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Graphic Design terms

A glossary of design terms

Designers may sometimes lapse into a language of their own, or more often than not designers and clients will use words incorrectly, or use words that have no meaning. Here is a guide to what is and what isn't a word. :-)

A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z

A

A2

A2 is a paper size that is frequently used for medium size posters, architectural drawings and diagrams. A2 measures 420 x 594 millimeters or 16.54 x 23.39 inches.

A3

A3 is a paper size that is typically used for drawings, diagrams and large tables. It is also frequently used in laser printers to output two A4 pages as a spread. A3 measures 297 x 420 millimeters or 11.69 x 16.54 inches.

A4

A4 is a popular paper size that is used for a wide range of documents, including magazines, catalogs, letters and forms. It measures 210 x 297 millimeters or 8.27 x 11.69 inches.

A5

A5 is a paper size that is often used for notepads or pocket books. It measures 148 x 210 millimeters or 5.83 x 8.27 inches.

AA

Abbreviation for Author’s Alterations – changes other than corrections, made by a client after the proofing process has begun. The client is usually charged for these corrections.

absorbency

The ability of a material to take up moisture.

ablation

The removal of material from the surface of an object by vaporization, chipping, or other erosive processes. Ablation technology is used in some proofing devices and platesetters to create proofs or plates by vaporizing or blasting away a part of the emulsion, typically with a thermal laser.

above the fold

An expression that refers to the upper half of the front page of a newspaper. In web publishing it refers to the section of a Web page that is visible without scrolling.

abrasion resistance

- The ability of ink or paper to withstand rubbing and scuffing.
- The resistance to scratching of a surface of paper by other paper surfaces or other materials.

absorptance

The relationship of the light absorbed by a surface to the total light striking the surface expressed as a percentage. A person is able to see colors because a portion of the light striking the surface of the scene is absorbed and a portion is reflected to the eyes. In printing, for example, red is achieved because the magenta and yellow dots absorb the green and blue light respectively leaving only red light reflected from the paper. The absorbed amount of a certain color of light determines the hue and lightness or darkness of the color.

AC

Abbreviation for Author’s Corrections: corrections, made by a client during the proofing process.

accent

A mark used with a letter to modify its pronunciation.

access control list

A database that holds the names of the valid system users and notes the level of access that each has been granted on the network.

accordion fold

Binding term for two or more parallel folds that open like an accordion. Leaflets and maps often use accordion folds.

accurate screens

The rational screen angle system incorporated in Adobe’s PostScript Level 2.

accutance

A measure of the sharpness with which an image is reproduced. Larger numbers indicate better sharpness.

acetate

A transparent type of plastic. The term is often used to refer to a sheet made of this plastic that can be used for overhead transparencies. It can also be used as an overlay and placed over artwork to add comments or instructions.

achromat

A lens designed and corrected for color distortion

achromatic

Having no color (black, white and gray)

actinic

Used to describe radiation that will render a developable latent image

activator

An alkaline liquid to initiate image development in stabilisation processing.

ADA

Abbreviation for Apparent Dot Area: the dot area of a printed halftone.

ADC

Abbreviation for Analog to Digital Convertor

ad complaint

A publishers or advertisers formal grievance about the quality of the printed advertisement that is filled with a printer.

AdConnexion

A file format that resembles SpaceXML. It deals with display advertising specifying how the business transactions should be handled. It comes out of work done in Europe and reflects some of the particular characteristics of the Scandinavian ad industry. It has limited adoption in Europe.

additive color mixing

Color system in which red, green and blue light are mixed to form other colors. Televisions and computer monitors use additive color mixing.

additive color primaries

The colors red, green and blue. When white light is broken down into it’s componant parts, a rainbow is created. Dividing the rainbow into approximately equal thirds results in red light, green light and blue light. By combining the three colors of light together, white light is created. The above drawing shows the principle.

addressability

Refers to the capability of being addressed. For an output device, 2400 dpi addressability implies that each individual pixel that is output is no larger than 1/2400 of an inch.

adhesive binding

A method of holding the pages of a publication together by applying an adhesive to the spine of the gathered pages. Also called perfect binding.

adshel

A poster that is integrated into the structure of a bus shelter.

advertorial

An advertisement that is designed to look like editorial, usually with smaller headlines and photos and text set in columns.

