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Glossary of graphic design terms

GLOSSARY in fridge magnet letters

Here you will find definitions of common graphic design, advertising and printing terms. Click on a term to find its definition. Hope it helps!

‘A’ Sizes

See ISO Paper Sizes.

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Agency Commission

The commission earned by an advertising agency from a publication or other advertising medium for booking advertising space on behalf of a client – commonly 10-15%.

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Alignment

The vertical arrangement of lines of text. This can be left aligned (also known as ranged left or left justified), right aligned (also known as ranged right or right justified), centred, or justified (also known as fully justified) where the text is aligned both left and right.

Text alignment

Justified text in a narrow column width can lead to unsightly rivers opening up in the text.

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American Quarto

A standard US document size, also known as Letter, which measures 11 x 8.5 inches (279 x 216 mm). See also Quarto.

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Artefacts

Jagged or smudgy areas in a digital image resulting from file compression.

JPEG artefacts

See also Lossy.

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Art Paper

See Coated.

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Artwork

See Finished Artwork.

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Ascender

The part of a lowercase letter that extends above the x-height.

Ascender

See also Descender.

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‘B’ Sizes

See ISO Paper Sizes.

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Baseline

The imaginary line on which a typographical character sits.

Baseline

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Bézier Curve

A line or path in a vector graphic.

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Bitmap

See Raster.

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Black, K

One of the four process colours used in full colour litho, digital and screen printing. There are any number of reasons why K is used to represent black. B would be confused with Blue in the RGB colour model. K could stand for kohl (a black substance) or simply be used as it’s the last letter of ‘black’! See also CMYK.

Black

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Blackletter

Also known as Gothic Script or Old English, this is a design of letterform that originates from written scripts of the Middle Ages.

Blackletter

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Bleed

The extension of print beyond the edge of the page prior to trimming.

Bleed

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Blind Embossing

Pure embossing, not combined with any other process such as printing.

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Board

Heavier weights of paper, characterised by thickness and stiffness. Also known as card.

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Body Text

The main text or text style of a document.

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Brand, Branding

Associations the World at large makes with a company, product or service; the building of this.

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Brochure

A promotional or informative document designed to elicit a response.

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Business Card

An item of stationery providing contact details for filing.

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‘C’ Sizes

See ISO Paper Sizes.

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Cap Height

The height of the uppercase (or capital) X of a font.

Cap height

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Cartridge (Stock)

A high-quality paper used for drawing and stationery.

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Character

A typographical letter, symbol or punctuation mark.

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CMYK

The colour model most commonly used to replicate full colour in print, especially litho, digital and screen printing. Uses four colours of ink overlaid in varying tints; the colours are Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y) and Black (K). Also known as full colour, process colour and full colour process. See also RGB, Spot Colour.

CMYK

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Coated (Stock)

Also known as art, a paper or board coated with a compound to give smoothness of texture and uniformity of thickness. Common variants are gloss, matt and silk. See also Uncoated.

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Compliment Slip

An item of stationery often enclosed with consignments to impart a “with compliments” message.

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Compression

Reduction in the amount of data used to describe a bitmap (raster) image, resulting in a lower file size but also a reduction in image quality. The most commonly-used image file format allowing compression is JPEG. See also Artefacts, Lossy.

Compression

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Concertina Fold

A zigzag-type fold giving a pleated effect. See also Roll Fold.

Concertina fold

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Copy

The text content of a document, advertisement or web site. See also Copywriting.

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Abbreviated to ©, this is the automatic establishment of the intellectual property rights of the author or creator of a piece of work. This bars any use of the work in whole or part by unauthorised individuals or organisations for a period of time.

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Copywriting

The writing of text for a promotional or informative document, advertisement or web site. See also Copy.

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Corporate Identity

The visual link across an organisation’s promotional or informational materials. Logos, colours and typefaces can all form part of a corporate identity.

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Corporate Image

See Corporate Identity.

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Counter

The closed space within a letterform (e.g. the centre of an ‘o’).

Counter

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Creasing

The indentation of a material (e.g. paper or board) to enable clean folding and to minimise cracking.

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Crop Marks

See Trim Marks.

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CTP

Computer to Plate; a technology that allows printing plates to be made directly from computer files without the need for an intermediate film stage.

