Print Design Terms You Should Know

In the design world, there are many terms and phrases that get thrown around but are important to know and understand. If you’ve ever worked with a designer or printer, it may seem like they’re speaking a foreign language. Don’t worry. We’ve put together a short list of important terms to know to ensure your projects are printed as intended.

Bleed – The bleed is any design element that extends past the edge of the paper, typically measuring 0.125 inches past the trim area of the printed document.

Crop Marks – Crop Marks (also called Cut or Tic Marks) are lines near the edges of a printed document used to indicate where the printer should make cuts to the final piece. 

CMYK – CMYK is a color format that is used for printing. It stands for the combination of ink colors most commonly used in 4-color process or digital printing: Cyan (blue), Magenta, Yellow, and Black (represented by the “K”). Print documents are always printed in CMYK and must be converted from other color formats to CMYK before printing (unless using Pantone Colors).

Finish – The Finish refers to the feel and texture or surface quality of the paper used for the printed piece. There are many different types of paper with different finishes, such as matte, embossed, or glossy.

FPO – FPO stands for “For Placement Only” and is used to designate a design element as temporary while it is still being determined or finalized.

Pantone Colors – Pantone colors, or PMS (Pantone Color Matching System), is a color format used for consistency across print and digital material. It’s a set of universal colors that every printer in the world can replicate.

PPI and DPI – PPI stands for “Pixels Per Inch” and DPI for “Dots Per Inch.” They both indicate the resolution of an image and can be used interchangeably. 72ppi is the standard measurement for the optimal resolution for a computer screen while 300ppi is the standard measurement for the optimal resolution for printed images. Images in a printed document should be 300ppi to avoid looking blurry and pixelated when printed.

Proof – A Proof represents the final design, typically in PDF format, and is used for review purposes to identify any design or content issues before the document is printed. Once a proof is approved, further changes cannot be made.

Resolution – Resolution is the amount of detail or sharpness an image has. The higher the resolution, the better quality the image will appear. Low resolution images will appear blurry or pixelated.

RGB – RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue and is used for digital purposes. RGB makes up all the color combinations that can be seen on a computer screen. If an RGB document is to be printed, the color mode must be converted to CMYK in Photoshop or another image editing software.

Saddle Stitching – Saddle stitching is the process of folding a document’s spreads in half, with staples or stitching in the middle. This requires the final page count to be divisible by 4.

Spreads – A spread represents a pair of facing pages side by side on a single sheet of paper in a printed document, such as a brochure or magazine.

Trim Marks – Trim Marks indicate the size of the printed piece in its final state, after any excess edges have been cut way.

Knowing these basic terms will help you ensure your projects are printed as desired. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to answer any questions or provide help with your design needs.

Picking the Right Stock Photo for Your Project

Images tell a story to bring your project to life. The stock imagery you use should reflect your brand’s voice, style, messaging, and target audience.

We make sure you use the right image for the right purpose. Stock photos for your website banners may not be ideal for your Case Studies or PowerPoint presentations. For instance, your website banners should be text-friendly if you want to add text on top of the image. Text-friendly images have sufficient space to allow copy to be easily read and won’t obscure the main focus of the image.

As a creative agency, we notice that many non-designers often struggle with providing effective input and feedback when deciding on stock imagery. You are the expert in your services or products and can provide specific details about your business to help your designer find the ideal image for your project.

Let your designer know if there is a particular look and feel or mood you want to achieve with images. Is there a certain theme or general idea that you want to follow? When communicating with your designer, indicate a mood or feeling such as calm, relaxing, innovative, confident, reliable, traditional, or modern. This will help to guide your designer and identify possible images to start with. Remember, a designer can always modify a photo to fit your message or brand. Designers can add filters, crop out objects, mesh multiple images, and other modifications in Photoshop.

When it’s difficult to articulate the desired direction, it’s always helpful to provide examples of images you do and don’t like. If you don’t like a particular stock image, tell your designer why you don’t like it. Here are some of the most popular sites for stock imagery:

Premium Stock Images:

  • iStock (www.istock.com) – Offers millions of exclusive, royalty-free, stock photos.
  • Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com) – Search millions of royalty-free stock photos, vector files, and videos.
  • GettyImages (www.gettyimages.com) – Find high-resolution royalty-free images, vector art, video clips, and stock music.
  • Adobe Stock (stock.adobe.com) – License, access, and manage high quality, royalty-free images directly within Photoshop CC, InDesign CC, Illustrator CC, and other Adobe apps.

Free Stock Images:

  • Unsplash (www.unpslash.com) – Beautiful high-quality photos you can use for free for any project, including commercial use. No attribution required.
  • Pexels (www.pexels.com) – Free stock photos you can use anywhere. Free for commercial use with no attribution required.
  • StockSnap.io (www.stocksnap.io) – High quality and high-resolution images free to use for all purposes without attribution.
  • Burst (burst.shopify.com) – A free stock photo platform that provides thousands of high-resolution, royalty-free images.

Ready to get started on your next design project? Contact us today and we’ll be happy to help with any photo usage or creative suggestions.