AES

Abbreviation for Advanced Encryption Standard, an encryption standard that is adopted by the US government but also used in applications like Adobe Acrobat.

AFM

Abbreviation for Adobe Font Metrics.

against the grain

Perpendicular to the grain direction of fibers in a sheet of paper.

agate, agate line

Term used originally to designate 5-1/2 point size type. Still used by newspapers to measure display and classified advertising.

AGFA

Abbreviation for Aktiengesellschaft fur Anilinfabrikation – the Belgian/German company that manufactures prepress software and equipment like platesetters as well as consumables like film or printing plates.

AI

Abbreviation for Adobe Illustrator – Popular drawing program for Macintosh and PC. The name also refers to the corresponding file format.

air

- Large white areas in a design layout.
- Adobe AIR is a technology that allows the use of web standards like Adobe Flash, HTML or Ajax to create applications that run on Macs, Windows or Linux systems.

Albion press

A hand operated printing press made of iron

album paper

A wood pulp paper with an antique finish used for pages of photo albums.

albumin paper

A coated paper used in photography; the coating is made of albumen (egg whites) and ammonium chloride.

algorithm

A sequence of exact instructions that define a method to solve a particular problem. For example, algorithms are used to create a digital halftone screen.

alias

A pointer file that actually represents another file. This word is only used on Macintosh computers. On Windows systems, the same pointer file is referred to as a ‘shortcut’.

aliasing

The appearance of jagged steps (jaggies) along object edges in computer-generated images or type. The stair casing effect is caused by sharp tonal contrasts between pixels. This effect can be very apparent in low resolution images.

Anti-aliasing is the technique that is used to minimize the staircasing effect. It softens the edges by adding extra graylevels or colors between the contrasting pixels. The example to the right demonstrates this effect.

align

To line up type or other graphic elements using a horizontal or vertical line as the reference point.

alignment

- The condition of type and or art materials as they level up on a horizontal or vertical line.
- The way text is positioned within the page margins. Text can be left justified (also called flush left) like in this sentence

or it can be centered

or it can be right justified (flush right)

Another option is to simply justify the text, which means that it aligns with both the left and right margin. This effect cannot be used on a web page so I can’t show an example.

alkali blue

A pigment used in carbon black inks and varnishes to improve luster. It is also called reflex blue.

alley

- A random, coincidental path.
- A row of white space within a segment of copy.
- The space between columns within a page.

alphabet length

Measurement, in points, of the lower case alphabet of any typeface from “a” through “z”. Aids in copyfitting and determining the relative space required for different typefaces.

alpha channel

A special channel reserved by some image-processing applications like Photoshop for masking or retaining additional color information.

alphanumeric

Refers to any system that combines letters and numbers. A contraction of “alphabet” and “numeric”.

alternate characters

Variations in designs of certain characters in a type font. Alternate version permit more variety of letter combinations, especially in headline typography.

ambigram

A graphical figure that spells out one or more words not only in its form as presented, but also in another direction or orientation. This effect is also called an inversion.

American Paper Institute

An organization that correlates all paper related information.

American quarto

Outside of North America the ‘Letter‘ page size is known as ‘American Quarto’.

ampersand

In Latin, this is the symbol for ‘et’ which means ‘and’. The name is believed to be derived from the phrase ‘and per se and’.

analog scanner

A computer or other device that manipulates analog data as variable voltages. Some scanners utilize hard-wired electronic circuit to do analog color correction and tone reproduction, other scanners utilize digital data to do similar functions. Nowadays all scanners are digital.

angle bar

In web-fed printing (printing on rolls of paper as opposed to single sheets), an angle bar is a metal bar that is used to turn paper between two components of the press.

angle quotes

Single angle quotes are similar, but not identical to the “less than” and “greater than” symbols.

