Glossary of Graphic Terms


A European page size that is 8.3 x 11.7 inches.


Software from Adobe used to covert files into PDF format. PDF was created by Adobe as a cross-platform file format that would allow documents to be easily shared between various users. Once a document is in PDF format, it is viewed with the Acrobat reader, which is freely distributed by Adobe. In order to convert a file to PDF format, you must purchase the full version of Acrobat. PDF files are print-ready and can be viewed easily on computers and in browser windows.

Actual Size

The size of an image at 100% without any enlargement or reduction.


Jagged edges that occur due to low resolution in an image.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

The principal institution responsible for the development of technology standards. ANSI works with the International Organization for Standards.


Smoothing jagged edges (known as aliasing) from an image. Generally, this is done by software which smoothes the edges by adding pixels between the jagged edges or stair-steps.


Stripes or lines across a print.

Beziér Curve

In vector graphics, curved lines created by establishing two endpoints. The line can be easily modified by adding, removing or changing points. See vector.


In printing, binding includes a variety of methods of fastening together printed pages. Common methods include stapling, saddle stitch, acco.


The smallest unit of data in a computer system. All data is stored as a 0 or 1. Each 0 or 1 is a bit. Eight bits equal a byte. 1024 bytes = 1 kilobyte (KB). 1024 Kb = 1 Megabyte (MB). 1024 Mb = 1 Gigabyte (GB).


A graphic format. Bitmaps are raster images expressed by pixels.

Bitmap font

A digital image of a font that is fixed in size.


Theoretically speaking, black is the absence of any reflection – all light is absorbed. For CMYK printing purposes, black is the fourth color represented by K. No combination of ink will create a “true black” although to most observer’s eye there wouldn’t be much difference.


Printing an image past where the final print will be trimmed, which allows color to extend all the way to the edges of the final print.

BMP file

The file extension .bmp indicated a Windows Bitmap graphic.


Standard paper.


A standard unit of measure. 8 bits = 1 byte. Each 8-bit byte represents an alphanumeric character. 1024 bytes = 1 kilobyte (Kb). 1024 Kb = 1 Megabyte (Mb). 1024 Mb = 1 Gigabyte (Gb).


A temporary storage location that exists at several different levels. There is disk cache and memory cache – meaning that frequently used data is cached instead of written to the disk (permanent storage) or memory. Disk cache or memory cache is lost when a computer is shut down. Browsers often cache web pages – meaning that they store a copy of the page on the local computer since it is faster to retrieve the page from cache than from the web server.

CAD (Computer Aided Design)

The production of designs and drawings for architectural, engineering and scientific applications using one of several software packages.


Process of setting a computer peripheral to a specific, measurable standard or returning a peripheral to the standard. Color calibration for monitors, for example, ensures that a particular value always displays the same read on screen. Calibrated peripherals generally have to be recalibrated after a period of time.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black)

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (or Key) are the four inks used in four color process printing, as opposed to RGB color schemes. A CMYK color is expressed as a set of four numbers, each representing a certain amount of each ink. CMYK 14 93 100 5 represents a particular red.

Coated Paper Stock

Paper with a layer added to one or both sides. Coated paper can change the way ink adheres to the paper and change the look of the print. Coatings are normally defined as hard glossy, semi-glossy or matte.

Color Separation

In printing, the process of separating an image into four separate files – once for each CMYK color.

Continuous Tone

A photographic image containing gradient tones rather than dot patterns.


In computer imaging, to change one file type to another. This process could be as simple as saving a file in a different format or changing a CMYK file to RGB. Some file conversions are very complicated, such as raster to vector conversions.

Crop Marks

Lines printed with an image to indicate where the print should be trimmed.


Dots per inch. Measures the quality of a printed image. Assuming that the size of the print stays the same, a higher dpi produces a higher the quality since there is more detail. If an image is enlarged, quality suffers since each pixel must be enlarged to fill a larger area. See resolution.


A setting that is automatically chosen if the user doesn’t select a particular option. The default printer, for example.

Device Driver

Software that tells the computer how to communicate with a peripheral device, such as a printer.


Data expressed as a series of bits that are interpreted by a computer and software.

Digital Color Printing

The electronic transfer of a color image to paper – generally using a digital original.

Digital Imaging

The process of image capture, manipulation and final image form, accomplished by electronic systems.


Dithering is the attempt by a computer program to approximate a color from a mixture of other colors when the required color is not available. This often occurs when an image includes colors that the operating system, software or monitor cannot support.

Document Management

A system to store, catalog, search, retrieve and index digital document files.

Dots Per Inch (DPI)

see DPI.


