Glossary Of Printer Terms
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A Glossary of Printer Terms and Definitions – Setting the Toner

Have you ever stood and watched a printer print a page and wondered what was going on inside the printer? All those whirrings and clicks. All those parts moving around. There seems to be so much going on in there, doesn’t there? Well, there is. If you’ve read “How Printers Work”, you’ll have a good understanding of it all. But perhaps you need some clarification on some of the terms used. So we present here a glossary of printer terms and definitions. This will make the image clear.

  • Attribute
    The attribute of a color is one of the many ways of describing the color, in this case by their hue, saturation and brightness.
  • Background Printing
    Background printing is one example of a background process where the printing takes place while the computer is processing other tasks.
  • Banding
    Banding is the result of substandard printing that affects the graduation of colors, resulting in distinct bands of colors on the page. This is usually caused by improper alignment, or clogged nozzles in the print head.
  • Best Quality
    Best quality refers to documents printed at high resolution that results in smooth graphics and clear text.
  • Bidirectional Printing
    Bidirectional printing is a technique whereby ink is applied to the printing surface as the print head is moving in both directions, thus speeding the printing process.
  • Bitmap (BMP)
    BMP is the file format that ascribes a value to every pixel on the screen. Bitmaps are very large files. Some audio formats also use bitmapping.
  • Black
    True black is not possible using only cyan, magenta and yellow and so the "four color process is used in today's printer with the fourth color being black. This is also termed CMYK with K representing Black.
  • Bleeding
    Bleeding is a printing defect where colors bleed through the paper into one another, usually caused by either too muck ink or highly absorbent paper.
  • BubbleJet
    BubbleJet is Canon’s trade name for the inkjet technology of heating a water-based ink, causing a bubble of ink to expand and thus be expelled out of the print head nozzle. The resultant vacuum then draws a bubble of ink into the printer head in readiness.
  • Buffer
    The buffer, also called the printer memory, is where the data sent from the computer is stored prior to and during the printing process.
  • Cartridge
    The printer cartridge is the physical case which holds the ink in the printer. Some printer cartridges also include an attached printhead.
  • Character Per Inch (CPI)
    CPI refers to the number of characters that will print within one horizontal inch.
  • Character Per Line (CPL)
    CPL refers to the number of characters that will fit on a single horizontal line.
  • Characters
    Characters are letters or symbols used in communication.
  • Characters Per Second (CPS)
    CPS refers to the printing speed of a printer, specifically, the number of characters the printer can print per second.
  • CMY
    CMY is the acronym for the three subtractive colour primaries used in the three-color printing process – Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), and Yellow.
  • CMYK
    CMYK is the four-color printing process – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black – used in conventional color printing and color inkjet printing. By overlaying these four colors a vast range of colors can be produced.
  • Composite Black
    Composite black is an almost black, created by mixing cyan, magenta and yellow inks. However, this produces a muddy black and so the CMYK model, which adds pure black as a fourth ink, is used in high quality printing.
  • Condensed Printing
    Condensed printing is the printing process where the characters are printed narrower than normal, thus allowing wide tables or spreadsheets to fit onto the paper.
  • Core
    A core is an empty cartridge shell, either inkjet or laser.
  • Cyan
    Cyan is the technical term for the color Blue.
  • Data
    Data, in printing terms, is the electronic representation of the printed page, which is then turned into a physical printed page.
  • Default
    Default refers to a setting that suits most printing applications and so will be used by the printer/software unless told otherwise.
  • Dot Matrix Printers
    Dot matrix printers use a set of pins that are fired against an inked ribbon, resulting in characters forming on the underlying paper.
  • Dots per inch (DPI)
    DPI is a value for the measurement of the resolution of a printed or scanned image or text. A higher DPI will generally mean higher resolution and therefore higher quality.
  • Dye
    Dyes are soluble colorants, usually chemical, used in printer inks. They dissolve in solvents such as water or alcohol.
  • Filtering
    Filtering is the process of removing unwanted particles from the ink which would otherwise clog the print head and render the printer damaged.
  • Four-Color Process
    Four-color process refers to the CMYK process of printing that results in an acceptable color spectrum.
  • Graphics Interchange Format (GIF)
    GIF refers to an image file format developed by CompuServe for the exchange of images across platforms. It’s common on the Internet and is also used by software applications.
  • Half-toning
    Half-toning, also called dithering, is the printing process that blends the inks or toner of eight primary colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, black, red, green, blue, and "no color") to produce the 16.7 million shades of a color gamut.
