A guide to common graphic design terms that will ensure you get the design you need.

Orphans, bleed, slug, CMYK, RGB, OMG. There are a lot of technical terms thrown around and it can get confusing at the best of times when talking to a designer. To ensure you get the best result with your graphic designer, we’re here to help.


Once you master these ey words, you’ll have the vocabulary to harness your graphic designer’s expertise – and then together you can make something amazing.


The art of using typefaces to communicate. This skill encompasses both the typefaces and the negative space surrounding them.


The part of the page that will get trimmed off during the printing process. A document may have images or elements that touch the edge of the page, extending beyond the edge, leaving no white margin. A document with bleed must be printed on a larger sheet of paper and then trimmed down.


Optional space a designer can display within a document that is not part of the final product. This space may include helpful notes, copyright or suggestions during the proofing process.

Crop marks

The marks on the outside of the printed piece, used as guides for cutting the piece down to the final size.


The space created by the binding of a book or magazine. A gutter is the inside margins or blank space between two facing pages.


The space surrounding the content on your page. Margins are generally on the edges of the page and in between columns of copy and images.


Also known as four-color process, this abbreviation stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and key, which refers to black. This is a color model that refers to the four inks used in some color printing.


This abbreviation stands for red, green, blue. It’s a color mode for all images shown through an electronic display, such as a computer or television


The positioning and arranging of lines of text, images or shapes. Alignment can be left, right, centered or justified.

Die cut

A metal ruler that cuts shapes or holes in various types of materials. If you’re looking to print a document in an unconventional shape, you’ll likely need to use a die cut at the printer.


To save a file in a format that is usable by most other computers and/or programs. Not everyone has design software so once a document is complete, you’ll have to export it to a PDF or other universal format.


Also known as a widow, this term refers to the words or short lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph. These words are isolated from the rest of the content, often causing an unwanted focal point.

Pantone system

A printing industry color matching system which utilizes the Pantone company’s number system for identifying colors.

Negative space

This is the space around the words and shapes in your designed piece. This space can be creatively integrated into the design of the overall work.


The smallest element of an image. Images are comprised of many minuscule pixels, providing a clear, high-quality image to the viewer.

Raster image

An image made up of individual pixels. Altering the dimensions of a raster image may result in a blurry image since you’re simply shrinking or stretching the pixels themselves. Raster image file extensions include .JPEG, .GIF and .BMP.


A measure of dots per inch (DPI) for printed works and pixels per inch (PPI) for digital work. It’s best practice to use at least 300 DPI for printed work and at least 72 PPI for digital pieces.

Sans serif

A style of typeface in which there are no small lines at the end of each character. Common sans serif typefaces include Arial, Helvetica, AvantGarde and Verdana.


A copy of what your materials will look like. This is also known as a mockup and may be printed for review or emailed to your client for review prior to printing.





Simon Harris