Double angle quotes are sometimes called “chevrons”.

aniline dye

A synthetic, organic dye used in flexography printing inks.

animal sized

A technique of paper making which hardens the surface by passing the paper through a bath of animal glue or gelatin.

anodized plate

In lithography, a plate manufactured with a barrier of aluminum oxide, which prevents chemical reactions that break down the plate. It provides optimum press performance.

ANSI

- Abbreviation for American National Standards Institute, (pronounced an-see): A non-governmental organization to propose, modify, approve and publish data processing standards in the USA.
- The Microsoft collective name for all Windows code pages. It is sometimes used specifically for code page 1252, which is a superset of ISO/IEC 8859-1.

annulus

The small aperture that passes the image signal data during scanning. The annulus is surrounded by a larger unsharp masking aperture or mirror.

anti-offset spray

A dry or liquid spray attachment on presses to prevent ink from transferring from the top of one printed sheet to the bottom of the next. It is sometimes called set-off spray.

antigua

An eleventh century Italian script typeface.

antiquarian

The largest known handmade paper (53 x 31 inches).

antique finish

A natural, textured surface on book, text and cover papers.

apex

The point at the top of a character such as an uppercase A.

APIS

Abbreviation for Agfa Printer Interface Standard – protocol defined by Agfa to exchange information between RIPs and imagesetters or printers.

aplanat

A lens designed and corrected for spherical aberrations.

appendix

The additional information provided at the end of a book or article.

AppleTalk

The part of the operating system of older Macintosh computers that deals with networking. Initially the software ran on a proprietary network from Apple, called LocalTalk. LocalTalk used a serial port on the Mac and could transfer information at a raw speed of 230 kilobits per second (about 1 MByte per minute in real life). Later on Apple added support for Ethernet (EtherTalk) and Token Ring (TokenTalk) to the AppleTalk software. Nowadays Macs can also use the standard TCP/IP protocol and AppleTalk has disappeared from the market.

APR

Abbreviation for Automatic Picture Replacement: OPI-alike technology used by Scitex systems. An APR-system can generate low resolution images from large scans or drawings. Users place these lowres images in their lay-out files and will also print using these low res files. This speeds up the handling and printing of images. Once the file commences ripping, the RIP picks up the low res info and then proceeds to locate the corresponding high resolution images in the desired destination.

apron

The white area of text or illustrations at the margins which form a foldout.

aqua tint

A printing process that uses the recessed areas of the plate; ideal for graded and even tones.

aquarelle

The hand application of color, through stencils onto a printed picture.

aqueous coating

A water-based finish coating applied in-line like a varnish to protect the finished printed surface.

aqueous plate

Water soluble plate coatings, which are less toxic and less polluting.

arabesque

An art element used for ornamentation or decorative effect.

arc lamp

A lamp that produces light by an electrical current arcing across two electrodes. Used as light source in photography and platemaking.

archival storage

The maintenance of a permanent record of images, on a medium such as photographic film, magnetic tape or optical disc. Archival storage is retained until intentionally destroyed, remove or altered.

area mask

An outline mask that isolates a specific area of an image either by shape, color or tone value.

argon laser

A very strong, collimated, directional bluish-colored light that is used to expose images onto orthochromatic or blue sensitive photographic film, paper or printing plates. The spectral output peaks at 470 nanometers. The advantage of an argon laser over a helium neon laser is that the argon laser can image sensitive film,which can be used with a red or yellow safelight. Argon lasers are not used anymore.

arms

Those elements of letters that branch out from the stem of a letter, such as ‘K’ and ‘Y’.

arrowhead

A symbol shaped like an arrowhead that is used in illustration to direct a leader line.

art director

The person who is responsible for overseeing the creative process. Art directors can also manage the production process.

art paper

A paper evenly coated with a fine clay compound, which creates a hard smooth surface on one or both sides.

artifact

A visible defect in an electronic image.

art-lined envelope

An envelope that is lined with an extra fine paper; can be colored or patterned.

artwork

Any materials or images that are prepared for graphic reproduction.

as to press

A term used in gravure printing for proofs showing the final position of color images.

ascender

The upward vertical line in lower case type that extended above the body (or x-height) of a letter, such as on a ‘b’ or a ‘d’.

