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Print Graphic Design Terminology

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Here at Haley Marketing Group, the Creative Team works together in the same room. Most times, we are all familiar with the terms we use to describe what we do every day. Every once in a while we find someone has a different name for something we have all known as by another name (like chicken beak for example – but we’ll save that for another discussion with programming terminology).

Here are a few:


A standard file format type that uses paths as opposed to pixels, used to assure accuracy and sharpness of artwork between applications, as it is infinitely scalable.

“No, I’m sorry we cannot use the logo you created in Paint and saved as an eps file. It is not a true vector file.”



Term used to describe reducing the size of an image.

“I only want to show a portion of this image. Can we crop it down a bit?”


Crop Marks

Very small printed lines around the edges of a piece being printed, used to indicate where it is to be cut out of a sheet.

“The printer is unsure where to cut or fold your piece. There are no crop marks or fold marks in your artwork.”



An area within artwork that goes beyond the crop area to assure a finished-looking clean cut with no break in color around the edges.

“Why is there unprinted space along the edges of my printed piece?” “Because you failed to allow the minimum standard .125” bleed to prevent that.”



Abbreviation for the colors used in the four color print process: c=cyan, m=magenta, y=yellow, k=black

“Hey, this file was prepared with the colors as rgb, which is reserverd for on-screen use, not cmyk which is what a printer needs.”



There are two kinds of spreads:

  • Reader Spreads refers to the order in which we read a book or a document.
  • Printer Spreads which refers to the arrangement of pages in artwork, so that when a sheet is printed on both sides the final product will appear in a proper sequence.
“Why are all my pages out of order in my report? I paid a lot of money to have this printed!” “It’s because you sent the artwork in reader’s spreads, not printer’s spreads. You need to use Haley Marketing Group.”


Dot gain

A term used to describe when the individual dots on a printing press are printing larger than they should. This can be caused by many factors including the type of ink, paper, the temperature, or the pressure set by the press operator.

“The press operator is trying to minimize the dot gain so that everything doesn’t look so flat and muddy.”



An abbreviation for Pantone Color Matching System which is the standard used by designers to math and assure color consistency across print pieces and systems.

“Yes, we can match that color on your shirt to your print piece if we pick out the right PMS color.”



A unit of measure, perhaps now most commonly used when referencing type. A point is equal to 1/71 of an inch. There are 12 points to a pica and 72 points to an inch.

“Can we increase the point size of the text in the disclaimer? I can’t read any of that.”



An abbreviation of portable document format. Made most popular by Adobe®, it is a file format that captures all the elements of a printed document as an electronic image that can be viewed, navigated, printed, or forwarded to someone else who has the software on their device to open it. PDFs can be different qualities of resolution and can never be higher than the original file used to create it.

“Haley Marketing Group always provides a pdf for me to review prior to printing any of my jobs. It helps assure I will get what I am expecting in my final piece.”


House Sheet

Refers to the paper that is kept on hand in the shop by a printer.

“Sometimes you can save a little money and time if you spec the house sheet for your print piece.”



A small magnifier used to observe the details (such as whether dots are aligned creating good registration) on a press sheet.

“What is the magnification of that loupe? I am used to using one with 8x magnification.”



This term describes spotty or uneven absorption of ink during printing.

“Is there anything we can do? Everything looks so mottled I can’t tell where this girl’s hair ends and where the beach begins.”



The numbering of pages in a document.

“I can lay that out in printer’s spreads as soon as I create a pagination for it. That way I can be sure the pages are where they belong.”


Creative Suite

This refers to the suite of software packages offered by Adobe®. It is the most commonly used suite of software in the design and printing industries.

“Are they running the latest version of Creative Suite? If not, we may have a problem when the files are saved down to a previous version. That’s why it’s important to use printers that keep things up to date.”

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