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Cutout, Cutout Image

An image of irregular shape isolated on a plain or patterned background. See also Squared-Up Image.

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Cutter Guide

Artwork indicating the shape and configuration of a cutter or forme. See also Die Cutting.

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Cyan, C

One of the four process colours used in full colour litho, digital and screen printing. See also CMYK.

Cyan

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Deboss

The reverse of an embossed surface.

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Descender

The part of a lowercase letter that extends below the baseline. See also Ascender.

Descender

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Desk Top Publishing, DTP

The original term for page layout and graphics creation on computer.

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Die Cutting

The process of cutting a special shape out of a material such as paper or board using a cutter or forme. See also Cutter Guide.

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Digital Print

A printing method that uses heat to adhere coloured toners to the substrate. Suitable for printing full colour in small to medium quantities.

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Dot Gain

The increase in dot size in a printed halftone image due to ink absorption.

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Dot Screen

The original mechanical method for creating a halftone of an image or a tint of a colour.

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Drop Shadow

A shadow placed ‘under’ a graphic object to give the appearance of it being raised over what’s behind it.

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DTP

See Desk Top Publishing.

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Duotone

An image using two base colours to create its range of tones.

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Embossing

Raising the surface of a material (e.g. paper) by use of punch or die. See also Blind Embossing.

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Encapsulation

Sandwiching a material between two clear plastic layers. See also Lamination.

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EPS

Encapsulated Post Script; a digital image file format that can include vector and/or raster components and supports spot colour. If purely vector, it will reproduce clearly and faithfully at any magnification. Ideal base file format for logos and line art in vector form.

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Finished Artwork

The final layout of text and images ready for press.

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Foil Blocking

See Thermography.

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Font

One variant of a typeface, e.g. Helvetica Bold Oblique.

Font

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Forme

Configuration of metal blades used to cut a special shape out of paper or board and/or to place creases. See also Die Cutting.

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Full Colour

See CMYK.

Full colour

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Gamut

The range of possible colours within a given colour model.

Gamut

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GIF

Graphics Interchange Format; graphics format which allows a range of 256 colours and supports transparency. Good for simple web graphics.

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Gloss (Stock)

A coated paper or board with a gloss finish.

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Grain (Stock)

The direction of the fibres within a paper or board. Folding a sheet along the grain rather than across it can limit cracking. A sheet of board trimmed long-grain (with the grain running parallel to the long edge) will have a greater stiffness than one trimmed short-grain.

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Gravure

An intaglio printing process whereby recesses etched into the printing plate hold the ink to be printed. Used widely in colour magazine printing.

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Greyscale

A continuous-tone image that uses black only in various tints to give a range of greys.

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Grid

An aid to page layout which can show margins, columns and line spacing as necessary.

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Gutter

(1) The space between columns on a page. (2) The space between trim marks on an imposition. (3) The space between the text area and the binding, also known as the inner margin.

Gutter

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Halftone

An array of dots (round, elliptical or square) of varying sizes allowing the illusion of a continuous-tone (or photographic) image to be created in commercial print processes such as litho and silk screen.

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Hexachrome

A printing process that uses six colours to achieve a more vivid result than can be achieved with CMYK alone.

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Hot Foil

See Thermography.

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Hot Metal

A letterpress method of printing using metal type.

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Image

(1) A visual reproduction such as a photograph. (2) The impression the World at large has of an individual, an organisation or a product. See also Corporate Identity, Logo.

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Imposition

The positioning of multiple pages on a sheet so that when folded, bound and trimmed they appear in the correct order.

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Insertion

An advertisement booking in a publication.

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Intaglio

A printing process whereby recesses in the printing plate or block hold the ink to be printed. Gravure is an intaglio process.

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ISO Paper Sizes

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization, responsible for the creation of the A and B standard paper sizes and the C standard envelope sizes. A sizes fit unfolded within the corresponding C size envelopes (with one fold allowing them to fit into the next C size down and a DL envelope fitting an A4 sheet folded twice). B sizes are used mainly on printing presses to enable trimming to suitable A sizes. The RA and SRA series of sizes are also used for this purpose.