The retrieval of data from a different computer. Data can be downloaded from a central network server or a web site to a local machine.


DPI is a measure of image resolution. Every image is made up of a number of dots. The more dots in a given area, the higher the resolution.


See device driver.

Drum Scanner

A high-end scanner with a rotating drum that the original is mounted to. As the drum spins, light from the image is captured and the image is recorded in a series of fine lines.


To print on both sides of a page.


Indicates how well a particular material holds up to standard wear and tear.


A halftone reproduction of an image using the superimposition of one contrasting color halftone (traditionally black) over another color halftone.


Scientifically, an electrostatic field exists between particles that have a different electric charge. In printing, an image is placed on a drum, creating a positive charge. Negatively-charged toner is attracted onto the drum. The toner is then transferred to positively-charged paper and fused to the paper by heat.

Encapsulated PostScript (EPS)

An Adobe graphic file format. EPS translates graphics and text into a code which the printer can read and print. EPS files hold both low-resolution view files and high-resolution PostScript image descriptions.


The loss of image quality — generally in color density — over time, often due to exposure to sunlight.

File Format

The structure in which digital information is stored, including appropriate headers. Most programs have a proprietary file format. For example, Microsoft Word files are saved as .doc, a format slightly different than WordPerfect’s file format. A program’s proprietary file format is called its “native format.” Many programs can open other file formats — Word can open a WordPerfect document, for example — although all the formatting may not display perfectly. There are may graphic file formats:.bmp, .eps, .psd, .tif, .jpg, etc.


Finishing services are often performed on printed pieces to complete a production job. These services include binding, folding, trimming, mounting, laminating and more.


A line of postscript RIPs made by EFI.


A method of separating a company’s network from the rest of the world. It keeps internal traffic inside the firewall and external traffic outside the firewall. Firewalls can often complicate the process of transferring files or e-mail.

Flatbed Scanner

A scanner with a horizontal piece of glass onto which the original is placed and an image is made by the array, which moves past the original.


A complete collection of letters, numbers and other characters in a particular typeface and size. For example, Arial and Helvetica are typeface families. Bold, Italic and narrow are possible typefaces. Each combination of typeface and size is a particular font. Arial Narrow 10pt is a font. Fonts are either bitmapped fonts or scalable fonts. Bitmapped fonts are fully generated ahead of time, meaning that a complete font set would include every character in each point size in each typeface. Scalable fonts are generated in any point size on the fly, so a complete font set would include every character in every typeface in one point size. Scalable fonts are also called outline fonts. The most popular outline fonts today are TrueType, Adobe’s Type1, and the new cross-platform OpenType format.


Identifies the size of a printer, media, or graphic, based on the width of media roll, the printer’s print area, or the dimensions of a graphic. At Spectrum Printing, Small Format includes everything up to 13″ wide and Large Format (Wide Format) encompasses everything above that.

Four-Color Process

A system of printing colors by printing dots of magenta, cyan, yellow and black – CMYK.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

Technically, FTP is a language used to move files, however the term commonly refers to the process of sending a file via FTP or to an FTP site. FTP is used as opposed to HTTP, which is the language used to write web pages. The ‘ftp’ or ‘http’ that precedes a web address tells a web browser which language it should use when processing the request.

Full Bleed

A term that describes a printing process where the ink is placed past the edge of where the document will be trimmed so that the image extends to the edge of the paper. Printers generally cannot print to the edge of a piece of paper, since some portion of the paper is gripped by rollers that move the paper through the printer. To print a full bleed letter size page, the image is printed on a larger sheet of paper and trimmed to final size.


The range of colors that can be captured or represented by a device. When a color is outside a device’s gamut, the device uses a different color to express that color. See dithering.

GIF (Graphic Interchange Format)

An image format type generated specifically for computer use. Its resolution is usually very low (72 dpi, or that of your computer screen), making it undesirable for printing purposes.


Garbage in, garbage out. A computer industry slang term that implies the quality of a copy is only as good as the quality of the original.


An image containing a range of gray levels as opposed to only pure black and pure white.

GUI (Graphical User Interface)

Abbreviation for Graphical User Interface, a computer operating or control system that enables graphics for the operator to command the computer with a mouse or stylus.


The process of reproducing a continuous tone image as a series of various sized dots within a fixed grid that can be reproduced with ink. The finer the dot grid the higher the quality of the reproduction.

Indexed Color

A color system that defines a palate of colors to be used in a specific image. Often this makes images small and manageable.

Inkjet Printer / Plotter

A printer that applies color by spraying ink onto the page. As opposed to continuous tone color.


