3D print terminologies



Common Print and Ink Terminology

The following glossary will help you to understand important concepts that govern the



The dispersal and decreased transmission of visible light in its interaction with matter, resulting in the change of its colour.



The nature of objects as visual attributes, such as size, shape, colour, texture, glossiness, transparency and opacity.



Colours are often described by their attributes of hue, saturation or chroma, and lightness.



Distinct pattern alterations, rather than a smooth transition of colours or other effects in a gradient. Occurs in continuous tone images when displayed using less than 24 bits of digital information or if printing gradients without sufficient colour information.



The absence of reflected light; the colour that is produced when an object absorbs all wavelengths from the light source. When 100% of cyan, magenta and yellow are combined, the resultant colour should be black, but in reality produces a muddy grey or brown. Therefore in four-colour process printing, black is one of the process inks. The letter "K" is used to represent black in the CMYK acronym to differentiate it from "B" for blue in RGB.



The measurement of the reflective quality of a medium. Different brightness levels can cause changes in the appearance of colour on the medium requiring adjustments in calibration to achieve optimum result.



Checking, adjusting and systematically standardizing the graduations of a device.



In visual perception, when an area appears saturated with a particular colour or hue. For example, a red apple is high in chroma; pastel colours are low. Black, white and grey have no chroma. Part of the colour model, L*C*H or lightness, chroma, hue. Also referred to as saturation.



Commission International de l'Eclairage or the International Commission on Illumination, which is the main world institution concerned with colour and colour measurement.



The subtractive primaries cyan, magenta and yellow.

Colour Calibration

Coordination of the colour matching between two or more digital devices by means by hardware or software.


Colour Curve

Visual mechanism in photo and graphics software to display colour measurements and make tonal changes in an image.


Colour Separation

Photographic or electronic process for creating patterns of plates for each component of a colour space. In printing, for example, separating the cyan, magenta, yellow and black components of a page image.


Colour Wheel

An arrangement of the visible spectrum's continuum of colours in a circle fashion that has complementary colours, such as red and green, located opposite from each other.



Materials used to create colours, such as dyes, pigments, toners and phosphors.


Device that measures colour values in relation to a specific set of standards, such as CIE. Enables measurement of differences in colours more precisely than the human eye.


The "red less" process colour. It absorbs all red wavelengths and reflects all blue and green wavelengths of light.



Unit of measurement of the perceivable difference in a colour by the human eye.


Device used to measure the density of light by means of its absorption by a substrate or surface of paper or film. This is achieved either by reflection or transmission.


The ability of a material to absorb light. The darker the material, the higher the density.

Digital Printer

Printing device that translates digital data into hard copy output.


A process that simulates shades of grey or colour variations by differing sizes and shapes of pixel groups instead of an ordered array of halftone dots. This reduces the contrast between dots of different colours or shades and yields a more flowing, natural impression.

Dot Gain

The effect that is described when individual dots in a halftone screen or other such patterns print out larger than their intended size, resulting in a darkening of the image.

Dot matrix

a rectangular matrix of dots from which written characters can be formed

Dots per Inch (DPI)

Measurement that describes the resolution of image files by measuring the number of separate pixels represented either horizontally or vertically in one square inch.


Coloured chemical that dissolves completely in water or other solvent; as opposed to pigments, which are insoluble.

Dye Sublimation

Colour printing technology that produces images by means of gaseous dyes through a thermal printing driver.

Enhanced Gamut Colour

When precisely diluted process colours, usually cyan and magenta, are used with CMYK to create more vibrant colours and a continuous-tone effect.

Expanded Gamut Colour

When additional colours, usually green and orange, are printed with CMYK to match a greater number of colours than produced by CMYK alone.


Fluorescent Lamp

A glass tube filled with mercury gas and whose inside surface is coated with phosphors. Once the gas is charged with electrical current, radiation is produced which then energizes the phosphors and causes them to glow.


Four-Colour Process

Printing or other imaging with combinations of the subtractive primaries of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. These are deposited as dots of different sizes, shapes and angles to create the illusion of different colours.


The range of colours that can be interpreted by a colour model or generated by a specific device.


Gamut Compression

Also known as tonal-range compression. The coordinates of a colour space with a larger gamut are reduced to comply with the smaller gamut of a destination colour space. For example, the gamut of photographic film is compressed for representation in the smaller CMYK gamut in four-colour process printing.


The transition between two colours or between black and no colour which is created by mixing percentages of the dominant and secondary colour and then alternating them to produce the desired effect.



grams per square metre: the term used to specify the weight of paper.


The process of reproducing an image as a series of variable-sized dots within a fixed grid.



Colour-matching system from Pantone, Inc. that is used with hi-fi colour systems and devices.

Hi-Fi Colour

Printing process that extends the tonal capabilities of most printing presses by employing stochastic screening, six-colour printing and other techniques to expand the possible colour gamut beyond the traditional abilities of four-colour processes.


The basic colour of an object as defined by its angular position in a cylindrical colour space, or on a Colour Wheel.


Printing process where liquid ink is propelled at a substrate, such as paper or film, to form characters and graphics. There are three kinds of inkjet printing: thermal, piezoelectric and phase change.


Saturation, or reflective light, in relation to visible wavelengths of light. The reflectance of wavelengths at high intensity generates high saturation or chroma.


