Acetate — A tough, clear plastic film that’s ink-receptive.
Addressable Resolution — The highest resolution of a device, such as a scanner, when working with an image.
Adhesive — A material able to hold two surfaces together, often activated by heat or pressure.
Aqueous Inks — Inks that use water as a carrier. Aqueous inks are not used for printing onto vinyl unless the vinyl has been specially coated to accept water-based inks.
Aspect Ratio — The height-to-width measurement of an image as displayed on a monitor and ultimately printed. Can sometimes be altered when using a software’s import/export feature and transferring an image from one computer to another. Ratio can also change with pixel size, although most computers use a 1:1 aspect.
Balance — In design, the relationship between the design elements so that opposing forces have equal distribution of weight in the layout.
Banding — Pronounced, abrupt and unattractive changes in patterns creating a visible strip in a digital print; formed by different gradient fills or density of colors printed.
Bio-Solvent Ink — A type of solvent-based inkjet ink whose carrier is made from a renewable resource. Most such inks use corn-based ethyl lactate as the primary carrier because it contains very few harmful VOCs. Bio-inks can also be made from soy products.
Black –- The color that is produced when an object absorbs all wavelengths of light rather than reflecting some of them as other colors. In printing, black is often represented by the letter "K" which refers to the key color, or key tone.
Bounding Box — The area of an on-screen image at its maximum X and Y axes measurements. Altering the bounding box by moving its control points can change the shape or size of an image. Bounding boxes allows scaling of all graphics images in PostScript file types.
Brightness — A measurement of the reflective quality of a medium such as paper or vinyl. Different brightness levels can cause changes in the appearance of color on the medium, and may require printer adjustment.
CAD (Computer-Aided Design) — The use of computer programs and systems to design detailed two- or three-dimensional models of physical objects, such as mechanical parts, buildings, and signs.
Calendered Vinyl — Vinyl sheeting squeezed between a series of heated rollers (also extruded) to achieve a small-enough thickness for cutting with a knife plotter. Calendered film is generally thicker and less expensive than cast vinyl.
Carrier — Substance in which pigments in inks are suspended. Aqueous, solvent and eco-solvent carriers evaporate after printing. Monomers are considered carriers in UV-curing inks, but are transformed into solid polymers after curing.
Cast Vinyl — Vinyl sheeting formed by spreading a molten mixture on a carrier sheet, and then baking at high temperatures to remove solvents and fuse the remaining material into a film. Cast film is usually thinner and more-expensive than calendered vinyl.
Clogging — The result of dried ink molecules in an inkjet printhead. Although some clogging is typical with inkjet printers and is rectified by following a cleaning procedure, prolonged or severe clogging may result in the printhead having to be replaced.
CMYK — Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (key tone), or the four process colors. Used in screen printing and by output devices such as inkjets, electrostatic, and thermal-transfer printers.
Colorants –- Materials — including pigments, dyes and toners — that are used to create colors in inks.
Compression — In color management, the ability of a software to reduce the range of colors in an image to whatever can be reproduced on an output device.
Continuous tone — Method of printing where color dots of equal size are placed in a variable-spaced pattern, creating the effect of a more-natural color look to an image; a direct result of stochastic screening.
Control Point — A connection between two line/arc segments or a selectable handle on a bounding box. Moving a control point changes the shape of an object, altering a line path, shape or size.
Decal — Copy and/or graphics printed on the non-adhesive side of film, then cut to a specified shape.
Densitometer — A device used to measure light reflectance from a substrate, or transmittance through a film, on a scale of 0–100%, which is converted to a logarithmic scale of 0–infinity (0–4 in practice) to correspond with human vision (density = log 1/reflectance).
Digital Printer — A printing device capable of translating digital data into graphic output. Technologies employed in digital printers include inkjet, thermal transfer, electrostatic and laser photo-imaging.
Dot Gain — Effect produced when individual dots print larger than their intended size, resulting in the darkening of a printed image. A result of ink spreading as it soaks into a substrate.