A graphic file format created by the Joint Photographic Experts Group, hence the name. Usually used for compressing full-color or grayscale images. Usually used for screen display rather than printing.



The application of one of various types of film to a print using a hot or cold process. Often this makes the print more durable and can even help make a print water resistant. Laminates come in various thicknesses and finishes – some are glossy and some are matte and some prevent UV exposure.

Large Format (Wide Format)

A printer, media, or print 13″ or greater in width.

Laser Printer

A copying machine that uses the electrostatic printing process. The image is sent to the printer and a laser beam “draws” the image on a selenium-coated drum using electrical charges. After the drum is charged, it is rolled in toner. The toner adheres to the charged image on the drum. The toner is transferred onto a piece of paper and fused to the paper with heat and pressure. After the document is printed, the electrical charge is removed from the drum and the excess toner is collected. Most laser printers print only in monochrome. A color laser printer is up to 10 times more expensive than a monochrome laser printer.

Legal Size

A standard US paper size – 8.5 X 14

Letter Size

A standard US paper size – 8.5 X 11.

Line Art / Drawing

An image that is made up of elements that have sharp edges and high contrast between areas where there is ink and where there is not ink. These images must be printed at a higher resolution to create the necessary sharpness.

Lines Per Inch (LPI)

The number of lines or rows of halftone dots in a linear inch. Generally, the lower the LPI the lower quality of the image.

Matte Finish

A low gloss finish. We offer matte finishes in both paper and laminate choices.


The materials to be printed on. It can be anything from bond paper to copper and wood vellum.


Approximately one million bytes. Commonly written as MB and spoken as a “meg”.

Monitor Calibration

The process of bringing a monitor to a set standard. The process involves the color, saturation and brightness of the monitor and makes sure that the image displayed on the screen will be as close as possible to the image printed out of the printer.


Technically a “single color” In graphics, it usually refers to a black and white image as opposed to a color one.


A type of translucent material for printing.

Native Files

The original file still in the original application format. A native file can still be opened and edited.


In graphics, an object is a graphic or picture that is inserted into a file. A scanned image or placed logo can be an object.

ODC (On-Demand Color)

Refers to short-run color printing. Includes ink jet, electrostatic and direct-to-press printing. Our color imaging department provides On-Demand Color.

Offset Printing

Printing process that makes a print by transferring ink from a plate to a rotating blanket that make direct contact with the media.

OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

Technology enabling printed text to be scanned and saved as an editable text file.


Direction that a page is printed. Horizontal is landscape and vertical is portrait.


Printing one ink over another. Commonly used in trapping.

Page Format

The standardized page sizes used across the industry:


Format Inches Metric (mm)
A3 11.69 x 16.54 297 x 420
A4 8.25 x 11.75 210 x 297
A5 5.83 x 8.25 148 x 210
B5 6.93 x 9.84 176 x 250
Executive (Monarch) 7.25 x 10.5 184 x 267
Legal 8.5 x 14 216 x 356
Letter 8.5 x 11 216 x 279
Magazine – Broad 10 x 12 254 x 305
Magazine – Narrow 8.125 x 10.875 206 x 276
Magazine – Standard 8.375 x 10.875 213 x 276
Magazine – Wide 9 x 10.875 229 x 276
Periodical 10.25 x 13 260 x 330
Tabloid 11 x 17 279 x 432

Page Layout

The process of setting up artwork and text in pages. Also refers to software packages specializing in the process of page layout.


The assignment of page numbers, either manually or electronically, in a document.


A color matching system for print and computer applications. The system represents about 3,000 colors that are referred to by number.


Adobe Portable Document Format. Format allowing files to be displayed and printed in any platform without access to linked images or fonts.


Picture file format. Developed by Apple Computer, Inc. for use on Macintosh computers. The PICT format is adequate for storing and displaying data at 72 dpi, using the Macintosh screen, but is not sophisticated enough for higher-quality work such as printing


The smallest distinguishable part of any image. Closely related to resolution, which determines how many pixels are in an image. The actual size of a pixel is screen-dependent, and varies according to the size of the screen and the resolution being used.


Proprietary computer system. May be Windows, Macintosh, Unix or Linux


A printer, usually wide-format, that prints vector graphics.

Point of Purchase (POP) Display

Sign or display setup close to the actual retail product being sold.

Portrait or Portrait Mode

The image is vertical – taller than it is wide.


A page definition language (PDL) developed by Adobe Systems. When a page of text and/or graphics is saved as a PostScript file, the page is stored as a set of instructions specifying the measurements, typefaces, and graphic shapes that make up the page. It is a device-independent format. This is the computer language most recognized by printing devices. A postscript file has the extension “.ps”.


