plates.


Design that is impressed into its base material.


To add or delete space between pairs of adjacent characters. Also called letterspacing.

Keyline drawing

Outline drawing on finished art to indicate the exact shape, position, and size for such elements as halftones, line sketches, etc.


Coated with clear plastic, or two separate sheets of paper joined together as a single sheet to provide a special thickness or varying colors from side to side.

Laser (engraving)

Imprinting method by which art or lettering is cut into a material by a laser beam that vaporizes the portion exposed through openings in a template.

Lenticular printing

Process of creating multidimensional, animated, or bi-view effects by photographing with an extremely fine screen and placing plastic made up of tiny lenses over the top.

Letterpress printing

Printing method in which ink is carried on a raised surface to the page or object being printed.

Line art

Black-and-white illustration of reproduction quality.

Line conversion

Photograph reproduction as a line illustration, accomplished by shooting the photo without a screen and omitting the middle tones.

Liquid crystal

Technology used to produce temperature-reactive products that change colors, going through a range of reddish browns, greens, and blues.

Litho laminating

Process of mounting a printed lithography sheet to single-faced corrugated to produce a display-quality piece that is structural corrugated.

Logo or Logotype

Style of lettering or design of a company used as a trademark to identify itself.

Matte finish

Dull paper finish without gloss or luster.


Final make-up of printed advertisement before transformation onto a printing plate.

Metal casting

Production method in which jewelry or other material is shaped by covering a mold with molten metal.


Screen pattern caused by the clash of dot patterns when two or more screens are used.

Molded materials

Materials made by pouring molten plastic (usually polypropylene) into a cavity to make a hard, seamless shell.

Mounting and finishing

Manufacturing of a display, applying litho, die-cutting, and assembly.

Nonrepro blue

Color that does not reproduce in final production, used to mark instructions and corrections on camera-ready art.

Offset lithography

Printing process in which the image is transferred to a rubber blanket, which in turn applies it to the surface to be printed.

Offset printing

Printing process in which a positive image is transferred to a rubber blanket in reverse, which in turn applies it to the surface to be printed, right reading.


Heaviness of ink coverage.

Overlay proof

Off-press color proof produced with four dyed or pigmented overlay films.

Pad printing

Method of imprinting in which a recessed surface is covered with ink. When the plate is wiped clean, ink remains in the recessed area. A silicone pad then presses against the plate, pulls the ink out of the recesses, and is pressed directly against the product.

Pantograph (Engraving)

Pantograph (Engraving) Master letters or designs are traced with a stylus that is connected to and followed by a cutting tool that pushes the lettering or image into metal.

Pantone Matching System (PMS)

Color scale used to precisely match colors for printing. Each hue has a coded number indicating instructions for mixing inks to achieve that hue.

Paper proof

Impression of type or artwork on paper so the correctness and quality of the material to be printed can be checked. The least expensive is a regular black and white faxed paper proof. The most expensive is an actual physical preproduction sample of the product itself.


Act of producing mechanical art.


Transparent image or ghost superimposed over a subject.


Printing process using an acid solution to etch a photograph onto a metal surface.

Photographic imaging (Engraving)

1. Photometal processes actually develop metal by using photosensitive, anodized aluminum in either metal stock or metal sheet stock. 2. Chemical etching uses negative or camera-ready artwork, exposes it, and coats the metal using acid or other more toxic chemicals to eat away impressions on the metal not covered by film.

Photomechanical transfer (PMT)

Diffusion-transfer process used to resize or copy images.


Black-and-white reproduction of original art, generally not acceptable as camera-ready art.


Rubber or metal image carrier that transfers ink to the printing surface.

Position proof

Color proofs for checking position, layout, and/or color breakout of image elements.


Image reproduction with the same density values as the original.

Press Proof

Proof of a color subject made on printing press in advance of the production run.

Progressive proofs

Color proofs that show the reproduction of each color plate separately and in combination with each other. Also called color keys.

Progressive proofs, or “progs”

Proofs made from separate plates in color work showing sequence of printing and result after each color has been applied.


Impression of type or artwork on paper to allow the correctness and quality of the material to be checked.


Design concept expressing an element’s relationship of length to width.

Puff prints

Screening process using puff inks. After screening, the product is exposed to heat. A chemical additive in the ink causes it to rise, creating a raised surface.

Register marks

Cross-hair marks applied to negatives, artwork, photographs, or mechanicals to ensure precise register on the final product.

Registration (hot-stamping)

Process by which two or more hot-stamps are aligned, so the multicolored foils fit the image area perfectly.