DPI (Dots Per Inch) — Unit of measure used to describe the printing resolution of an output device, or the printed resolution of images, based on the number of separate ink droplets represented either horizontally or vertically in one inch. Also correlates to pixels per inch and samples per inch.
Eco-Solvent Inks — A type of solvent ink that employs a less-toxic carrier, generally glycol ethers. Printers using eco-solvent inks emit fewer harmful VOCs than standard solvent inks.
Electrostatic Printer — A printing device based on xerography (the process on which most paper copiers are based). Electrostatic (or e-stat) printers use powder-based toner pigments. Once the primary printing technology used with vehicle wraps.
Ethyl Lactate — A solvent commonly derived from corn, sometimes used in bio inks that contain no harmful VOCs.
Fills — Tool-path directions and methods for traveling through substrate to remove, or rout, material. Sweep or hatch fills remove material in consecutive, side-by-side lines; spiral fills trace the edge of area of material to be removed, then work inward to center in one path; island fills trace the edge, then work inward in separate, concentric paths.
Flatbed printer — A digital printer designed to accommodate and print directly to various thicknesses of flat materials and sheet substrates.
Focal point — The spot in a design or layout that first catches the eye. In good design, the focal point and the main message the sign seeks to convey will be the same thing.
Four-Color Process –- Any printing method that utilizes the subtractive primaries (CMY) plus black (K) to create the illusion of different colors.
Gamut — Scope of colors that can be reproduced by a specific display or output device, or by a method of color representation (such as RGB or CMYK).
Gloss — The shine on a smooth surface, such as paint or vinyl. See matte.
Gradation — Transition between colors or shades, created by mixing percentages of a dominant and secondary color and then altering them in steps to create the change.
Grey Scale — A scale of neutral grey tones, from black to white, with an infinite range of grey in between. A grey scale “step wedge“ is a specific number of grey tones between black and white. New-generation printheads are capable of true grey scale printing.
Halftone — The process of converting images into dots of various sizes with equal spacing between centers.
Hexachrome — Color matching system created by Pantone Inc. for combining six colors to create a larger gamut of reproducible color.
Hi-Fi Color — Any process — such as stochastic screening or six-color printing — that expands the possible color gamut beyond four-color process.
ICC Profile — A standardized description of the color attributes of a particular substrate, ink, digital printer, or imaging device, named for the International Color Consortium, a group formed in 1993 to standardize color management. Profiles are created by defining a map between the source and target color space using a profile connection space such as L*a*b* or CIE.
Inkjet Printer — Device that drops liquid ink onto a substrate for printing. The thermal bubble-type of inkjet heats ink to approximately 400 degrees F inside a small chamber before shooting it through a series of nozzles. A piezo-based inkjet puts ink in a small chamber and then sends a charge to contract piezoelectric crystal lining the chamber and send the ink through the nozzles.
Ink-Receptive — Describes a substrate that can be made wet by ink when printed and that will bond with the ink after drying or curing. Substrates often feature an ink-receptive coating to aid in the absorption and control of inks.
Invariant Color — A color that isn’t altered by changes in illumination.
Jaggies — The informal name for aliasing (visual stair-stepping) in raster images that occurs when the resolution is too low.
Jet-Out — The expression used when nozzles on a printhead become clogged and no longer allow droplets of ink to eject.
JPEG/JPG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) — Graphics file format designed for use with photographs and other color bitmaps. The JPEG format uses a mathematical compression technique to reduce file size by removing a user-selectable percentage of the image’s data information.
Laminate — Thin protective layer of clear film, usually PSA vinyl, applied to printed vinyl graphics for added scratch- and UV-protection. Laminates for wraps are usually applied to graphics with a laminator prior to application. Wraps can also be protected using a liquid laminate.
Laminator — A piece of equipment that employs rollers and pressure to apply a laminate. Liquid coaters are used to apply liquid laminates.
Layout — The total arrangement of a sign’s graphic and copy elements.
