Drowning in graphic design jargon? We have put together a list of some of the most common print design terms to help demystify the graphic design process.
When working with a graphic designer, you may on occasion find them requesting files types or dropping new terms that you are unfamiliar with. To ensure that you’re both speaking the same language, we’ve compiled a glossary of frequently used graphic design terms — starting with print design.
Standard Australian Paper Sizes
Business Cards in Australia are traditionally 54 x 89mm. However, we create all our business cards at 55 x 85 mm. Why? So they fit perfectly in the credit card pockets of your wallet.
- DL 98 x 210mm
- A6 148 x 103mm
- A5 210 x 148mm
- A4 297 x 210mm
- A3 420 x 297mm
- A2 420 x 594mm
- A1 594 x 841mm
- A0 841 x 1189mm
Standard Australian Envelope Sizes
- DL 110 x 220mm
- C7 81 x 114mm (note C7 fits A7 paper size and so on…)
- C6 114 x 162mm
- C5 162 x 229mm
- C4 229 x 32mm
- C3 324 x 458mm
Vector graphics are the original editable and fully scalable files created by programs such as Adobe Illustrator. Vector graphics scale infinitely without losing quality. We use vector artwork to create any logos, icons and digital illustrations. Vectors are much smaller in file size than raster files and can be used in both print and digital design. Common vector file types include AI, PDF, EPS or SVG.
Raster images, (or bitmap images) use a dot matrix structure and are the most common format for digital photography. A good example is the Pac-Man arcade game where the edges of the graphics appear blocky and pixelated. Raster images have come a long way since then and can now be exported at very high resolutions. They are measured in pixels and the most common file types for raster images are GIF, JPEG or PNG.
PDF (Portable Document Format) is one of the most common file formats and can be used for both print and digital documents in any colour format. For print, your designer will generate high-resolution PDFs to send to your printer for production. You can easily view a PDF by downloading Acrobat Reader. We use PDFs for our finished art as they are the most compatible file type and can easily store bout high-resolution raster and vector artwork.
JPG/JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a raster image file type commonly used for digital photography. While more commonly found across the web, a JPG can be saved at a large resolution appropriate for printing — though it isn’t well suited for logos and graphics as sharp edges can lose their quality. The more times you save over a JPG, the more its quality deteriorates.
PNG (Portable Network Graphics) differs from a JPG in that is lossless and won’t lose its quality the more you save it. It can be transparent i.e. have no background colour. Similar to JPGs it is best suited for digital purposes as opposed to print when it comes to graphic elements.
GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) was the predecessor to the PNG. It can also be transparent and has short animation capabilities. We only recommend the use of GIFs for the web due to its limitations of 256 colours. It is correctly pronounced ‘JIF’ with a soft G.
EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) is used for vector-based graphics, generally created in Adobe Illustrator. We will sometimes supply these as part of your finished art as they are a common scalable file type.
SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) is another scalable vector image format that can, in addition, be animated. They are often used on websites for logos and icons and are supported by all major web browsers. SVG files can be printed but were developed specifically for digital applications.
AI (Adobe Illustrator) is a file type developed specifically by the Adobe Illustrator program. It is used for both the creation of vector graphics and when designing for non-standard items, like packaging. Whilst the file type can have raster images embedded in it – it is generally not recommended. Multiple page documents should never be produced in Adobe Illustrator.
PSD (Photoshop Document) is a file type created specifically by Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is for editing raster images such as digital photography. It can be used for digital layouts such as web design however users are moving towards newer programs like Sketch. It should never be used to create layouts for print.
IND (Indesign Document) is my favourite program! It takes everything Illustrator and Photoshop creates and puts it all together. It is a desktop publishing application and is best used for posters, flyers, books, magazines and ebooks. It exports high-resolution artwork for print, and also interactive PDF files for digital.
DPI & PPI (Dots per inch / Pixels per inch) is a measure of density in an image within a square inch. DPI used in print where the dots represent dots of ink, and PPI is used for digital screens where the dots represent pixels. The more dots — the higher the resolution!
