The Barcode Printing Glossary: 25 Terms to Know

The Barcode Printing Glossary: 25 Terms to Know

Label Printers, Barcode Basics | 8 August 2019

Posted by John Masica

The Barcode Printing Glossary_ 25 Terms to Know

A lot goes into printing your barcodes. Choices need to be made, steps taken, materials used, standards met, and of course there is technical terminology to describe everything. Memorizing print technology terms may not be on your priority list, but it’s important to know what to say when you’re looking for solutions or when something goes wrong.

Whether you print in house or order your barcodes pre-printed, familiarizing yourself and your team with relevant print terminology can improve communication between you and your team members or suppliers when it’s time discuss issues or a change in your printing processes. Here we’ve consolidated this list of 25 terms to get you started!


Anilox Roller

Rollers used to apply inks and coatings. Cavities on the surface of anilox rollers control how thick or thin a layer of liquid ink or varnish is applied.


The acronym for the American National Standards Institute. The ANSI creates tests for industries of all kinds in an effort to standardize the quality of American made products. The ANSI is relevant to printing (specifically barcode printing) because they implemented and ANSI barcode print standard test to measure the print quality of barcodes. This test has since been taken over by the ISO, however it is often still referred to as an ANSI test and the resulting scores and ANSI grades.

Learn more about what ANSI/ISO grades are and what they mean >

Aqueous Ink

Another name for water based ink. An ink that is made from pigments in a base of water.



Some printing methods, such as ink-based direct mark require an electrical pretreatment called a corona. This electrical pretreatment makes surfaces such as films, papers, plastics and glass more receptive to inks or other coatings.


Delta E

The units used to measure the difference between two different colors.

Direct Mark

Direct mark is a process where a marking, such as a barcode, branding or identification information is applied directly to the surface of an object. There are several methods of direct mark including laser etching and specially cured inks. to offer our customers durable color marking options through our Ready Labware Services program.

Direct Thermal

A thermal printing method that utilizes a thermal printer and heat activated films or papers. As the media runs beneath the heated print head images appear. This print method is commonly used to print retail receipts but can be used for other applications.

Digital Press

A large printing press that often combine some aspects of a copy machine and some aspects of a printer. These types of printing presses are intended for businesses and organizations that print large quantities of material and some print at very large scales.

Digital Printing

When a digital based image is printed onto physical media. This term is typically used when referring to professional printing where large format or high volume printers are used.



A rotary relief printing method that utilizes plastic or rubber plates and liquid inks or dyes to print on a variety of materials including paper, plastics and fabrics. Flexographic printing is known to provide incredibly high image quality and precise markings.



A fluid containing pigments or dyes that is used to color surfaces and produce images, text or designs. Inkjet printers utilize ionized inks to produce images.


Inkjet printers utilize inkjet technology which sprays ionized inks that are directed by magnetic plates onto media. Inkjet print technology is the most affordable and is common for in home printing.


The acronym for International Organization for Standardization. The International Organization for Standardization is an independent organization dedicated to creating market relevant standards for products, services and systems. One of the ISO standardization tests includes a barcode test. The ISO barcode test was originally created by ANSI and tests the print quality of barcodes.


Laser Print Technology

A print technology that uses a laser beam to recreate the image to be printed onto a selenium coated drum within the printer creating strategically placed electrical charges. The charged drum is then rolled in toner, and the toner is transferred to the media. Once the toner is transferred to the media heat and pressure are applied to fuse the toner to the media.



The object being printed on. In most general printing scenarios the media is paper. At Computype we mainly print on labels, making labels our media.



PMS stands for Pantone Matching System. A company called Pantone created this color matching system to standardize brand related coloring so brands can achieve consistent color representation even when producing at multiple plants or with multiple suppliers. Colors in the Pantone Matching System are represented by numbers.


PMS ink is a colored ink that has a designated Pantone Matching System number and is identical in color to that associated PMS color.


Thermal transfer printers contain a printhead which is a piece of metal that heats up as ink ribbon and media pass beneath it to transfer the desired image from the ribbon to the media using heat.

Check out our 5 tips to maximize the life of your printhead >

Print Plate

A flexible sheet that applies ink to a web in relief printing processes. When printing in multiple colors one print plate is needed for each color and image.

Process Ink

When only four color inks (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) are used. These colors are printed overtop each other in layers to achieve all variety of colors. Process ink printing is commonly used in inkjet applications.


Thermal Transfer Ribbon

A plastic ribbon with a coating of an either wax or resin based ink on one side.

Thermal Transfer Print Technology

A print technology that uses a heated printhead to transfer images into media. Both the media and the ribbon run beneath the printhead with the ribbon in the middle. The printhead heats the ribbon in particular areas to transfer the ink from the ribbon to the media in the shape of the desired image, text or design. Thermal transfer print technology is known for its high image quality and durability.

Read our 5 tips to keep your thermal transfer printer running at optimal  performance >


A dry powder form of ink. Most toners are made from granulated plastics.


UV Ink

A type of ink that requires exposure to UV light to cure/dry.



Media in the form of a roll. These are typically cut after printing.

Knowing the right words can help you and your team members identify problems, communicate needs and research solutions. Whether or not printing occurs in your facility it plays a major role in the effectiveness of your identification strategy and should be taken into consideration when seeking improvements to your overall processes. Keep this glossary on hand for the next time you need to discuss your print solution, whether that be with your team, printer supplier or label supplier, when you can communicate clearly you can trust you’ll be on the same page.

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John Masica

Based in St. Paul, MN, USA, John Masica is Computype’s Technical Support Specialist. Specializing in label printer maintenance and engineering, John is the go-to person for all things label printing. Through his 24 years here at Computype, he has learned many tips and tricks to make your label printing easier and more efficient.