Light Magenta/Light Cyan (Lm/Lc) — Muted or diluted forms of two subtractive primaries that, when used with CMYK inks, enable finer highlight detail, expand color gamut and provide a less-noticeable dot structure for continuous tone prints.
Line Screen — Used to define the density of the screen, similar to dots-per-inch. A 200-line screen has a pattern of 200 halftone dots per inch. As with DPI, the higher the number, the greater the detail within the reproduction.
Luminance — Refers to the lightness or brightness of an image.
Masking — The process of covering — usually with tape or paper — areas to protect them from receiving subsequent layers of ink.
Mild-Solvent Inks — Also known as light-solvent or eco-solvent inks. Solvent inks that use reduced concentrations of cyclohexanone as a carrier. Printers using mild-solvent inks emit fewer harmful VOCs than standard solvent inks.
Mirror Printing — Reversing type or an image in a design. This is often used in digital imaging to make transfer prints that are applied backward to a material, or backlit media that is viewed through the front.
Moiré Pattern — An interference pattern created when two grids are unevenly spaced, conflicting or present overlapping angles. Visual artifacting occurs between the dots of the different separations in the halftone images.
Multi-Color Printing — Any printing job involving the application of more than one color of ink.
Negative Space — The area around and within a design. Also known as white space. See positive space.
Nesting — The ability of RIP software to intelligently arrange multiple print jobs efficiently in order to minimize substrate waste during printing.
Node — Connection point of line segments in an on-screen image. Also called a control point in some sign software.
Ogee — In computer graphics, a distortion of an image using an S-shaped curve as one baseline, giving an image a wave look.
On-Demand Color — An expression used when referring to any short-run color printing, whether done by inkjet, electrostatic, thermal transfer or direct-to-press process.
Opacity — Measurement of the resistance to light passing through a substrate or ink, on a scale of 0–100%, indicating the propensity for show-through of underlying type or images. Computed by measuring the density of the substrate over a black background and over a white background.
Optical Resolution — The maximum actual, or “true“, resolution of a device without the use of interpolation.
Overlap — Amount of material in a panel that duplicates the previous panel, allowing for alignment when assembling and installing a large image.
Overprint — The placement of one color over another. In process printing, overprinting can be used to vary tones and shades. With spot color, overprinting is used to create new colors.
Overprint White — Printing application in which white ink is used as a background for reverse-printed transparent stocks, such as back-lit images. White in this application should be somewhat translucent.
Panel — Division of a job based on the production area of a device, such as a plotter or printer. 2. A poster that can be used in both interior and exterior applications.
Pantone Matching System (PMS) — Standardized series of thousands of colors, each with specific color formulations and identification number.
Pass — Usually refers to travel of a substrate through a printer to print a color. Most inkjets and some thermal-transfer machines generally use one pass of paper or vinyl along the X axis, while the printing heads travel along the Y axis.
Photo-Cut — Method of vectorizing an image in a parallel-line pattern to give a rough, but recognizable, rendering of sharp outlines from a high- to medium-contrast photograph.
Piezo Inkjet — A printing process that uses the oscillations of electrically-stimulated piezoelectric crystals to force ink through inkjet nozzles.
Pigment — A compound used to color other materials, such as paints and inks. Pigments are insoluble, finely ground particles and may be organic or inorganic.
Pixel — With digital production, a part of a picture that can be located and placed as an element along the X and Y axes.
Pixelization — Process where the number of pixels are simply multiplied to increase resolution. The result is a higher dpi but the altering of detail from smooth to square-step lines, or jaggies.
PPI (Pixels-Per-Inch) — Describes how many of the pixels in a raster image will occur in one inch. The higher the number of pixels-per-inch, the greater the resolution and the less distinguishable each becomes.
Positive Space — The copy and art on a graphic design. The opposite of negative space.
Polyethylene — A polymerized ethylene resin, used (when coated) as a fully-recyclable, printable film.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) — Thermoplastic polymer of vinyl chloride. Resins of polyvinyl chloride are hard, but with the addition of plasticizers become a flexible, elastic plastic used to make vinyl.