ASCII

Abbreviation for American Standard Code for Information Interchange: Click here for more information

aspect ratio

The ratio of the height to the width of an object like an image, a logo or a page.

assembled view

In illustration, a term used to describe a view of a drawing in its assembled or whole format.

assembly

Traditionally, the process of attaching film components of pages in their correct positions to a carrier film, goldenrod paper or plastic. A printing plate is exposed using the page imposition. Electronic assembly is the process of placing all pictures, tint blocks, text and line work in their proper location within a digital page file.

asset management

The process of storing, tracking, finding and using digital assets (like images, fonts, documents,..) in a well-organized, efficient manner.

attachment

A data file that is included in an e-mail. There are a lot of e-mail systems that will refuse to forward such attachments if their size exceeds a certain value, typically 2 MB. This keeps a lot of users from using e-mail to exchange prepress files.

ATM

- Abbreviation for Adobe Type Manager, a utility for older computer systems to improve the handling and visual appearance of PostScript Type 1 fonts on Macs and PCs. Nowadays it is no longer necessary to install ATM at all: a Type 1 rasterizer is in all Mac OS versions, for OS 8.6 onwards , and in Windows from Windows 2000 onwards.
- Abbreviation for Asynchronous Transfer Mode, a high bandwidth, low delay network technology.

atomic regions

The area’s in which Adobe applications split up a page to calculate how transparency effects need to be flattened. Sometimes artifacts show up in the atomic regions of a PDF file.

author’s alterations (AA’s)

Changes made after composition stage where customer is responsible for additional charges.

autochrome paper

Coated papers that are regarded as exceptional for multi-colored printing jobs.

autoflow

A page layout program feature that automatically flows text from column to column and page to page.

automatic picture replacement

See APR.

autotrace

A feature in draw programs that automatically traces bitmapped images to create smooth-drawn objects.

azure

- The light blue color used in the nomenclature of “laid” and “wove” papers.
- The name of the cloud solutions of Microsoft

Acrobat

A product developed by Adobe systems to create PDF (Portable Document Format) files. Acrobat is an independent means of creating, viewing, and printing documents.

Airbrush

A propellant using compressed air that to spray a liquid, such as paint, and ink. Often used in used in illustration and photo retouching.

Alignment

The adjustment of arrangement or position in lines of a text or an image — left, right, centered, etc.

Alpha Channel

The process of incorporating an image with a background to create the appearance of partial transparency. Alpha channels are used to create masks that allow you to confine or protect parts of an image you want to apply color, opacity, or make other changes.

Analog Proof (Prepress Proof)

A proof that uses ink jet, toner, dyes, overlays, photographic, film, or other methods to give a an idea of what the finished product should look like.

Anchor Point

Anchor points allow the user to manipulate a path’s shape or direction by clicking the point and moving it in a direction. They appear along the beginning of a path, at every curve, and at the end of a path. You can also add or subtract anchor points on a path.

Animated GIF

A small animation based on continuous GIF images, giving the impression of movement or action.

Animation

Generating movement by displaying a series of images using frames.

Art Director

The individual responsible for the selection, execution, production, so on, of graphic art.

Asymmetrical

This is when graphics and/or text are not identical on both sides of a central line.

Aliasing

In computer graphics, an undesirable effect--also known as “jaggies”--in which the edge of the image or letter is characterized by a stair-step appearance.

Alignment

A term used to refer to the proper positioning of all typefaces and size variations along an imaginary reference line.

All Rights

In publishing, the purchase of all subsidiary rights to a publication, illustration, or photograph, including North American and international rights, serials rights, etc.

Aqueous Coating

Water-based coating applied by a printing press to protect and enhance the printed surface.

Ascender

The part of a lowercase letter which rises above the main body, as in the letters “b”, “d”, “h”, and “k”.

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