6 Print Terms All Office Managers Need to Know

Knowing the right printing terms will help make better, more informed decisions.


Office managers often find themselves working closely with multiple departments and playing a critical role in accomplishing a variety of projects, including big initiatives around business development and marketing. Many of those tasks might include managing or coordinating print projects, so the key to effectively carrying out these jobs is knowing important printing terms and concepts.

The Benefits of Educating Yourself on All Things Print

Office managers need to understand printing terminology for a number of reasons. "Understanding print terminology will help ease in the print asset-buying process," explains Danielle Serode, manager of marketing vendor partnerships at Staples Inc.

"If the office manager understands the different variables, they can make informed choices on substrate, ink cover, coating, finishes, bind styles and more," she adds. With this knowledge, the office manager can contribute recommendations on detailed parts of the project to their team and know exactly what they're buying, so they can execute with confidence.

When you have a solid understanding of print terminology, you can better communicate your needs and requests, which will likely produce a better final product. But where should you start, and what's important to know? Familiarize yourself with these six terms to do a stellar job.


This term can include a lot of different definitions, depending on whom you ask. But at a fundamental level, substrate refers to the type of stock your project will be printed on.

"A substrate is typically comprised of a basis weight, finish and a grade," explains Serode. "The basis weight is the thickness of the stock. The finish indicates how the paper is finished — coated, dull, satin, hi-brite, SCA, SCB, newsprint and so on. The grade is the brightness of the sheet. The lower the number of the grade, the brighter the sheet."

Trim Size

This is the final size of the printed piece. "Printers will often ask for both the flat size and the folded size," says Serode. "For instance, if you were printing a 12-page, saddle-stitched self cover that has a final trim size of 8.5 x 11 inches, the flat size would be 17 x 11 inches."

The flat size is the total size of the piece before folding, which is why the flat size in this example is 17 inches. The height of the piece remains the same at 11 inches, whether it's folded or open.

Die Cut

Die cutting is the process of taking a flat material (in this case, probably paper) and cutting it into a specific shape with a steel cutting tool (known as a cutting die). "If you can think of a shape, the printer can likely produce your asset in that shape," says Serode. And if you plan to mail the finished product, she suggests remembering that the USPS will often offer a postal discount for die-cut pieces.


Finishing can include adding elements to your print project like embossing, foil stamping, three-hole drilling and more. "These are all the bells and whistles that differentiate your print piece," says Serode. She also notes that coatings also make a big impact when you want to differentiate your print piece from competitors, or print projects that share similar features to your own.

Bind Styles

"If your printed piece is more than four pages, it will likely bind," Serode explains. Binds come in different styles, including smyth swen, layflat, saddle stitching, perfect bind, press pasted, spiral bound and RGB bind. "The most common bind style would be perfect bound, like your favorite square spine magazine, or saddle stitching," she says.


A coating is a protective addition to a finished print piece. Depending on the material you use for the print (which, as you'll remember, is called substrate), you may need a special coating to protect it from damage. Or you can apply a coating for some added pizzazz. Serode says coating variations can include dull, matte, gloss, satin, grit or soft touch, UV, varnish or aqueous.

Office managers can make more informed decisions when they better understand technical terms and important details of print projects. It's an opportunity for you to go above and beyond in your role and give the company an excellent finished product. Once you have these terms down pat, you'll be able to manage your next print project with confidence and deliver a great result.