Designer Lingo 101: Print

Designing for a printed product can be a little overwhelming when you have printers asking you for things you've never heard of. "Add a bleed?? That sounds dangerous!" Since they're working with sophisticated machinery, we have to level up our game and learn the lingo so that we can better understand how the printing process works and how we can get better finished products out of our designs.


The area around your design that artwork should extend to. Typically 0.25inches larger on each side of the document. Since printers can't print color to the very edge of the paper (like home printers can't), artwork is often printed on larger paper and then trimmed to size. Extending artwork to a bleed prevents white lines or gaps between artwork and the edge of the paper.


The area of the design that's final after the bleed has been trimmed off. Crop marks refer to the lines that tell printers where to trim. The trim size is the final document size.

Bleed Crop Trim.png


The material from which paper is made and can refer to the brand name, type, material, and/or color of paper. Printers will often call lighter text sheets "text stock" and heavier text sheets "cover stock." 

paper weight

All stocks are measured in paper weight, which corresponds to paper thickness. Usually measured in pounds (#) or grams per square meter (gsm). Copier paper made for home printers is typically 20#. Cardstock made for home printers is usually 80#.


The color profile that all print documents and images should be set to. All printers use cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink to create full color prints. In general, CMYK color profiles produce more muted colors than RGB and cannot support neon colors.


COLOR process

The process of printing CMYK artwork and using cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink to create full color prints. A four-color process refers to printing with all four ink colors.

Spot color

CMYK printing has its limitations and it's often hard to achieve vibrant colors through four-color process. To achieve brighter colors for important pieces of artwork, designers can employ spot colors, which refers to a Pantone or PMS color. The ink for spot colors is custom mixed and applied to printers, instead of relying on CMYK processes. 


The best file type for images used in printing. JPGs meant for print should be sized to 300 dots per inch and in a CMYK color-mode.

Coming up next week: Designer Lingo 101 - Digital

Nicole YangComment