The process of checking a print job for problems such as missing graphics or fonts before it is sent to print. Several applications offer preflighting tools. Usually preflighting includes checking linked files and fonts.

PPD File

PostScript Printer Description file. A file that contains information on screen angle, resolution, page size and device-specific information for a file to be printed on a particular postscript printer.


A measure of screen resolution indicating the number of pixels on the horizontal axis by pixels on the vertical axis — 800×600.

Print On Demand (POD)

Printing documents as needed. As opposed to offset printing, where documents are printed in large quantities and stored until needed.

Printer Driver

Software that allows the computer to communicate with the printer. See PPD file.

Process Color

In four color process printing, the primary process ink colors are cyan, magenta, yellow plus black. These four colors are used to create a full color range.


A digital measurement that describes the difference between the color that a device scans, displays, or prints and the actual color of an image.

Raster Image

An image displayed as a series of lines of dots. As opposed to vector image.

Raster Image Processor (RIP)

The hardware engine which converts data which has been stored in a computer to information a printer can understand. The software that drives the RIP often includes features for color calibrating resizing and various print utilities.


Converting images from vector to raster.


In printing, reflective refers to duplicating a hardcopy original by reflecting light off them. As opposed to digital printing or shining light through a translucent original (like the diazo/blueline process).


The Interpretation of an document, image, or other file so that it can be displayed on a computer.


A measure of the quality of an image. Print resolution is generally expressed as dpi (the number of pixels per inch, i.e. 300 dpi) and screen resolution is usually expresses as ppi (pixels on the horizontal axis by pixels on the vertical axis, i.e. 800×600).


Altering artwork or output to correct faults or enhance the image.


Red, Green, Blue. The primary colors, called “additive” colors, used by color monitor displays, TVs and some color output devices. The combination and intensities of these three colors can represent the whole spectrum.

Saddle Stitching

A method of binding where the folded pages are stitched through the spine from the outside, using wire staples. Usually limited to 64 pages size.


The means within a program to reduce or enlarge the amount of space an image will occupy. Some programs maintain the aspect ratio between width and height whilst scaling, thereby avoiding distortion.


To convert pictures, artwork or images into digital information.


An electronic device that scans. Scanners utilize electronic circuits to correct color, compress the tones and enhance the detail. Types of scanners include flatbed and drum.


Dividing the image into colors for printing. Commonly used in four-color and spot color offset printing.

Service Bureau

Company that offers print output services. Spectrum Printing is a service bureau.

Spot Color

A specific color in a design, usually designated to be printed with a specific matching ink, rather than through process CMYK printing. Used to reduce cost or when CMYK is unable to accurately represent a color.


The media on which something is printed or adhered to.

Tabloid Size

A standard US paper size – 11 x 17.


A small low-resolution version of an image, page or graphic.


Tag Image File Format. A document format developed by Aldus, Microsoft and leading scanner vendors as a standard for color or grayscale graphics, including scanned images. The quality of the image is determined by its DPI.


A dry ink powder which has been electrically charged. Used in printers, fax machines and copiers. Generally, the image is translated into bit mapped charges of the opposite polarity on a special drum in the printer. The toner is attracted to the charged areas, where it is transferred to paper. The toner is then “set”, usually by heat.


Media that allows some light to shine through – for example vellum, sepia or mylar.


Printing one ink over another ink in order to eliminate problems with registration. Registration refers to the alignment of different color graphics in a print. If registration is off, there are often white gaps between graphics. To avoid gaps when registration is off, trap is built into the image. Generally an thin outline is added to the lighter color, creating some overlap between colors. This overlap eliminates the gaps when in image is printed out of registration. Many graphics software applications include tools for trapping. Improper trapping will cause color changes.


The time it takes to get a job back from a service bureau. This time is dependent on several factors including size and complexity of the job.


Acronym for “Technology Without An Interesting Name”. Universal standard for scanning devices.


Text-only format. Retains no formatting.


Style and design of a particular alphabet.

UV Resistant

Lasts longer when exposed to sunlight and other ultraviolet rays than non UV resistant materials.


Images defined by sets of straight lines, defined by the locations of the end points. As opposed to raster image.

Vector to Raster Conversion

Converting images from vector to raster. See rasterization.

Variable Data Printing

Printing files where certain data changes from page to page while the rest of the data stays the same.


An acronym — pronounced “wizzy wig” — that stands for “What You See Is What You Get”. Refers to a graphics or publishing program that displays images on the screen the way they will appear on paper.