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Old School Print Primer

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3D rendering of the word print in white and different colors, ideal for backgrounds

In some parts of the country, the back-to-school season has already started. Even though we have a few more weeks of summer vacay here in beautiful Western New York, I thought I’d go a little back-to-school — old school style — and talk about some print basics.

In the era of the web, the print world is alive and well. I just stumbled across this interesting blog post about “The Return of Print,” one of many posts I have read recently about print work in a digital world. It’s a good read and is more validation that print isn’t going away any time soon.

While this warms my print-friendly heart, it makes me think that a lot of people, a lot of our clients, don’t really understand the print process. It’s not magic, but it’s not rocket-science, either. But having at least a general understanding of it is helpful when you set out to create a print piece.

Here’s a super-simple little print primer, courtesy of your friends on the creative team at Haley Marketing Group.

Offset Printing

  • ink is offset (transferred) from metal plates to a rubber blanket (cylinder) to the paper
  • sheetfed and web
  • used for medium to long print runs Digital Printing
  • uses either toner or ink-jet technology
  • a brand-new image is made from a digital file every time
  • ideal for fast-turnaround, short-run jobs; print exactly the amount needed, no waste



  • also known as process color, 4-color, 4-color process or full color
  • used in offset and digital printing
  • when these four colors are combined using different percentages, this model can replicate nearly all colors

Spot color/PMS
Select specific ink colors using the Pantone color matching system (PMS)

NOT FOR PRINT – represents color on a computer display


Trim Line
Finished size of the piece

Live Area
Area considered safe to keep any important information within

Crop Marks
Indicates where to cut the paper

Bleed Area
Area past the crop marks, where ink goes to the edge of the printed piece; minimum bleed is 0.125 in (1/8 in)

If you want an even more in-depth presentation of print graphic design terminology, be sure to check out Linda’s great blog post here.

I hope you enjoyed today’s old school print design lesson!

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