72 DPI is commonly used for images and photographs on websites.
150 DPI is commonly used for large scale printing such as billboards or banners where the viewer is far away doesn’t need high-resolution artwork. This assists with file size.
300 DPI is for high-resolution printing. Anything less will result in blurry detail in your images once printed. This one can cause quite a lot of confusion when supplying your design images that look big on your screen, but once converted to 300dpi become too low res to print. Always send your designer the largest file you have! Bonus tip: images lifted out of Powerpoint or Word will have been compressed by Microsoft Office and won’t be appropriate for printing.
Retina Display is a brand name used by Apple for its high-resolution device screens. First used on the iPhone – it is now used on MacBooks, MacBook Pro’s, the Apple Watch and iMacs. Simply put, retina screens have a higher PPI in its displays resulting in a crisper image. It’s really important your website is retina compatible to ensure it doesn’t have a ‘blurred’ appearance on high-resolution screens.
Non-Retina is screens that use the standard 72ppi display. You can compare the difference by looking at early and late-model iPhones.
RGB colours are made up of red, green and blue light. They combine to create the colours on your screen. RGB is used for digital displays. They can be referred to in numbers e.g. (255, 255, 255) or as hexadecimal numbers e.g. (#FFFFFF). RGB colours will look different depending on what screen you are viewing them on. RGB has a wider range of colours than CMYK due to the limitations of print. They also appear brighter due to being backlit.
CMYK is the industry standard for digital printing. It is named for the four inks Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Due to the nature of digital printing, colour accuracy cannot be guaranteed as different printers can produce different results. The first time you view your brand colours printed they will often appear duller than you are used to as RGB is naturally more vibrant due to being on a lit screen and having a wider colour gamut.
PMS® (Pantone Matching System) is the industry standard for print colour accuracy used by designers through physical swatch books. All reputable printers and manufacturers the world over use the same books and inks to ensure accurate reproduction. Think of it similarly to the paint swatch wall at Bunnings. Pantone® make recommendations on CMYK and RGB values based on their inks.
Coated Paper is a paper that has had a coating applied such as a gloss. A common example is high gloss magazines like Vogue.
Uncoated Paper has no coat applied. An example is the typical white print paper you get at Officeworks. Uncoated has become more premium in recent years with more textures and colours becoming available. An uncoated magazine example is Frankie.
Gloss finish is the highest shine/sheen available in printing. It allows for rich colours but can be hard to view under strong light.
Satin (or Semi-Gloss) is less shiny than gloss and will reflect less than a full gloss, whilst still being vibrant.
Matt finish is the lowest shine/sheen available in printing. It does not reflect light. Colours will be slightly duller.
Digital printing is a method of printing used for small-run jobs. It is more cost-effective at small runs and uses a laser or inkjet printer. It has a quick turn around time as it doesn’t require much setup. Digital results in a less crisp result than offset.
Offset printing is used for larger runs of projects (over 500 – 1,000 copies). It utilises a plate and transfer approach which allows for an extremely crisp finish.
Letterpress printing is a style of relief printing that has had a revival in the past decade. It is often used for wedding invitations, business cards and stationery where an artistic or crafted feel is needed. Similar to offset it uses a plate but is printed one at a time, often by hand with a deep impression on thick cotton-based papers. It is more expensive due to the amount of labour involved.
PP refers to Printed Pages. One A4 sheet printed double-sided is 2pp. Two double-sided A4 sheets are 4pp and so on.
Finishes & Embellishments
Foil Stamping (or foiling) can be both a commercial offset printing technique or created with a machine similar to a letterpress machine. As its name suggests, it involves using heat to transfer metallic foil to a solid surface. Due to its popularity, it’s not just available in typical golds and silvers, but pinks, blues, whites and blacks in both gloss and matte finishes. It is also available as patterns similar to your school exercise books.
Embossing & Debossing is a technique involving either raised (embossed) or sunken (debossed) design elements. Often used in official certificates or seals, this technique can also be used for adding a premium element where you want to use the paper instead of ink to display your design. Embossing and debossing can be produced commercially as well by hand with stamps and embossers.
Die-cut is where the edge of your print project is trimmed. This can be a standard A4 trim to complex packaging design.