Understanding Printing Specifications

When giving specifications for a job or quote, please make them as complete as possible. Incomplete specs cause confusion and delays. This sheet cannot cover all contingencies. If you have questions concerning your job specs, please contact your salesperson or customer service representative.

pages vs Sheets:

A page is one side of a sheet.

Each “sheet” = two pages.

All blanks count as a page also.

Stitched books

Must have a page count that is divisible by four.

Booklets can be either self-cover or plus cover:

Self-cover: The cover is the same stock as the inside pages.

Plus cover: The cover is a different stock than the inside pages.

Bound Loose sheets:

Loose sheets can be collated, drilled, wire bound, perfect bound, or side-stitched. However, they can not be saddle-stitched, as this process involves folding the sheets and stitching.

Paper Stock:

Be thorough when listing stock:

Weight: 60#, 70#, 80#, 8pt, 10pt, etc.

Brand: Only if a specific brand is needed. Other­wise we will use our most economical stock.

Type:  text, cover, uncoated, gloss, matte, etc.

Special finish/detail if applicable: vellum, FSC, smooth, linen, C1S, C2S, opaque, recycled, etc.

Color: If not specified, we will assume White.

Ink Color/Varnish: When specifying PMS numbers, also list the color (ex. 185 Red). This is a good double-check in case the number gets trans­posed. Remember, to count black as an ink color!

Full varnish or UV: This means an overall varnish/UV. Jobs with solid ink coverage may need a full varnish to prevent finger printing and offsetting.

Spot varnish or UV: This can be used as a creative technique to make certain areas shinier or duller than others. ex. Only the photos are UV coated.

% Coverage: It is important to specify the percentage of ink coverage on all new jobs so the job planner can select the correct press for the job. If you have a sample of the job, it is not necessary to fill this in. If not, please indicate the amount of coverage, what areas are solid, etc.

Solid Black: A large black solid will look deeper in color when a rich color combination is used. CG suggests the color combination of 40% Cyan, 30% Magenta, 0% Yellow and 100% Black (Rich Black). It is not recommended to use a Rich Black for small text, as it will be harder to register. Instead, use 100% black.

The following information is helpful for an accurate quote. It is used to determine prep work, press sheet size, and most important, what press your job should run on.

Bleeds: Ink is running off the trimmed edge of the paper. State if it bleeds off 1, 2, 3 or 4 sides and how much ink bleeds (i.e. only a pinline, a large block, a full bleed, etc.).

Solids: Any area 2 x 2 or larger should be noted. It is best to specify the size of the solid(s) if possible.

Reverses: Any time type or line art is reversed white (or a color) out of a solid area.


  1. Job name and description. This is for easy reference. Always make sure the contact person’s name, email, phone, etc., is provided.

  2. Delivery date requested. The date you need it is key. You need to be sure a printer can deliver when you need it.

  3. Quantity. How many do you need? If this job is tied to a mailing list, be careful about the final quantity. You don’t want to run short. Extras (“overs”) are standard on any print job, BTW.

  4. Flat size. What size is the piece before it’s finished or folded? Dimensions are given by width and then by height (think 8 1/2 x 11).

  5. Finished size. These note the dimensions once a job is folded or bound.

  6. Page count. This applies to magazines, bound newsletters, books, booklets, and some brochures.

  7. Paper stock. This is a big one, as paper is the major cost of almost every print job. If you have a specific stock in mind, give the printer all of the details. If not, describe the paper in general and ask for help.

  8. Inks. Is this a 1-color, 2-color, or 4-color job, for example? Tell your printer everything. If it’s a 4-color job, are you requesting CMYK (the 4 process colors) or specific PMS colors? If your finished job will be run through laser printers, make sure you note this on the spec form. The inks must be compatible.

  9. Binding. This describes any finishing steps done to a job once it’s printed, including folding, perfect binding, spiral binding, saddlewiring, perforating, scoring, embossing, and so on.

  10. Job format. How will the printer get your job file – electronically? If so, what platform are you using (Mac or PC)? How about the design programs you’re using to build the job, including the specific versions

  11. Special concerns. Tell the printer anything about the job that you haven’t already. Does it need certain varnishes? Is it a VDP job? Are there going to be a significant amount of solids on it? Will this piece need to match other projects that are already printed (or are printing elsewhere)?

  12. Shipping. Where will the finished job be shipped? Supply all details, including any special shipping or packing instructions.

CGC Finishing Terminology

Score: To impress or indent a mark with a rule in the paper to make folding easier. This is often necessary on covers stocks for a nice-looking fold.

Perforate: The process of cutting a series of tiny slits in a sheet of paper to facilitate tearing. Often used for return cards and coupons. 

Die-Cutting: The process of using sharp steel “rules” to cut special shapes out of the press sheet. Please provide a diagram or mockup.

