Graphic design and print jargon buster

man looking confused about graphic design terminology

People within the Graphic Design/Web Design industry like to use complex terminology, acronyms and ‘buzz words’. This may be something to do with creativity, but is confusing nonetheless. At York Graphic Designers we don’t like to confuse our clients, always prefering to use laymans terms and plain English. Unfortunately a lot of this jargon and terminology is now the industry standard and its use unavoidable, which is why we have produced this handy guide.

(if there is anything that you can’t find, just send us an email and we’ll answer you query and update the list).

Graphic Design and Print

A Sizes – The standard paper sizes used by the print industry in the UK.

Artwork (A/W) – Finished composition of typography, graphics and photographs which is used to produce the hard copy print.

Authors Alterations (AA), Alts – Alterations/corrections made by the client after the proofing process

B Sizes – Standard paper sizes. Less commonly used than A Sizes , these are normally used for large print jobs such as posters.

Bitmap (BMP) – Bitmaps or raster graphics as they are also known, are resolution dependent image files. When the dimensions of a bitmap/raster graphic are increased they quality of the image decreases.

Bleed – Part of the artwork that extends beyond the crop marks which is trimmed of after the job is printed. This is to ensure that all required artwork is printed to the very edge of the paper/stock.

CMYK – The acronym for full colour printing, also referred to as four colour process printing. CYMK refers to the four colours of ink used: Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Black.

Crop Marks – These are small lines that indicate where the job should be cut. These are used to help printers register the job (ensure all 4 plates are positioned correctly) and show where bleeds needs to be trimmed off.

Desktop Publishing (DTP) – The process of creating artwork on a computer. This term now tends to refer to less professional design, produced by non skilled people on home computers.

Digital Printing – A form of printing that does not require the use of printing plates. This is an ideal solution for short print runs.

Double Page Spread (DPS) – Two printed pages that face each other.

DPI (Dots Per Inch) – Indicates the resolution (quality) of bitmap images/graphics. The higher the DPI, the better quality the image/graphic. The standard resolution used for print is 300dpi. 72dpi is used for graphics/images displayed on the internet.

EPS (Encapsulated Postscript File) – A file format that is used predominantly in the printing industry. EPS is now being used less and less within the print industry, with PDF becoming the preferred file format.

Finishing – The term given to all the processes a job goes through after it has been printed (i.e. guillotining, binding).

Folio – The pages numbers that appear at the bottom or top of a page.

Font – Letters, numbers and symbols that are a defined by size and style. e.g. Times is a typeface, whilst Times Bold 12pt is a font.

Four Colour Process – The method of printing full colour by splitting the artwork to 4 colours, CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Each colour is output onto a separate plate. Reproduction of the original artwork is achieved by printing the four colours on top of each other.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) – A method for transfering files to and from internet servers.

GSM (Grammes Per Square Metre) – A standard unit of measurement within the print industry, used to measure paper weight.

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) – A compressed file format that is most commonly used for images on the internet or transferring files via email. This file format is not usually used in printing as the compression applied to the image reduces the quality of the image.

Laminate – A transparent plastic coating added to printed material to give protection. This can be a gloss or matt surface

Lithography (Litho) – A printing process that uses plates to transfer (offset) an inked image to a rubber blanket. The inked areas are then picked up by the paper/stock.

Newsprint – Low quality paper that is used to print newspapers.

Offset Printing (Offset Lithography) – The most widely used commercial printing method. Ink is offset from a printing plate to a rubber roller and then to the paper/stock.

Pantone Machine System (PMS) – The international system of defining colours for printing.

PDF (Portable Document Format) – A file format used to combine a layout of images and text into one file. PDF’s are very versatile and are used for transferring artwork over the internet, and are now becoming the printing industry standard file format, to deliver finished artwork to printers.

Process Colours – The for colours that are combined to produce full colour printing. See CMYK.

Proof – A sample of work that is sent to the client to be checked for errors. This can be sent in either paper form, or emailed as a PDF.

Registration – The alignment of different coloured inks applied to paper.

Resolution – The quality of an image and how well it reproduces when printed.

RGB – RGB (Red, Green, Blue) are the colours used by computer monitors to display colour images on screen. Normally used to display web images, RGB images are not used in the print process.

Sign Off – When a client has approved the proof, this called sign off, which is the stage the final artwork is passed to the printer.

Spot Colour (Special Colour) – Colours that can’t be made up using the four process colours. Spot colours are often used by companies to ensure their branding and marketing materials are consistent. Spot colours are picked from a pantone swatch book, which contain exact examples of the colours.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) – A bitmap file format that which stores images using lossless compression.

Typeface – The name given to a family of fonts. e.g. The typeface Times contains the fonts Times bold and times italic.

Typography – The visual look of text in a layout.

Typo – A mistake within the copy of a layout.

Vector Graphics – Vector graphics are mathematically defined shapes which can be rescaled to any size without any loss of quality.

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