Density of dots for any given output device. The unit of measurement is dots per inch (dpi).


Process of improving/highlighting necessary details in a picture, photograph, print, or drawing.


Mirror-like inversion of elements on a printing plate in relation to their order on the surface printed from it.


Method that relies on a computer and controller to send messages concerning the desired design to a flat-bed engraving table.


A type of printing, using an etched copper cylinder.


Clear orange coating on an acetate base, used in preparing camera-ready artwork when one or more colors will be used. Also know as amberlith.

Sans-serif type

Typestyle without cross strokes at the end of the main strokes.


To impress a mark in a sheet of paper to facilitate folding and help it lie flat.


Series of dots used to reproduce halftones or blended colors. As the percentage of screen increases, the color prints darken.

Screen charge

Charge by suppliers for creating a silk-screen of the artwork used for imprinting products.

Screen tints

Process in which shading and tinting are added to a line reproduction.

Screen printing

Imprinting method in which the image is transferred to the printed surface by ink squeegeed through a stenciled screen stretched over a frame. Screens are treated with a light-sensitive emulsion, then film positives are put in contact with the screens and exposed to light. The light hardens the emulsion not covered by the film, leaving a soft area on the screen for the squeegee to force ink through. Also called silk-screening.

Serif type

Any typeface with letters having a cross stroke at the end of the main stroke.

Set-up charge

Special charges added to certain products in a catalog. It covers the cost of preparing the type for the press and the actual printing.


Initial rough drawing in pencil, ink, or color to determine the arrangement of an artwork.


Printed area without type or other illustrations.

Spec sample

A product sample carrying a prospective buyers’ imprint, produced with the expectation that the prospect will order it.

Spot color

Color used usually for accent.

Stat paper

Photo print of an art made by a camera. Use stat paper only on final proofs before going to production.


Same image printed continuously in a pattern on the same sheet of paper.


Attaching, putting together, or assembling in negative film from the separate elements of an ad, brochure, flyer, or other printed materials into one cohesive unit.


Dye transfer process where the image consists of a colored dye permanently embedded into the material surface of pores. Used to imprint messages, graphics, and photographs on a variety of items, primarily mousepads, mugs, T-shirts, caps, and trophy medals.

Temperature reactive or thermochromatic inks

Process of applying a special ink that disappears to reveal a hidden message when heat is applied. For instance, these inks might be used on a mug so that a message appears when hot or cold liquid is poured inside.

Thermal (Engraving)

Melts an image into the metal, based on a die. Often used for small items such as name badges and small signs.

Thermal dye sublimation

Like thermal printers, except pigments are vaporized and float to desired proofing stock. Similar to Thermal Dye Diffusion Transfer, or D2T2.


Means of imprinting in which powder is added to the image to be printed. When heated, the powder fuses with the ink, and the image appears in relief.

Tint block

A photoengraving used to print tints of any percentage of color.


To attach endsheets or other material to the outside of folded sections by machine applications of thin strip of adhesive.


Full-color, translucent, photographic film positive.

Transparent ink

Printing ink that does not completely conceal the color of the carrying material beneath.


Process of adjusting adjacent colors to account for misregistration, which occurs due to the complex machinery of the press and because materials stretch and shift during printing.

Trim size

Finished size of a printed piece after waste is trimmed away.

Type transfer

Sheet of type created through a photographic and chemical process which can be transferred onto almost any surface by burnishing the back of the sheet.


General term used to describe the styles of lettering available in typesetting.


To create type of a quality usable for reproduction, whether electronically or mechanically.


Thin, protective coating applied to a printed sheet for protection or appearance, or to prevent fingerprinting.


A photoprint with a halftone dot pattern in place of continuous tone, ready for line reproduction.


Illustration in which the background fades gradually away until it blends into the unprinted paper.

Wash drawings

Line drawings in which the middle tones have been retained.

White space

The space on a page not occupied by type, pictures, or other elements.


Formation of pictures or copies of graphic materials by the action of light on an electrically charged surface in which the image is usually developed with powders.


See it before you buy it.

Brand Fuel is committed to delivering quality products—every time.

For that reason, we strongly encourage you to request and approve a proof of each item you order. The following types of proofs are usually available at no charge:

product samples
electronic proofs, using the latest in digital imaging
paper proofs

Pre-production samples are also available for all products whenever enough time is allowed. These kinds of proofs are billed at cost. We generally refund pre-production charges when you place an order, provided there you make no changes to the original sample.