Glossary of Terms

The promotional industry has a ton of buzz words. Fortunately, you don’t have to become familiar with them all, but we do. Think of this glossary as a guide you might use in a foreign city where you don’t speak the language.

Industry Terms

CMYK: printer-talk for the standard four colors that a printer will sequentially pass over a surface to build a full- color process imprint. Those colors are specific shades of cyan (light blue), magenta, yellow and black. (Be sure to check the definition of PMS and/or Pantone Matching System.)

Pantone Matching System (PMS): this is the scheme used to precisely match colors for printing. It features hundreds and hundreds of gradations of color, each with a numerical indicator – called a PMS number. Each PMS number translates into a recipe for mixing ink to duplicate that specific shade. (NOTE: when assisting a client by phone the founder of VisABILITY, seeking to nail down the specific shade of blue in the client’s logo, asked her “Do you have your PMS?” Being new to the industry and unaware of the Pantone Matching System, she replied “Well, yes – not that it’s any of your business.” The embarrassed founder quickly provided her with the above explanation of the system printers use to duplicate shades of color.)

Graphic Standards: your organization’s requirements for reproducing its graphics and branding elements on all surfaces. Stated in printer-speak and designer-speak, the graphic standards specify such things as color, font, spacing, proportion, location and placement. It mandates the size and location of certifications required by the organization’s lawyers and states whether and under what conditions the branding elements of your organization may be used with those of another organization.

Color Seperation: Sometimes called color seps, these are the basic films that determine the location and intensity of pigment to be laid down on each of the CMYK passes the press makes during a four-color process print run. (see CMYK)

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.

Pre-production Proof: an actual physical sample of the product itself produced and sent for approval before an order goes into production. There is a charge for this service, please inquire for details.

Virtual Sample: A mockup of your design on the product you are choosing.

Drop Shipment: an order shipped to more than one location will be charged a fee for each additional destination. Less than Minimum: the fee charged by a supplier for ordering 50% fewer items than the quantity listed in the minimum or first column. This option is not always available on all products.

Production Time: the amount of time needed to produce and ship an order, once an order has been received and approved. Stock products with a one-color imprint usually ship within 10-12 working days. Custom products and those with multi-color imprints require longer production time.

Spot Color: individual color imprinted in a specific shape, size and location as an element of a design. Most multiple color imprinting is an assembly of spot colors, but in 4-color process printing, additional spot colors can be used for accent.

Overruns/Underruns: the number of pieces that were printed in excess of the quantity specified/ the production run of fewer pieces than the amount specified. The industry standard on most products is +/-5%, with the exception being on paper and plastic bags. They can range from +/-10% to +/-25%. Suppliers bill on the actual quantity shipped.

Set-up Charge: a fee charged on all products. Prices vary per product and per supplier.

Exact Rerun: usually there is no set-up or a discounted setup charge on exact reruns of an order.

Decorating Terms:

Debossing: depressing an image into a material’s surface so that the image sits below the product surface.

Embossing: impressing an image in relief to achieve a raised surface.

Hot Stamp: setting a design on a relief die, which is then heated and pressed onto the printing surface.

Laser or Foil Stamp: applying metallic or colored foil imprints to vinyl, leather or paper surfaces.

Personalization: imprinting an item with a person’s name using one of several methods such as mechanical engraving, laser engraving, hot stamping, debossing, sublimation, or screen printing, to name a few.

Resolution: density of dots for any given output device. The unit of measurement is dots per inch (dpi) (see Halftone). [Most office laser printers print at 300dpi, though many now print at 600dpi or even 1200dpi. Full-color photos are normally 2400dpi. 300dpi would be considered the minimum acceptable resolution for most types of artwork to be printed on products. Web graphics are 72dpi.

Puff Print: a screenprinting ink that when exposed to heat rises up like a blister. This is a distinctive application but should be used sparingly and only for certain logos. (Although usually cautious about this technique, years ago we used puff prints in a very upscale and subtle manner on a line of T-shirts and sweatshirts with the logo of NPR’s afternoon news program All Things Considered. We did a color-on-color puff print black on black and another white on white version.)

Reverse: an inverted print in which dark becomes light and vice versa.

Die-casting: injecting molten metal into the cavity of a carved die (a mold).

Die-striking: producing emblems and other flat promotional products by striking a blank metal sheet with a hammer that holds the die.

Etching: using a process in which an image is first covered with a protective coating that resists acid, then exposed, leaving bare metal and protected metal. The acid attacks only the exposed metal, leaving the image etched onto the surface.

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

Pantone Matching System (PMS): a book of standardized color in a fan format used to identify, match and communicate colors in order to produce accurate color matches in printing. Each color has a coded number indicating instructions for mixing inks to achieve that color.

Colorfill: screen printing an image and then debossing it onto the vinyl’s surface.

Applique: The process of stitching decoration or trimming, cut from one fabric piece, to another.

Apparel Embroidery Terms:

Embroidery: stitching a design into fabric through the use of high-speed, computer-controlled sewing machines. Artwork must first be “digitized,” which is the specialized process of converting two-dimensional artwork into stitches or thread. A particular format of art such as a jpeg, tif, eps, or bmp, cannot be converted into an embroidery tape. The digitizer must actually recreate the artwork using stitches. Then it programs the sewing machine to sew a specific design, in a specific color, with a specific type of stitch. This is the process known as digitizing.

Backing: Material used beneath the embroidered fabric to provide stability and support.

Digitizing: The process of converting artwork or logos into a series of stitch commands read by an embroidery machine’s computer.

Emblem/Patch: An embroidered design with a finished edge, stitched independent of a garment.

Finishing: Processes done after the embroidery is completed, including trimming loose threads, removing excess facing or backing, and pressing or steaming to remove puckers and hoop marks.

Lettering: An embroidery that uses letters or words. Lettering, commonly called “keyboard lettering,” may be created using an embroidery lettering program on a computer or from circuit boards that allow variance of letter style, size, height, density and other characteristics. This technique is often seen on IMS baseball and basketball jerseys.

Monogram: An embroidered design composed of one or more letters, usually one’s initials or name.

Puff Embroidery: The process of stitching a dense motif over embroidery/craft foam to create a three-dimensional effect.

Specialty Threads: Threads designed for effects such as shine, glitter, iridescence or thickness. The threads are often are made from synthetic materials including rayon, metallic and textured nylon.

Tackle Twill: Letters or numbers cut from Twill fabric that are commonly used for athletic teams and organizations. Tackle Twill Appliques attach to a garment with an adhesive backing that tacks them in place; the edges of the Appliques are then zigzag stitched.