Posterization — Process of changing the number of colors in an image, usually to a lesser total. Can sometimes aid in speeding the RIP process by providing less information for rasterization, but can affect specific color integrity.
Pre-Flight — The process of checking a job for potential problems with fonts and colors before it is sent to the printer.
Pressure-Sensitive — An adhesive that reacts when pressure is applied to the surfaces it is between. Sometimes used to refer to vinyl with a pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA film).
Printhead — The term given to a thermal or electromagnetic device used in inkjet or other digital printing systems. In the case of inkjet printers, the printhead actually delivers the ink to the paper through an electromagnetic or electrically activated heating element that forces the ink onto the paper. Thermal printheads develop heat that results in the transfer of a wax-like film or other non-liquid printing medium to the paper.
Process Color — The three primary colors of printing — cyan (blue); magenta (red); and yellow; plus black keytone. When printed as halftones in that order, they create a full range of natural colors. Their printing is also known as four-color process or CMYK.
Profiles — In digital printing, data files that describe various characteristics of ink, media, printer and computer monitor, which when used in combination, yield predictable color results.
PSA Film — Vinyl film with a pressure-sensitive adhesive backing, also called self-adhesive vinyl.
Queue — Electronic holding area, usually in random-access memory (RAM) or on a hard drive, where data waits before being sent to a printer for output. Synonymous with spooler.
RAM (Random Access Memory) — The high-speed portion of a computer’s data storage that is held on special chips for use in current applications or procedures.
Raster Image –- An image created by a collection of pixels arranged in a rectangular way.
Rasterization –- The process of translating data into a bitmap pattern for output by a digital printing device.
Resolution — In digital imaging and printing, the number of pixels (or dots) of information per horizontal inch of actual image; the higher the number, as measured pixels horizontally and vertically, the more-precise the pictured image. In plotting, the degree of accuracy that a plotter will place a knife-head in relation to a theoretical, perfect location of a coordinate.
RGB (Red, Green, Blue) — The three additive colors used by monitors and scanners for transferring and representing color data. Rule of thumb in imaging is that input and display will be in RGB, output done in CMYK.
RIP (Raster Image Processor) — Software and/or hardware used to convert data to bitmap information for processing on a PostScript printer or other digital device. This computer-calculation-intensive process determines 360,000 combinations and color placements to print every square inch of a 300 dpi image using CMYK process colors. Each process color is a color separation. This action is referred to as RIPing or rasterization.
Saturation — The intensity of a specific hue, based on the color’s purity, measured from 0-100% in the HSV color model. Highly saturated hues have vivid color, while less saturated hues appear grayish.
Scanner — Optical device that senses different levels of reflections of light and transfers that information into numeric formulas that can be read by a computer and replicated on a screen or printed.
Seam — A line formed by the joining together of two separate materials by their edges, as with flexible face material or plastic sheets.
Shadow — Duplication of an image that’s slightly offset. Drop shadow is a simple copy and offset; block shadow joins the outlines of the original and duplicate to create a 3D-relief effect; and cast alters the shape and size of the duplicate to imitate shadows cast from varied placement of light.
Shadow Point — The darkest tone in an image that is printable. Tones darker than the shadow point print as black. The opposite of white point.
Single-Pass — Inkjet printing process that uses arrays of stationary printhead clusters (also called “color bars“) instead of a shuttling printhead. Substrate passes beneath printhead arrays in a single pass. Not yet commonly applied to wide format printing.
Solvent Inks — Inks that use solvent as a carrier. Commonly used for printing onto vinyl, and offering good outdoor durability. Printers using solvent-based inks emit VOCs and should be ventilated.
Spectrophotometer — A color measurement device using the distinct wavelength (spectral) values of light to indicate a spectral reflectance, emittance or transmittance curve along the visible spectrum (380–720 nm). A more sophisticated device than a Colorimeter.
