Digital Print & Sign Materials Terminology



The Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires adequate signing for all users, including persons with disabilities

Backer panel

a sign panel used to hide mounting hardware

Channel letters

a fabricated dimensional letter without a back


any message or sign that is required by the ADA, state or local building codes


letters with depth


any sign that directs visitors to a destination


a method for carving into the surface of a material, particularly metal

First surface

the outside surface or front of a piece of glass


The primary message or title on a sign, usually the largest message strip and type size


a process for applying ink to letters that have been etched into a surface


custom-made wood panels


standard size components which are interchangeable

Mow strip

a barrier that prevents lawn-mower damage to ground-mounted signs


Extra, blank message strips for a sign, for future name/message changes.


a method for attaching letters or signs to a surface with a metal dowl


Pantone Matching System, an industry standard color ink system, frequently used for matching colors across materials

Photopolymer process

A photographic polymer resin sign manufacturing process used to create raised letters and braille in a single piece


A narrow, raised or indented line which forms a separation between categories or materials on a sign or archetectural surface or material


a method for carving the surface of a material, particularly glass and stone

Second surface

the inside surface or back of a piece of glass

Silk Screening (Screen Printing)

a method for permanently applying graphics to any surface using ink


an upright post or support that holds a sign


attached directly to a surface with adhesive (e.g. , silicon, two-way tape)


Ink applied to the top surface of raised letters which contrasts with the sign background color

Touch Screen

a video or computer monitor which is activated or manipulated by touching the screen


A specific and distinct style of lettering, also called type, typestyle or font


a die-cut adhesive material used to apply graphics to any surface


A thin, surface-applied material

Glossary of Digital Print terms


8 bits, reflecting values between 0 to 255; used as a basic method of measurement of memory or disk size; “K” represents 1024 bytes

color correctness

the depth and accuracy of an image’s color representation, typically influenced by the color depth and palette of an image

color depth

the amount of color information in an image, reflected in the # of color bits compression, lossless scheme of organizing information in a more compact form where all of the original information is retained, while gaining a moderate level of compaction compression, lossy scheme of organizing information in a more compact form where some information is lost to gain higher levels of compaction


the four process colors—cyan, magenta, yellow and black mixed to provide a color image; typically used in printing applications


Device Independent Bitmap, a variant of a bitmap (bmp) file consisting of header field, an optional pallette, and bitmap data; bitmap has an additional header field

display quality

the characteristics of a display sub-system, such as resolution, # of colors, dot pitch, and refresh rate, which influence perceived image quality


the technique of making adjacent pixels different colors to make them appear like a different color; utilized to add the appearance of greater color depth with a limited # of colors

dot pitch

distance in millimeters between two holes in the shadow mask of a monitor. A smaller dp is better, e.g. 0.28 mm is better than 0.36.

dpi, dots per inch

sometimes termed pixels per inch, this depicts resolution and is a significant influence on the size of an image file; a higher dpi indicates higher resolution


Encapsulated PostScript file format, an Adobe Systems graphics file which incorporates PostScript code and can contain data as vectors or bitmaps; maximum color depth =16.7 million


Graphics Interchange Format, a lossy compression technique, popular for exchanging files electronically, especially on Compuserve; all files have a corresponding palette; maximum colors = 256


Joint Photographers Expert Group; a compressed, lossy format which is symmetrical, i.e. takes the same amount of time to compress as decompress; maximum colors = 16.7 million

lpi, lines per inch

measurement of the frequency of “dots” represented in a halftone image


high-quality video compression/decompression scheme (CODEC) for encoding video and audio for computer playback palette data structure defining the colors utilized in a bitmap image; bitmap data is indexed to the palette table

Photo CD

Kodak CD-based digital imaging format, where images are typically created from 35mm film negatives or slides; includes multiple resolutions of an image in an Image Pac, with all images 24 bpp encoded in YCC format; portability includes Philips CD-Interactive and 3DO Players, as well as PC, Mac & Unix viewers; maximum colors = 16.7 million


standard format for Macintosh, can contain both vector and bitmap information; maximum colors = 16.7 million


picture element, or the smallest unit of the computer screen. A pixel can be monochrome or up to the pixel depth available on your color system. Pixels are also used for identifying screen resolution, e.g. 72 pixels per inch.

pixels per inch, or ppi

sometimes termed dots per inch, this represents resolution

print quality

the characteristics of a printing sub-system, such as the number of lines per inch and paper quality, which influence the perceived quality of a printed image


a video compression/decompression scheme (CODEC) for encoding video and audio for computer playback; originally an Apple Macintosh file format, it is now commonly utilized on Windows and Unix systems resolution measure of the detail in an image; the higher the resolution, the higher the amount of detail


red, green, blue mixed to provide a color image, typically used in video display applications


Targa format developed by Truevision; usually 15 or 24 bit full color images, compressed or uncompressed; maximum colors = 16.7 million


Tag Image File Format; industry standard image file format; “tags” represent image attributes, compression, and color tables; both uncompressed and compressed versions, although compressed is not as portable; maximum colors = 16.7 million

vector graphics

image made up of individual objects, which are defined as mathematical elements with specific characteristics