Design Glossary

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Graphic Design Glossary, Terms and Definitions

This glossary of terms is Graphic Design & Printing related. There’s far too many terms in our busy world, so here I try to break down the jargon. These terms and vocabulary are used by many designers on a daily basis and may be confusing to new designers or non-designers who need to communicate with designers. This is a work in progress and updates are made frequently.

4:0 or 4:1 or 4:4 etc
Refers to the number of colours used per side. Can be referred to as four back zero / four back one / four back four.

4 Colour Process

The most common paper sizes used for stationery, leaflets and other publications;
A0 – 841 x 1189 mm.
A1 – 594 x 841 mm.
A2 – 420 x 594 mm.
A3 – 297 x 420 mm.
A4 – 210 x 297 mm.
A5 – 148.5 x 210 mm.
A6 – 105 x 148.5 mm.
A7 – 74 x 105 mm.
A8 – 52 x 74 mm.
A9 – 37 x 52 mm.
A10 – 26 x 37 mm.

Art Board/Paper
A term used for coated papers.

The images / text that are to be printed (usually supplied digitally as a PDF). As a general rule, artwork should be supplied as a high resolution PDF at 300 dpi, with crop marks and 3mm bleed.

Authors Amendments
Changes made by the customer, usually at the proofing stage. These are sometimes chargeable, as opposed to in-house errors which are not.

Larger than A-sizes, most sheet-fed print presses take these paper sizes. It then allows for trimming to A-sizes.
B0 – 1000 × 1414 mm.
B1 – 707 × 1000 mm.
B2 – 500 × 707 mm.
B3 – 353 × 500 mm.
B4 – 250 × 353 mm.
B5 – 176 × 250 mm.
B6 – 125 × 176 mm.
B7 – 88 × 125 mm.
B8 – 62 x 88 mm.
B9 – 44 × 62 mm.
B10 – 31 × 44 mm.

Back Up
To print on the reverse of a sheet which has already been printed on one side.

Where the image to be printed extends (usually by 3mm) over the crop marks. This makes trimming easier and means the finished documents will run to the edges.

Blind Emboss
A type of embossing where no ink is used. Instead, the design or text is only visible as a raised area on the paper/card. Also see debossing which has the opposite effect.

Block Foiling
Where a design is stamped into the cover, usually in a metallic foil.

Bond Paper
Strong, uncoated paper often used for stationery.

Thickness of paper measured in Microns, as opposed to the weight (see GSM).

Burst Binding (or slot binding)
A method similar to perfect binding where the text pages are glued in to the cover. In burst binding, slots are cut in to the sections to help the adhesive.

Paper sizes used for envelopes. These correspond to A-sizes (e.g. C4 envelope will hold A4 sheets).
C3 – 324 x 458 mm.
C4 – 229 x 324 mm.
C5 – 162 x 229 mm.
C6 – 114 x 162 mm.
DL – 110 x 220 mm (holds A4 folded twice).

Abbreviation of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. These make up the standard 4 colour process used for printing in full colour.

Coated Paper
Paper which has a coating on one or both sides. This can have a gloss or silk (matt) finish. Coated papers are used for the majority of printed products, but not for stationery where an uncoated (or bond) paper is used.

See sealing.

Where a line is scored to allow for easier and tidier folding. Any board over 170gsm in weight will need to be creased before folding.

Crop Marks
Lines marking where the paper is to be trimmed after printing. These should be part of the artwork.

Cutting Forme (or Die)
The custom made cutter used when die-cutting.

Where an image is pressed or stamped into the paper creating a depression as opposed to an embossed, raised impression.

Where an irregular shape is cut from the paper instead of trimming square edges. This can be any shape but requires a die or cutting forme to be made up specially.

Digital Printing
Low cost method of printing best suited for short run jobs. It works directly from electronic data without the need for printing plates. This makes the process very quick but the print quality, although a good alternative is not on par with lithography. Also, you can not use specific spot colours or metallic inks.

Digital Printed Proofs
Proofs printed digitally (not lithographically). These are suitable for checking layout and pagination but not for colour. The reason being they will be printed on different paper and/or using a different machine to the finished product. These can sometimes be offered free of charge.

Envelope size to hold an A4 sheet folded twice (or a compliment slip). 220 x 110mm. See C-sizes.

Dots per inch, or the image resolution. For print, all images in a document should always be a minimum of 300dpi.

Drawn On Covers
A paper back cover with the text pages glued in (see perfect binding & burst binding).

Where holes are drilled. This is essentially hole punching but on a larger scale.

A Mock up of the finished product. This can be printed or unprinted, depending on the purpose. See proofs.