Spot Colors — Color used for a specific need within a print. It may be a separate, special tone to match a corporate color, or it may result from the overlapping of colors within a halftone.
Spot White — An application in which white ink is used as an independent color (usually for printing text on a non-white surface).
Squeegee — A hard plastic or nylon hand-held blade used to apply pressure to increase surface adhesion between PSA vinyl and the surface to which it is being applied. Commonly used tool to apply vinyl to vehicle wraps.
Subtractive Colors — The color system used in printing in which Cyan, Magenta and Yellow (CMY) colors are used to create all other colors in color printing. When CMY are combined at 100 percent on a white surface, black is produced. Most printing systems also use black (K) pigment rather than always combining CMY.
Tack — The stickiness of an adhesive under a given condition. Some adhesives require a particular temperature range for maximum tack.
Tiling — The process of dividing sections of an image that exceed the production area (maximum print width) into panels, which can then be individually printed. See Panel.
Tone — The effect on a color brought about by blending it with another color.
Ultraviolet — Electromagnetic radiation (light) existing in the bandwidth between 100 and 400 nm. UV-curable inks react to the ultraviolet light source in an arc lamp and are transformed into a solid polymer.
UV-Cure Printing — Inkjet printing process in which a lamp emitting ultra violet (UV) rays is used to transform monomer-based liquid inks (deposited onto a substrate) into polymer-based solid inks.
UV-Curable Inks — Monomer-based liquid inkjet inks which, when exposed to a strong source of ultraviolet radiation, are transformed into polymer-based solids.
Vector — 1. In computerized sign making, a line segment between two coordinates, on which a knife or tool path can be created for plotting or routing; 2. A line that has a specific direction and length that’s proportional to some representative unit value.
Vector Image — A computer image that defines graphic pixels through the use of mathematical descriptions of paths and files.
Vectorization — Function of tracing around a bitmap image to create an outline comprised of line segments, or vectors. Also called autotracing.
Vehicle Template — A proportional vector outline of a vehicle, usually fund in certain software programs, used to aide in the design and creation of vehicle graphics. Software programs contain templates for a number of specific vehicles.
Vinyl — Polyvinylchloride (PVC) film that, in sign making, is backed with an adhesive that will create a strong bond to a surface when pressure is applied.
Viscosity — The degree of fluidity of a liquid based on the resistance of adjacent levels of the fluid to flow under pressure and/or shearing forces. Regarding inks, a high viscosity indicates a thicker ink; a low viscosity indicates a more fluid ink.
VOC — Volatile Organic Compounds are petroleum-based chemical compounds with high vapor pressure and low water solubility (evaporate easily) commonly found in industrial solvents, including those used as carriers in solvent-based inks. Harmful VOCs can be considered toxic, and airborne harmful VOCs are federally regulated in some industries.
Weed — Process of peeling extraneous vinyl (or matrix) away from a plotter cut, leaving only the sections representing the final image. Pulling the extra vinyl away in one quick stroke is known as rip weeding.
White point — The lightest tone in an image that is printable. Tones lighter than the white point print as white. The opposite of shadow point.
Window Perf — A perforated printable vinyl film, also called “one-way“ film, often applied to vehicle and storefront windows where visibility needs to be maintained from within the vehicle. The number and size of the perforations determine the level of visibility allowed by the film. For example a 30/70 window perf, with a ratio of 30 percent holes to 70 percent printable surface, offers less visibility than a 50/50 film with 50 percent holes to 50 percent printable surface.
X-Axis — Theoretical horizontal line providing a lengthwise reference point for plotters and routers.
Y-Axis — Theoretical vertical line providing a longitudinal reference point for plotters and routers.
Z-Axis — Theoretical line providing a depth reference point for routers.
Zip — To reduce file size by using compression algorithm programs such as PKZIP or WinZIP; a file made with zip software.
Zoom — Making an image or image part become larger (zooming in) or smaller (zooming out) as it appears on the monitor. A lens that changes magnification.