A Graphic Design Dictionary of Terms

by | March 11, 2018, 12:34


Acrobat: An Adobe program used to create PDFs (Portable Document Format files). Acrobat allows you to create documents independent from other programs like Microsoft Word. Airbrush: In digital design, airbrush is a tool used for illustration and photo retouch. It allows the web designer to make small precise changes or touch-ups to an image. Most often used in retouching of photos. Alignment: The adjusting of how the lines of text or image are positioned on the page— left, right, centered, etc. Alpha Channel: The alpha channel is a color element that represents the degree of transparency (or opacity) of a color (i.e., the red, green and blue channels). It is used to determine how a pixel is rendered when blended with another. Analog Proof (Prepress Proof):  This is a rough draft of what your finished product will look like. Usually these are printed out. Anchor Point: This is the main point – your anchor – that allows you to change and manipulate a path’s shape or direction by clicking the point and moving it. The points 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. Art Director: The individual responsible for the selection, execution, and production of graphic art.  


Bad Break:  This happens when there is a break in the text or images that causes things to look awkward on a page. For example, the tail end of a paragraph hanging on a second page. Bar: The horizontal or vertical line drawn through a page. For example, the spaces between a newspaper’s columns can be called bars. Baseline: An imaginary line upon which letters sit. Bevel: A tool in design software for drawing angles or adjusting the surface of your work to a certain inclination. Bezier Curve: These are used in computer graphics to draw shapes, for CSS animation and in many other places. They are frequently drawn using a pen tool and by placing anchor points which can be controlled to form shapes or lines. Bitmap: Bitmap (or raster) images are made up of tiny squares of color called pixels. Pixels are the units that create an image. Each Pixel has only one color in it. When you zoom in on a bitmap image you can see the individual pixels that make up that image. Bitmap graphics can be edited by erasing or changing the color of individual pixels using a program such as Adobe Photoshop. Bleed: This happens when a graphic object extends through another in an unwanted manner. These extra bits are usually trimmed off. Body Type: The typeface used in the main text of printed matter. Border: This is the frame, edge, or decorative design on the edge of a surface. It forms the outer boundary of an image. Branding: The process by which a product is created through unique imaging and naming that sets your product or service apart from others. In other words, the process in which you create your brand.  


Canvas Size: This is the overall size of your finished document. You can change the whole size of your project by adjusting the canvas size. Clipping Path: A tool or shape that’s used to cut out an image. Cloning Pixels: A function that allows you to copy pixels from one place and paste them to another. Color Palette: A set of colors that make up the total range of colors used in graphic computers. Comp (Comprehensive): Comps are made to see what the initial design project will look like before it’s printed, showing the layout of the text and illustrations. They are similar to proofs, only they are not printed out. Contrast: This is the difference in tones between the darkest and lightest parts of a photograph. High contrast includes lots of dark blacks and white whites, while low contrast has more tones in the gray scale. Copy: This is the text—often the editorial blurb—that is incorporated into your project.  


Dingbat: Either an image or a symbol, often ornamental, that’s used in typesetting with the goal of adding space around an image or symbol. Dodge: Lightening or reducing some part of an image by shading. Dot Gain: This is how fat or fine an ink drop is when it hits the paper. A paper’s absorbency as well as the ink jet determine the dot gain. A dense dot gain will make an image look darker than a finer one. Double Page Spread:  This is a layout that extends across two pages. For example, you can think of an image in a magazine covering two pages. DPI (Dots Per Inch): A term to describe how sharp an image is. Drop Shadow: This is a visual effect that makes an image look like it has a shadow.  


Element:  This can refer to any specific part of a layout such as an image, border, logo, or headline. Embedding: This is the process of transferring all the data of an element, such as an image or logo, into the file itself. Export: To send a file to another user or program. E-Zine: This is an electronic magazine. While not used often, it can refer to the online version of a print magazine or to a solely digital magazine.  


Feathering:  A tool used that makes the edges of an image appear softer or more blurred. Fill: A tool used to fill selected parts of an image, often with color. Focal Point: This is where you want to draw the viewer’s eye.  


GIF (Graphics Interchange Format): A gif is a short digital animation that often repeats on a loop—GIFs can be animated or live. Graphics: These are images that can be created either digitally or by using photographs by a graphic designer. A logo is an example of a graphic.  