  • Hexachrome
    Hexachrome is an expansion of the normal four colour process, CMYK, that also includes orange and green, thus significantly increasing the number of color combinations available.
  • Impact Printer
    An impact printer is a type of printer that forms the characters by the impact of either pins or preformed characters onto the ink ribbon and presses it against the paper (e.g. Dot Matrix).
  • Inkjet Printers
    Inkjet printers spray ink onto paper in a series of dots to form characters. The basic principal is that of heating the ink to form a bubble and then forcing it through the jet, whereupon the bubble cools and bursts onto the paper.
  • Jet
    Jet is another term for the nozzle in the printhead portion of the printer or cartridge.
  • Laser
    A laser is a device that produces a beam of coherent single-wavelength light waves.
  • Laser Printing
    Laser printing is a process that produces very high quality text and graphics, both monochrome and color, at fast speeds. A laser is used to scan an image onto a metal drum, thus charging the drum electrostatically. Powdered ink is then attracted to the charge and transferred to paper using heat and pressure. This process is used in laser printers, photocopiers and fax machines.
  • Line Printer
    A line printer prints the entire line of characters as one unit.
  • Lines Per Inch - (LPI)
    LPI refers to the number of lines printed per vertical inch, usually 6 or 8.
  • LPT
    LPT is a parallel port on a PC computer, usually used for printers.
  • Magenta
    Magenta is the technical term for the color Red.
  • Multi Purpose Tray (MP Tray)
    An MP tray holds or supports several types of print media in various sizes, thus increasing the versatility of the printer.
  • Nozzle
    Nozzles are the tiny tubes through which the heated bubbles of ink are sprayed onto the page, thus producing the printed image.
  • Optical Density
    Optical density is a measure of the overall blackness of a printed image, also called jetness.
  • Piezo Inkjet
    A piezo inkjet uses a process whereby small electrical pulses from piezoelectric crystals are used to force the ink through the nozzles.
  • Pigment
    Pigment is a solid colorant used in inks. Being insoluble, pigments produce better quality images in most situations and also provide better protection against fading.
  • Pigment Inks
    Pigment inks use pigments as the colorant rather than dyes, thus producing prints that are blacker and richer in color and also have better color retention.
  • Print Alignment
    Print alignment refers to small adjustments made to the orientation of the printerhead, in relation to the paper, to ensure clean printing with straight lines.
  • Printhead
    The printhead is the part of the printer or printer cartridge that contains the necessary electrical and/or electronic circuitry and nozzles needed to spray the ink onto the paper during the printing process.
  • Rendering
    Rendering is the process of converting electronic information into visible images on paper.
  • Reservoir
    The reservoir is the receptacle that contains the ink in an inkjet system.
  • Resolution
    In technical terms, the resolution is the number of individual DPI stored and used to re-create the image. In layman's terms, it’s the sharpness or fineness of the image.
  • Saturation
    Saturation is the degree by which a color is pure and undiluted by white light. High saturation produces bright vibrant colors moving through pastels as saturation decreases to black or shades of gray. The extremes are 100% saturation, which contains no white and 0% saturation which contains no color.
  • Solvent
    The solvent is the ingredient in ink that dissolves a dye. In inkjet cartridges, the solvent is water.
  • Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)
    TIFF refers to the standard file format for high-resolution bitmapped graphics with cross-platform compatibility.
  • Toner
    Toner is a dry powdery ink used in the laser printing process and found in laser printers, photocopiers and fax machines. Toner is composed of plastic, carbon and iron oxide for color, which are mixed together, solidified and then ground into a fine powder.
  • True Black
    True black is produced by black ink as opposed to composite black, produced from a mixture of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, which lacks a true black color.
  • WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
    WYSIWIG refers to the ability of applications and viewing devices to duplicate the ultimate physical output of the printing device.

It’s appropriate that this glossary of printer terms and definitions ends with WYSIWIG, because that is the ultimate purpose of printers – and photocopiers and fax machines, too. “What You See Is What You Get” is the perfect definition – and the mission – of the reproduction industry. And now that you understand all the terms, the image will be clear!

About The Author

Gareth Marples is a successful freelance writer providing valuable tips and advice for consumers purchasing printer ink cartridges & supplies, all sorts of office & art supplies and anyone looking for work at home opportunities. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

This "Glossary of Printer Terms & Definitions" reprinted with permission.

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