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A Beginner's Guide to Print and Mail Acronyms - Part 1

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Most industries like to use acronyms in their day-to-day business.  Acronyms are helpful abbreviations of sometimes long words or strings of words that include the first letter of each word.  We all use acronyms every day, even if we do not know it is one.  For example, Merriam-Webster Dictionary includes the term OK as technically an acronym.  It comes from the phrase “oll Korrect,” a humorous alternative to “all correct.”

If you have ever worked with a commercial printing company then you probably have noticed that they sometimes speak a whole different language. To help, we are starting a new blog series that will hopefully help both novice and experienced print and mail buyers understand our language. Let’s start with some of the most common acronyms used in print. Future blogs will focus on acronyms used specifically in wide format signage, screen printing (t-shirt or apparel printing), embroidery, commercial book printing, direct mail, mail advertising and variable data printing.


CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. This refers to the 4 process colors used in 4 color printing. C is Cyan which is the color blue. M is magenta which is the color red. Y is yellow, and K is for black.


PMS stands for Pantone Matching System. This is the standard ink color system used by commercial printing companies. There are literally thousands of PMS colors. There is a swatch book that includes all of the PMS colors. You could buy your own or ask your favorite printer if you could review theirs.


RGB stands for red, green, and blue. These are the 3 primary colors used in display devices like computer monitors, digital cameras, smartphones, and scanners. Many print designers use the term RGB for what they create and see on their screens. Keep in mind: the color someone sees on a screen and how something will look on the press may be different.


PDF is an acronym for portable document format. I think most people are familiar with PDFs. These are typically the most common and most used, saved, and sent files at Hatteras, Inc. Adobe PDF is believed to be the most universally used electronic format. It can be updated and edited, and printed from nearly all computers to almost all printers, regardless of the fonts or software programs used to create the original.


FPO means for position only. In proofing or digital imaging, “FPO” indicates that a low- resolution (low quality, think maybe a fuzzy looking) image has been positioned in a document and will later be replaced with a higher quality (not fuzzy) higher-resolution version of the same image. You will likely hear this term while at the proofing stage of your printing project.

Acronyms can be a little confusing. Next month we will compile and discuss more common print acronyms for you. Keep in mind that you should feel comfortable talking to your print representative or CSR and asking as many questions as you have. At Hatteras Printing, we welcome all your questions, and we want your print project to be a success.

Is there a term or acronym you are unfamiliar with or may feel too uncomfortable asking for the meaning of? Email me at bzbozen@4hatteras.com or call me anytime at 313-624-3300. For more information about myself or Hatteras Printing, please visit our website: www.4hatteras.com.

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