A Sizes (mm)
4A0 1682 x 2378
2A0 1189 x 1682
A0 841 x 1189
A1 594 x 841
A2 420 x 594
A3 297 x 420
A4 210 x 297
A5 148 x 210
A6 105 x 148
A7 74 x 105
A8 52 x 74
A9 37 x 52
A10 26 x 37

B Sizes (mm)
B0 1000 x 1414
B1 707 x 1000
B2 500 x 707
B3 353 x 500
B4 250 x 353
B5 176 x 250
B6 125 x 176
B7 88 x 125
B8 62 x 88
B9 44 x 62
B10 31 x 44

C Sizes (mm)
C0 917 x 1297
C1 648 x 917
C2 458 x 648
C3 324 x 458
C4 229 x 324
C5 162 x 229
C6 114 x 162
C7 81 x 114
C8 57 x 81
C9 40 x 57
C10 28 x 40

DL 110 x 220

RA Sizes (mm)
RA0 860 x 1220
RA1 610 x 860
RA2 430 x 610
RA3 305 x 430
RA4 215 x 305

SRA Sizes (mm)
SRA0 900 x 1280
SRA1 640 x 900
SRA2 450 x 640
SRA3 320 x 450
SRA4 225 x 320

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JPEG, JPG

Joint Photographic Experts Group; an image file format that allows compression of the data. This balances file size against quality – the more compression is applied the smaller the file will be and the lower the quality of the image.

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Justification

See Alignment.

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K (Black)

See Black.

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Kerning

Altering the space between two type characters to make a better visual fit.

Kerning

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Laid (Stock)

Paper or board with a lined texture created during manufacture.

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Lamination

A clear plastic covering applied to a material (e.g. paper or board) which can have a gloss or matt finish. See also Encapsulation.

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Leading

In typography, the distance from one baseline to the next; commonly expressed in points, millimetres or as a percentage of the point size of the type.

Leading

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A standard US paper size measuring 14 x 8.5 inches (356 x 216 mm).

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Letterhead

An item of stationery, normally comprising logo, contact details, etc, on which letters and other communications are produced.

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Letterpress

A relief printing method whereby ink is transferred onto the paper by raised areas composed of type, complete blocks or other elements. See also Rubber Stereo.

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Ligature

The joining of two type characters which naturally overlap, to make a single character.

Ligature

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Line Art

Artwork made up of solid areas only.

Line art

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Litho, Lithography

The basis for most commercial print work, this is a printing process which uses the repulsion of water by oil on a single flat surface or plate (commonly metal but can be paper). Water-based ink remains on the areas of the plate where there is no oil-based substance and is then transferred to the paper or board. This transfer often happens via an intermediate surface, a process known as offset lithography.

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A graphical representation of a company, product or other entity, comprising either a symbol (logogram) or name (logotype) or both.

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Lossy

A descriptive term for a digital image format that loses data through compression, affecting file size and image quality. JPEG is a lossy format.

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Lowercase, Lower Case

The ‘small’, as opposed to capital, letters. The name comes from the days of letterpress printing when this set of letters was kept in a compartment or case beneath the capital (or uppercase) letters.

Lowercase

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Machine Varnish

A varnish applied to a print job on the press. See also Spot Varnish, UV Varnish.

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Magenta, M

One of the four process colours used in full colour litho, digital and screen printing. See also CMYK.

Magenta

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Make Ready

The preparatory work at the start of a print run.

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Matt (Stock)

A coated paper or board with a matt finish.

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Mechanical

See Finished Artwork.

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Mono, Monochrome, Monotone

An image produced using only one colour.

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Native Format

The default file format of a software program. E.g. PSD is the native format of Photoshop®, AI is the native format of Illustrator®, INDD is the native format of InDesign®.

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Oblique

In typography, another word for an italic version of a typeface.

Oblique

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Octavo (or 8vo)

A paper size derived from a sheet being folded three times to make eight leaves (sixteen pages). In modern use, this refers to a book of around 200-250 mm in height.

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Orphan

In typography, a word or group of words on its own at the bottom a column of text separated from the rest of its paragraph which is in another column. See also Widow.

Orphan

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Overprint

The overlay of one ink on another during the printing process.

