Graphic Design Dictionary | Print Basics

If you missed it last month, I started a new series called Graphic Design Dictionary to help explain some of the terms that I use in my daily life that may not be common knowledge to everyone. Last month I defined some basic web terms that you should know if you have or plan on having a website. This month I'm switching to another main form of graphic design and explaining some basic print terminology.

Resolution: Resolution for print materials refers to DPI or dots per inch - which literally means the dots of ink printed per inch of paper. The standard for print is 300 DPI which will ensure that your design prints clear and crisp. Web resolution is much lower, that's why if you just grab an image off the internet it will most likely print blurry or distorted.

Dimensions: This may seem like a no-brainer, but dimensions refer to the exact size of a printed piece. I'm listing it because it's so important to know the dimensions even before you start designing. Your whole design can change if the dimensions change, so be sure you know the size your want to print before you move on to anything else.

Bleed: You know how when you print something yourself the design will never go out to the edges of the paper? There's always a white border, and this is true for home office printers and professional printers alike. Adding a bleed means extending the design out a bit beyond the finished size so that the print shop can trim off the excess and your design will run off the edge of the paper. 

Pantone: Pantone is a book of colors and the industry standard for matching inks. A design can look very different on the screen than it does when printed. By having an industry standard for matching colors you can ensure that your designs print in the exact color you are expecting. That's why its called the Pantone Matching System or PMS!

Have you heard any of these terms when getting something printed? Are there other terms that you haven’t been able to figure out? Leave any requests in the comments and I'll address them next time!


Lindsey Anderson

Six Leaf Design, Denver, CO, USA

Graphic designer responsible for Six Leaf Design.