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Get your mind out of the gutter

While working on my interview with Molly Leach about her jacket and interior design for the 50th anniversary edition of A Wrinkle in Time, I was reminded of all the terms that have alternate meanings outside the world of print design and production. Here’s a vocabulary quiz, but see how many you can answer without using a search engine. Most people in the book world should know at least a couple of these.

Give us your answers in the comments.

  1. Hickey
  2. Bleed
  3. PMS
  4. Dummy
  5. Creep
  6. Stripper
  7. Hot spot
  8. Gutter
  9. Kiss die cut
  10. Butt fit
Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Cathie Sue Andersen says:

    Hmm…dummy is the mock up of the book,. bleed indicates how far the illustraon goes to the edge of the page? that’s all i got.

  2. And here I was expecting another post by Roger about his er…appreciation for V. C. Andrews!

    As for your quiz…whew I do know two, but am clueless about the others (and won’t cheat with google:). So gutter I believe is the blank space, margins, or whatever else you call it left for the binding on the inside part of the pages. And dummy — a mock-up for the book. (I used to have my students make them prior to making finished books.)

  3. Patricia Intriago says:

    And we mustn’t forget “spread” and “horizontal layout”. If I dig back even further, there are others….french curve? hot wax?

  4. Hmm
    1> Hickey I think is when there’s an unintended mark on proofs from the printer. Only like 35% sure on that.
    2> Bleed is when the art extends to the edge of the page (or off it, really, beyond the trim of the page)
    3> PMS is a Pantone color PMS ###
    4> A dummy is a mocked-up version of the book
    5, 6, 7> Creep/Stripper/Hot Spot no idea!
    8> Gutter is the line down the middle of a spread where the pages are bound together (so, it’s a bad idea to have a face in the middle of a spread because it’ll get lost in the gutter!)
    9> Die Kiss Cut is how a printer creates stickers, for example– the die (which is created in the shape that you want the sticker(s) to be) just “kisses” the sticker sheet and doesn’t go ALL the way through to the paper underneath. Precise!
    10> Butt fit — no idea, can’t wait to hear.

  5. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:


  6. Hi folks
    Here’s my shot at this for what I haven’t see answered…PMS-Pantone Matching System / Creep I think refers to the pages that stick out when folded for binding/ A stripper is the technician who prepares the color separations- in the old days it was done on separate “strips” of paper frames holding the film (that’s how old I am) / the gutter is the space near the books fold where you don’t want important stuff to be printed / I don’t know what a “kiss” die cut is but a die cut is a custom cut on the edge of paper say for shapes in a pop-up book- a brass or metal die plate is produced based on design to cut every copy precisely…look forward to seeing the rest of the answers!

  7. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    You say stripper; i say Best Boy.

  8. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    I’ve always wondered what that is. Someone told me once, but it was years ago. I know it’s for movies, and maybe something to do with audio? Or moving set pieces? Tell us!

  9. Thanks Roger…didn’t know that term…in any case both names sound funny and don’t reflect the actual task…(this was fun)

  10. Liane Behrens says:

    As the design intern at the Horn Book this semester, I guess I better at least try to weigh in…

    Bleed – Art extending to the edge of the page — and usually .125″ off of it, for the printer.
    PMS – Pantone matching system
    Dummy – Mock-up of a project
    Creep – When content on the pages has to be shifted because of encroaching margin; especially in the inner pages of a bound volume!
    Gutter – The space between two columns of text; also maybe the inner margin?

    Not sure about the others!

  11. Looks like you have all the answers except for hot spot. Hot spot is another word from when printing was film based. On occasion if a piece of dust or dirt was caught under the film it would cause a dark heavy spot to print on the sheet.
    Not sure what butt fit is???? that must be even older than me!! ha ha!

  12. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Okay, I’m impressed. Some of your definitions aren’t quite the ones I know, but I’d say they are close enough.

    For example, I’d say stripping isn’t about paper but about plastic and film. Before plates were made directly from digital files, a negative for each page (or four sets of negs if it was four color) had to be taped together in the correct imposition and also taped to red plastic which masked out light the same as the dark part of the negative. The person who did this painstaking work was known as the stripper. And I happen to know that Lenore (comment above) was once a stripper herself. (Not anymore. She now owns the company that prints the Horn Book posters we give away at conferences.)

    “Butt fit” is one that I’ve only seen in writing, never heard used in real life. It’s along the same lines as “choking and trapping” — which I should have used on the list! — in that it’s about two colors side by side that are meant to meet up (butt up) on the printed page. A butt fit makes the halftone dots from one color just overlap (by one row of dots) the halftone dots of the second color. The reason for the slight overlap is because registration slip-ups can happen, and when they do you don’t want any white space showing between those two colors.

    Lenore has “hot spot” right but I have also heard a press operator use this for a spot where there are no halftone dots — where the image has an area that is 0% black, therefore has no dots. This makes the paper show through and look hot or too bright. The ideal is for there to be some tiny dots on the lightest part, and tiny dots of paper showing through on the darkest part.

    For more definitions, I refer you to this handy website:

  13. Ron McCutchan says:

    Somewhere in my design past, there was a great printing terms poster that applied many of these to Boticelli’s “Birth of Venus”–I remember “trim” referred to leg hair stubble that was photoshopped in and “bleed” was a knick on her arm.

    For a real challenge, when I was at CRICKET, we always got into endless discussions about the etymology (or even the exact definition) of a “blad.” Is it simply an unbound signature or a specially produced and bound promo signature? Is it from the German for “leaf”? an acronym for “Basic Layout And Design”? I realize that blad doesn’t have a salacious secondary meaning. And, Roger, isn’t the Best Boy the assistant electrician on a film?

  14. Coming into this late in the game, but I’ve also always liked the term “foul matter,” referring to anything (like a manuscript revision, or a proof) that has been superseded by a newer version and shouldn’t be in use anymore.

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