Overprint

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Pantone®

The most widely-used ink colour formulation system in the printing industry. Each colour is made with proscribed constituents in specified proportions and is given a reference number or name like Pantone® (or PMS for Pantone Matching System®) 286 C or Pantone Warm Red U. ‘C’ and ‘U’ denote reproduction of the colour on coated or uncoated stock. Includes special colours like metallics and fluorescents. See also Spot Colour.

Pantone®

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PDF

Portable Document Format; Produced by Adobe® and revolving around its Acrobat® software, it is a widely-adopted format for the viewing and reproduction of documents outside their native software. It has various levels of encoding such as Standard, which is useful for viewing and desktop printing purposes where a low file size is preferable, and Press Quality which, depending on content, might have a much larger file size but is of a sufficient quality to be used in commercial print.

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Perfect Binding

A document binding method that uses a spine of hot glue to secure the leaves, which are trimmed prior to binding. Many paperback books and large magazines are bound this way.

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Pica

A measurement of type height no longer in common use, which is equal to 1/6th inch or 12 points. See also Point Size.

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Pixels

Picture cells; the square cells of colour that make up a digital image. See also Raster.

Pixels

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Planning Up

Arranging several pieces of artwork together on a sheet for printing.

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PNG

Portable Network Graphics; a digital image format with a wider colour range than GIF which is therefore better for photographic images. Like GIF it also supports transparency. This format is not though widely supported on the Internet, but is useful for cutout images in PowerPoint® presentations!

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Point Size

A measurement of type height, abbreviated as pt. There are 12 points to a pica (1/6th inch). The point size of a font includes the space above and below the letters that gives it its standard line spacing or leading, a throwback to the days of metal type.

Point size

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Process Colour

See CMYK.

Process colour

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Proof

A sample of a document for checking before the production run. Can be digital (on screen) or hard copy. See also Wet Proof.

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Quarto

Where a sheet of paper is folded twice to produce a document of four leaves (eight pages) when trimmed. See also American Quarto.

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Raster

A digital image made up of pixels, suitable for photographic reproduction. See also Vector.

Raster

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Registered Trade Mark

Abbreviated to ®, this is a trade mark which has been registered with the relevant authority to further guard against ‘passing off’.

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Registration

A printing term for the alignment of separate ink colours. See also Registration Marks.

Registration

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Registration Marks

Marks placed on finished artwork to aid the correct registration (alignment) of separate ink colours.

Registration marks

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Resolution

The number of pixels that make up a digital image, normally measured in pixels per centimetre or pixels per inch. In theory, the higher the resolution, the higher the image quality and amount of detail the image can hold.

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Reverse Out

To make type or other elements lighter than the background they’re on. See also White Out.

Reverse out

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RGB

A colour model with three constituent colours – Red (R), Green (G) and Blue (B). Used mainly for photographic and on-screen applications. See also CMYK.

RGB

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River

A large, unsightly gap between words that runs through multiple lines in a block of text, often caused by justifying text in a narrow column. See also Alignment.

Rivers

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Roll Fold

Where a material is folded over and over on itself in the same direction. See also Concertina Fold.

Roll fold

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Rubber Stereo

No, not a shockproof hi-fi, but a type of letterpress printing plate produced in one piece and used commonly in newspaper printing, where high volumes of print need to be produced quickly.

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Saddle Stitching

A binding process that uses metal staples.

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Sans Serif, Sans

A typeface design that is of plain appearance with no serifs. Also known as grotesque, grotesk, grot and gothic. Arial and Helvetica are sans serif typefaces.

Sans serif

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Scamp

A quick, rough visual of a design concept.

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Screen

See Halftone.

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Screen Process

A printing process which uses a fine mesh screen (often known as a silk screen). A relatively opaque and viscose ink is passed through untreated areas of the screen onto the substrate. Good for printing objects like corporate gifts and t-shirts.

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Screen Res

The standard resolution of a graphic or image for use on a computer monitor or other screen. This is the standard for Web-based imagery and is currently 72 ppi (pixels per inch).

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Script

A typeface style with a fluid or ‘handwritten’ design.

Script

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Serif

Details added to the ends of the strokes on letterforms.

Serif

A typeface style in which the characters feature these. Garamond and Times are serif typefaces. See also Sans Serif.

