When a printer refers to a job being 2 up or 4 up, what are they referring to?

When a printer refers to a job being 2 up or 4 up, what are they referring to? I need to settle a definition dispute here.


It’s not surprising that you are having a dispute, since we have the same dispute here every now and then.

The naming terminology creates conflict because it should really be stated as X-Up and X-Out. You also need to know how the sheet is actually being run through the press.

In other words, if a printing form is run “2-Up” that generally means you have two identical versions of the same page printing on the same sheet. So if a page is only printed on one side, and it is run “2-up” then you get two final pages “out” of each sheet.

But suppose that same sheet prints on two sides. If you print both the front and the back on the same sheet, you can then flip the sheet over, and back the pages up. The front backs up to the back; and the back backs up to the front.

So, is this sheet “2-up” or “1-up”? You can argue it both ways, but that simply means the terms are not fully defined.

If you say it is “1-up work and turn, 2-out” it becomes a little clearer what is actually happening. There is, after all, only one image of each page, but since you are running it as a work and turn, you get two complete copies on each sheet. If the job is just black printing on both sides on offset stock, the work and turn solution would save a plate.

You could also run the job “2-up sheetwise.” That would mean you are running two identical copies of the front on one side of the sheet, and two identical copies of the back on the other side. If the front is four color and the back is one color, or if you are running on a sheet that is only coated on one side, this is probably the way to go.

It is not uncommon to throw around the terms “2-up, 4-up, 8-up” etc. without fully defining the terms, and that can lead to misunderstanding. Such misunderstandings can be costly if you wind up with half as many or twice as many finished pages as were intended!

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at stephenbeals@mac.com.
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