Pad: Application of a glue material along one edge of a stack of sheets for temporary binding. Notepads are padded and usually have chipboard backers. We need to know how many sheets you want in each pad (standard is 50 sheets/pad) and which side you want the glue on (top, bottom, left side, right side).

Tab: A special adhesive is applied to carbonless sheets. The sheets are specially treated to automatically split into "sets" (i.e. 3-part, 4-part).

Numbering: We can crash number six digits maximum. We must have at least 5/8” from the top of the number to the top of the sheet.

 “No.” is part of our numbering head and will print before the number (it cannot be deleted), so be sure that your form does not have “No.” printed on it already. Enclose a sample of the job showing where it numbers and specify the starting number. We can number in red ink or black ink.

Fold: For a booklet, indicate the finished folded size. For a single sheet fold, indicate number of folds, number of panels, and finished folded size.

If a trifold, indicate letterfold or accordion fold.

      Letterfold 8 ½ x 11 = 8 1/2 x 3 11/16.

To avoid buckling, inside panels must be slightly smaller – speak to your salesperson before designing a multi-panel fold.

Saddlestitch: Book is held together with two stitches on the folded spine. Number of pages must be divisible by 4.

Stapled sets: For a set of individual sheets that get collated and stapled, indicate the number of sheets and the location of the staple. ex. Collate 8 sheets and staple in ULHC (upper left-hand corner) 

Perfectbinding: Folded signatures of pages are glued to the inside spine of a paper cover. ex. A phone book or paperback book

Wire-O binding: A type of mechanical binding where slotted holes are punched into the pages on the binding edge and wire is inserted through the holes. Indicate color of wire.

Shrink-wrap: Sealing of film around a package or number of sheets. A heating unit causes the film to shrink and seal the package tightly. Indicate number of sheets or books per pack.

Overs/Unders: 5% overs or unders is standard for the printing industry. We will assume this is acceptable to you unless you indicate otherwise.

Delivery or shipment: Complete information is a necessity. Please indicate the street address (the P.O. Box is insufficient), contact name and phone number. If the job requires a split shipment, indicate the quantity to be shipped to each address. Freight will not be quoted unless specifically requested. We need the zip code to quote freight.


Each printed piece is unique and created for a particular purpose. The purpose of the piece determines its characteristics. These characteristics are called Printing Specifications or Specs. Outlined below is an explanation of what CGC need to know in order to quote your project accurately. 

Quantity – How many books/brochures/magazines do you need? If you haven’t pinned the exact quantity down yet it is not uncommon for CGC to quote various quantities for comparison purposes. For example, quote quantities of 250, 500 and 750. 

Size – What is the finished size of the book? To help avoid miscommunication, it is preferred that you give the width dimension first and then the height dimension. For example, 8.5”x 11” or 5.5” x 8.5”. If quoting a bound book, provide the final trimmed size. If you are quoting a single folded sheet, provide the open size. Example: 17”x 11."

Page Count – This sounds simple but is often interpreted.  For example, if you open up a book and take hold of a single page. Let’s say you grab page 11…but, on the reverse side is page 12. So are you holding one page or two? At CGC we consider that two pages. Also, it is probably safest not to include the cover in the book’s page count unless the cover’s Specs are identical to the interior pages (called a Self Cover book). It is generally better to list the Specs for the book’s cover separately to avoid confusion. Don't forget to include all blank pages. If printing a bound book, make sure you page count is divisible by 4. 

Bindery & Finishing – This refers to how you want the pages or sheets assembled. To learn more about our Bindery and Finishing Solutions, visit our capabilities page. 

Paper Thickness and Type – If your project is going to be mailed, thinner paper can generally save on mailing costs. But thicker paper helps create an aura of quality. Also, you don’t want any page content showing through from one side to the other so dark or heavy ink coverage might require thicker paper. Thicker paper also adds some durability so it is common to make the cover thicker than the interior pages. CGC's standard selections are: Matte, Gloss and Uncoated. But, many more selections are avaiable. If you are looking

Ink – Is the piece to be produced using 4-color process (full color), one or two spot ink colors, only black ink or a combination? Is the cover printed in color but the interior pages are not? Do you want to use a specific PMS Spot color (aka match ink)? Also, depending on the project, your printer may ask if the cover or any of the interior pages Bleed, which means the ink extends all the way to the edge of the paper. 

Coating – Clear coatings are often applied over the ink on printed pieces to protect them from scuffs and abrasions. Coatings are recommended for books that will be handled frequently. In addition to protection, gloss coatings enhance the appearance of the ink by giving it more sheen, which in turn helps make colors appear more vivid. For these reasons, the cover of a book or catalog is often coated with a clear UV or Aqueous coating. If the interior pages contain color photographs such as in a product catalog, they might receive coating as well. Otherwise, interior pages are generally not coated.

Finishing and Delivery – Are there any special operations you want the printer to perform, such as 3-hole drilling, shrinkwrapping or other packaging requirements? Also, the printer will need to know the requested date of delivery and also where the order is to be delivered.