Serif

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Signature

A sheet folded at least once to form part of a book, brochure or other publication when trimmed down.

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Silk (Stock)

A coated paper or board with a smooth matt finish.

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Silk Screen Printing

See Screen Process.

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Slab Serif

A type of serif that is square or block-like; a typeface style in which the characters feature these, also known as square serif or Egyptian. Rockwell and Stymie are slab serif typefaces.

Slab serif

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Spot Colour

A printing term for a specified colour. Jobs printed in spot colour usually use the Pantone Matching System® to specify the colour(s) to be printed.

Spot colour

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Spot Varnish

A printing varnish applied to a specific area or areas of the sheet. See also Machine Varnish, UV Varnish.

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Squared-Up Image

An image of rectangular area. See also Cutout.

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Stationery

Printed items for business or personal communication. Letterheads, business cards and compliment slips are items of stationery.

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Stock

A printing term for paper and board.

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Strapline

A phrase attached to a name or logo that attempts to sum up the organisation or product in a memorable way.

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Stroke

(1) Part of the shape of a letterform. (2) The thickness of a line or path in vector artwork, usually expressed in millimetres (mm) or points (pt).

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Subscript

Small type that is placed just below the baseline, used in scientific and mathematical formulae. See also Superscript.

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Substrate

In printing, the material which is being printed on, e.g. paper or board.

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Superscript

Small type that is aligned to the top of the capital letters or numerals, used for reference and in mathematical expressions. See also Subscript.

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Thermography

A process where a metallic foil is applied to a substrate in a specific area or areas.

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TIFF, TIF

Tagged Image File Format; a digital image file format that supports CMYK, RGB, greyscale and raster line art.

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Tint

A percentage of a colour; if for commercial print using a process such as litho or silk screen, it will be rendered as a halftone. A 50% tint of black is a mid-grey.

Tints

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Trade Mark

Abbreviated to ™, this is commonly applied to business and product names and phrases to establish the intellectual property rights of the owner and guard against ‘passing off’ by others. See also Registered Trade Mark.

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Trapping

The overlapping of printing inks so as to avoid gaps due to misregistration of ink colours during the print run. See also Registration.

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Trim Marks

Fine lines placed on finished artwork to indicate where the printed sheet should be trimmed.

Trim marks

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Typeface

A complete set of letterforms (characters) of a unified design; can refer to a font family, with each font in the family being a variant of the typeface style (e.g. regular, italic, bold).

Typeface

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Uncoated (Stock)

Paper or board left with its natural finish. Cartridge and bond are uncoated papers. See also Coated.

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Uppercase, Upper Case

The capital letters. The name comes from the days of letterpress printing when this set of letters was kept in a compartment or case above the small (or lowercase) letters.

Uppercase

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UV Varnish

A printing varnish which is ‘cured’ using UV light and gives a bolder effect than a machine varnish. Available as a gloss or matt finish. See also Spot Varnish.

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Vector

A digital graphic comprising lines and fills. Vector graphics are totally scalable without loss of quality and can be created in ‘drawing’ software packages like Illustrator®, Freehand® and CorelDraw®. See also EPS, Raster.

Vector

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Visual

A graphic design mock-up.

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Weight (Font)

The thickness of a font. A typeface may come in a range of thicknesses (or weights) like light, book, regular, bold, extra bold, black.

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Weight (Stock)

The mass or thickness of a paper or board, usually measured in grams per square metre (abbreviated to gm-2, gram or gm). Heavier/thicker stocks such as boards tend to be measured in microns (thickness).

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Wet Proof

A printer’s proof printed litho process on a dedicated proofing machine so as to give the closest match to the final print job.

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White Out

To make type or other elements white on a darker background. Usually involves not printing the areas to remain white (paper colour). See also Reverse Out.

White out

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Widow

In typography, an isolated word on a line on its own at the end of a paragraph. See also Orphan.

Widow

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Wove (Stock)

An uncoated paper with a uniform texture.

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X-Height

In typography, the height of the lowercase x of a font, often considered in relation to the height of the capital letters (cap-height).

x-height

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Yellow, Y

One of the four process colours used in full colour litho, digital and screen printing. See also CMYK.

Yellow

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