Most businesses will eventually have a need for print design, whether that need is for business cards, company letterhead or envelopes, marketing materials, flyers or banners.
If you’ve ever worked with a design agency on a printed document, it may sometimes seem as though they’re speaking a different language. The world of print design contains many terms that are unfamiliar to the average person – but if you don’t understand this terminology, you could end up with a printed piece that doesn’t look the way you want, or even worse – the need to do a costly reprint.
Here’s a basic glossary of important print design terms:
Bleed: This refers to any design element on a print piece that extends past the edge of the paper. Designers indicate the bleed by setting up a document with a bleed mark.
CMYK: This stands for the combination of ink colors most commonly used in the 4-color process or digital printing: cyan (blue), magenta, yellow and black (the “k”).
Crop marks: Printers typically fit multiple prints onto one large sheet of paper. Crop marks indicate where the printer should make cuts to the final printed piece. They are also used to cut and separate the excess paper and other prints.
Finish: This refers to the surface quality used for the printed piece. Different types of paper have different finishes, like matte, luster, glossy or textured. Glossy and matte are the most common finishes.’
PPI/DPI: PPI stands for “pixels per inch,” while DPI stands for “dots per inch.” Both are used to communicate the resolution of images and can be used interchangeably. 72ppi is generally the optimal resolution for a computer screen, while 300ppi is the typical optimal resolution for printed images. Images below this resolution will look blurry and pixilated after printing.
Proof: After prepping the final design files, the printer sets up a printing proof, which is typically a digital file in .pdf format. Viewing a printing proof is essential for identifying any design or content-related images before the piece gets sent to the press. Once you approve the proof, you generally can’t make any more changes. The best way to review a .pdf proof file is to open it and view it carefully in Adobe Acrobat. Don’t print it, as your home computer uses different inks and printing techniques than professional printers. Viewing the proof on a computer screen is the closet you can get to the actual final product.