Electromagnetic radiation in the spectral range that is detectable by the human eye (approximately 380 to 720 nm).

laser printer

A high-speed printer that uses a laser to form dot-matrix patterns and an electrostatic process to fuse metallic particles to paper a page at a time: capable of producing a variety of character fonts, graphics, and other symbols.


Light Magenta/Light Cyan (LM-LC)

Muted or diluted forms of the two primary colours. When added to CMYK these shades produce more variety in dot colour and natural continuous tone printing.


The attribute that makes an area emit or reflect more or less light. Also refers to the perception by which white objects are distinguished from grey, and light from dark objects.


Describes the brightness of an image.


The "green less" process colour. It absorbs all wavelengths of green from light, while reflecting all red and blue wavelengths.


Nanometer (Nm)

The measurement of wavelengths. Unit of length equal to 109 meters, or one millionth of a millimetre.


Describes the resistance of light passing through a substrate.

Pantone Matching System (PMS)

Unique numbering system for identifying colours created by combinations of standard SWOP inks.


A value that expresses the degree of acidity or basicity of a solution.


Phase Change Inkjet

Inkjet printing process employing the melting of solid ink plugs and then spraying the droplets on media.

Piezo Inkjet

Inkjet printing process that uses electric pulses from piezoelectric crystals to stimulate and force ink through inkjet nozzles onto substrates.



Colorant that cannot be dissolved in a liquid. In inks, produces sharper, darker images on a wider range of plain papers.


A tiny picture element that contains red, green and blue information for colour rendering on a monitor or scanner. Pixels on a screen are similar to dots of ink on paper. Monitor resolution is described in terms of pixels-per-inch (ppi), while printer resolution is measured in dots-per-inch (dpi).

Pixels per Inch (PPI)

The number of pixels in a raster image that occur in one line along one inch. The greater the pixels, the higher the resolution.

Primary Colour

Colours that are the bases for other colours. In light, the primary colours are red, green and blue (RGB). In colour photographic printing, they are cyan, magenta and yellow (CMY). Black or key (K) is added as a fourth ink to CMY printing to produce denser, truer blacks and clearer, sharper images.


Print On Demand

Term for a variety of short-run publishing processes that include copier technologies and direct-to-press applications.



Triangular-shaped glass or other transparent material through which, when light is passed, its wavelengths refract into a rainbow of colours. A demonstration that light is composed of colours and indication of the arrangement of colours in the visible spectrum.

Process Colour

Cyan, magenta, yellow and black combined to create a new colour.

Raster Image Processor (RIP)

Software and/or hardware used to convert digital printing to information needed by a printer or other device to produce finished output. This action is commonly called "ripping" (a file).



The ability of a surface to bounce back some or all of the wavelengths of light that strikes it.



The number of dots or samples-per-inch that a device is capable of recognizing or producing.


The additive primary colours: red, green and blue.


Colour attribute that expresses the degree of departure from the neutral grey of the same lightness. Also known as chroma.


The order in which inks are deposited by a printing device. In CMYK inkjet's the sequence is yellow, magenta, cyan and black.

Spectral Curve

A visual representation of a colour's spectral data as the colour's "fingerprint". A spectral curve is plotted on a grid comprised of a vertical axis of the level of reflectance intensity, and a horizontal axis describing the visible spectrum of wavelengths. The percentage of reflected light at each interval is plotted as points on a curve.

Spectral Data

The most precise description of the colour of an object. Since an object's colour appearance results from light being changed by it and reflected to the viewer, spectral data describes how that reflected light was changed. The percentage of reflected light is measured at several intervals across its spectrum of wavelengths, which is then visually represented as a spectral curve.


An instrument that measures the characteristics of light that is either reflected from or transmitted through an object.


The spatial arrangement of electromagnetic energy in accordance to size of wavelength.



The space where printing data is held in a computer's memory or hard drive while queuing to a printing device.


Specifications for Web Offset Printing (SWOP)

Formulations for inks used in web offset presses.



An established and approved reference against which instrument measurements are evaluated.

Subtractive primaries

Cyan, magenta and yellow. The theoretical combination of the three at 100% strength should produce black on white paper. Their combination at varying intensities produces a gamut of colours. Combining two primaries at 100% creates either the red, green or blue additive primary. Cyan+magenta=blue. Cyan+yellow=green. Magenta+yellow=red.


Surface Tension

The forces of cohesion at the surface of a liquid which encourage the tendency of a liquid to reduce its exposed surface to the minimum area. Molecules within a liquid are attracted equally from all sides, but those near the surface experience unequal attractions and are thus drawn towards the centre of the liquid mass by this net force.

Thermal Drop-on-Demand

Inkjet printing process where inks are heated in a chamber above the print head to a temperature greater than their boiling point. The heat alters and expands the characteristics of the ink, which is then expelled through the head onto the substrate.


The acceptable difference between the known correct standard and a set of measured samples. See Delta Error.


The internal resistance to flow exhibited by a fluid.


Visible Spectrum

The region in the electromagnetic spectrum between 380 and 720 nanometers. Wavelengths within this span produce colour as viewed by the human eye. Shorter wavelengths create violets, purples and blues, while longer wavelengths result in oranges and reds.


Measurement of light as a component of electromagnetic waves. The wavelength is the peak-to-peak distance between two adjacent waves.



Pure yellow is the "blue less" colour. It absorbs all wavelengths of blue from light, and reflects all red and green wavelengths.