Where designs are pressed in to the paper to leave a raised effect.

Where printed material is fully enclosed and sealed in plastic. This leaves a small, clear plastic border around the sheet where it is sealed. Encapsulation is durable and water resistant.

Finished Size
The size once trimmed and folded.

Flat Size
The size before folding, after trimming. Can also be used if a product is to be supplied creased but unfolded.

There are a large number of different folding options. Some common folds are:
Concertina or Z fold.
Gate fold – where left and right edges fold to the centre.
Roll fold – like a takeaway menu.

Forest Stewardship Council ( is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organisation established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. Certain paper brands are accredited by the FSC.

Full Colour
Printing in CMYK, as opposed to using spot colours. Although you can print full colour with additional spot colours.

Gate Fold
where left and right edges fold to the centre.

The direction of the fibres of paper. It is easier to fold with the grain.

Gloss coated paper
These papers have a smooth surface and a high shine, perfect for producing printed promotional items e.g brochures, flyers and leaflets.

Grams per square metre. This is the standard measurement of weight for paper.

The pages of the artwork are arranged such that after printing, cutting and folding, the page will be in the correct order. Sometimes seen when an imposition proof is supplied electronically, the pages will not be in chronological order.

Kiss Cut
To die-cut the top layer but not the backing of a two layered sticker/label.

Where a thin plastic film is fixed to one or both sides of the paper. This can create a silky matt or a high gloss finish, depending on the intended purpose and personal preference. It also acts as a protective barrier if the print needs to be more durable or is likely to encounter a demanding environment.

Where a document is oriented so the long edges are at the top and bottom. As opposed to portrait.

Lithography / Lithographic (or litho)
The most popular print process, a metal plate is treated so that the image area attracts the oil-based inks, while the wet non-image areas resist them.

All work associated with setting up the print press before production.

See dummy.

The files to be printed which make up the artwork. Usually a print ready PDF.

One side of a sheet of paper. For example, an A4 sheet has 2 pages. An A4 sheet folded in half to A5 has 4 pages.

See Spot Colours.

Portable Document Format. Universal file format which combines images and text.

Perfect Binding
Where the text pages are glued in to the cover. See also burst binding and drawn on covers.

Pantone Matching System. Followed by 3 or 4 digits to make up a code e.g. PMS 072. See Spot Colours.

Where a document is oriented so the long edges are on either side. As opposed to landscape.

Printed pages. Refers to the number of pages in a document e.g. 12pp (12 pages).

Proofs are an example of what is to be printed so both parties are in agreement. Any errors or amendments should be picked up at this stage. This can take the form of a digital proof, usually supplied as a PDF, or a printed proof. See digital proofs and wet proofs for more details.

500 sheets of paper.

Roll Fold
Roll fold – like a takeaway menu.

Where a document is wire stitched on the spine, better known as stapled.

Screen Printing
The oldest method of printing. Ink is applied to a porous silk screen and passes through a stencil or template to leave an impression. Normally used when printing on fabric and banners and when printing on board that is too thick to pass through a standard litho print press.

Seal or Sealer
A coating applied over the print to fix it. This helps prevent set off and smudging.

Where the cover and text pages are on the same paper stock.

Set Off
This is where the ink from one sheet is transferred on to the reverse of the sheet above. Leaving ample time for the ink to dry and applying a sealer helps to prevent this.

Silk Coated Paper
Silk papers have a low surface shine, a smooth finish, but not glossy.

A sheet-fed printing press uses individual sheets, instead of continuous rolls of paper used on wet offset presses.

Spot Colours
Refers to solid colours which are found in commercially obtainable colour ranges such as Pantone®, these are mostly used in addition to CMYK where CMYK is not available e.g. Printing gold or silver. When using Pantone colours, it is worth bearing in mind for future jobs that should you want to print in CMYK, the chosen Pantone® may not have a suitable CMYK equivalent, which may in turn lead to the expense of using additional plates.

Spot Gloss UV Varnish
A high gloss finish applied to specific areas of print. This differs from gloss laminating which has to cover the whole sheet.

Uncoated Paper
Paper which has not been coated, not gloss or silk.

Web Offset
A method of printing which uses a continuous roll of paper. They are very fast presses and are only suitable for large print runs on relatively thin paper stocks.

Wet Proof
This is a fully made up, printed proof. The same machine and materials will be used as for the finished product. Whilst this is quite expensive, it does leave you with an exact mock up of what is to be printed. This is suitable for colour checking. Only recommended for large runs and specialist items.

Z Fold
Normally folded in three like a concertina.


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