Header: The text that appears at the top of a page High-Resolution Image: An image with an extreme level of sharpness/clarity. HLS: A color space that stands for hue, lightness, and saturation. HSB: A color space stands for hue, saturation, and brightness.  


Image Map: An image map is an HTML document that has multiple hyperlinks that visitors can click on. For example, you can have a map of the US and make each state clickable so that it takes you to a page dedicated to that state. Initial Cap: These are big, capital letters which are found at the beginning of paragraphs or chapters. Italic: A style of letters that usually slope to the right. It is often used for emphasis within text.  


JPEG (Joint Photographic Electronic Group): This is a file form that compresses digital images and makes them easier to share and send.  


Keyframe: This is a location on a timeline which marks the beginning or end of a transition. It holds special information that defines where a transition should start or stop.  


Layers: A tool that allows a user to digitally gather, organize, and re-edit their artwork. Lossless: This term refers to data compression where no information is lost. The lossless compression method is frequently used in TIFF and GIF formats. Lossy: A form of data compression where detail is deleted as the file size is decreased – in essence, you lose information. JPEG is an example of a lossy compression method. Low-Resolution Image: A low-quality scan made from a photograph or the like.  


Margins:  These are the invisible borders where text begins and ends on a page. Multimedia:  This is using multiple forms of media to communicate, like text, sound, and videos.  


Negative Space: This the area on a page that doesn’t contain words or images – also called white space.  


Opacity: This is the degree to which an element is not “see-through.” If something is 100% opaque, then none of the background can show through. If it is 0% opaque then it is completely see-through. OpenType: A font format created by Adobe and Microsoft. Orphan Line: This is a straggling line of text that got separated from its paragraph, and appears on a different.  


Page Layout: This is how a page is set up or designed. PDF: This stands for Portable Document Format. Developed by Adobe in Adobe Acrobat to serve as a universal browser. Files can be downloaded over the web and viewed page by page, provided the user’s computer has installed the application. Pixel: This is the smallest component of a picture. It contains one color. PNG: Portable Network Graphics format. PNG (usually pronounced “ping”), is used for lossless compression. PNG files are typically larger than GIF files. PPI: Pixels Per Inch. A measurement of the resolution on a computer display.  


Quark Express: A page layout application mostly used in magazines and brochures. Quick Mask: A filter in Photoshop in which a translucent colored mask covers only specifically selected parts of an image.  


Ragged: The imbalanced alignment of text lines. Ragged is the opposite of flush or justified. A text block may be formatted to be evenly flush (aligned) right and unevenly aligned (ragged) on the left. Rasterize: An image is said to be rasterized when transformed from vector image to a bitmapped image. Resolution: This determines the quality of a digital image. The higher the resolution, the clearer it is, and the less pixelated it will appear. RGB (Red, Green, Blue): RGB is the color model used to project color on a computer monitor. Rich Media: Rich media are banner ads which use technology more developed than the standard GIF animation. For example: Flash, Shockwave, streaming video, etc. Royalty-Free Photos: These are images that are either sold cheaply or have no rights and can be freely used without crediting the source. Most images are not royalty-free.  


Saturation: This is the intensity of hue. If something is saturated it has high or intense color.  


Text Wrap: Used in page layout software, a text wrap refers to how text wraps around the edge of an image. Thumbnail: A reduced-size version of the original image. TIFF (Tagged Image File Format): A graphic file format used for storing images. TIFF is a commonly used file format for high color depth images. Tolerance: This is the range of pixels within which a graphic software tool functions. Typeface: A typeface contains a series of fonts and a full range of characters, such as numbers, letters, marks, and punctuation. Typography: This is the art of arranging type—which includes letters, numbers, and symbols—so that it is pleasing to the eye. It is not only the font that is used, but how it is arranged on the page: letter by letter, size, line spacing, etc.  


Value: This is the degree of darkness or lightness of a color. Vector Graphic: This type of graphic allows a designer to expand or reduce the graphic size without any loss in quality.  


Widow Line: A single line of a paragraph at the bottom of a page or column. Word Processing Program: A program that assists in creating, editing, and printing text. WYSIWYG: This means “What You See Is What You Get.” It is an approximation of what the final product will look like.  


Zip: This means “Zone Information Protocol.” It is the how files are compressed into a smaller file size so they can be sent to other users. Check out the best free graphic design tools of 2018 here.