Printing Terminology for Graphic Designers

Introduction to Printing Terminology

With an overwhelming plethora of technical jargon, stepping into the printing realm might feel like learning a new language for graphic designers. However, getting a solid grasp of the printing terminology can significantly elevate the quality of your designs and ensure they transition seamlessly from digital format to print.

Understanding the Importance

The communication between designers and printers is crucial for achieving the desired output. Knowing the lingo will save time, avoid mistakes, and ensure your projects are printed precisely as envisioned.

Common Misconceptions

A common misconception is that designing for print is just a matter of hitting the ‘print’ button. However, the reality is far from this oversimplified notion. The design to print process is nuanced and requires a solid understanding of various printing terms.

Essential Printing Terms

Color Models


In the digital design world, colors are often discussed in terms of RGB (Red, Green, Blue). However, once you transition to print, the color model shifts to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black). Understanding this transition is vital for maintaining color accuracy in your printed projects.

PMS (Pantone Matching System)

PMS is a color matching system that allows designers to communicate specific colors to printers in a standardized language. This is particularly useful when brand colors need to be maintained with high fidelity across various printed materials.

Print Resolution


Dots per Inch (DPI) and Pixels per Inch (PPI) are measures of print resolution. Higher values indicate better quality, but also come at a higher printing cost. Understanding the balance is key to achieving desired quality while staying on budget.

File Formats


Different file formats serve different purposes in the printing process. For instance, TIFF is excellent for preserving image quality, while EPS is preferred for vector graphics. PDF, on the other hand, is widely accepted and retains layout and design elements accurately across various platforms.

Printing Techniques

Digital Printing

Digital printing is a modern method that allows for cost-effective short-run printing with high quality and quick turnaround times.

Offset Printing

For larger print runs, offset printing is the go-to choice. It’s known for high-quality output, but requires a more substantial upfront setup.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is ideal for apparel and offers a high level of vibrancy and durability, especially on fabric.

Choosing the Right Printing Method

Factors to Consider

Your choice of printing method will hinge on several factors including project size, budget, and desired quality.

Recommendations for Graphic Designers

Adopting a consultative approach with your printer, understanding the pros and cons of different printing methods, and choosing the most suitable one for your project is imperative for achieving the best results.


Grasping the printing terminology and understanding the different printing methods are invaluable for graphic designers aiming to excel in the print domain. By bridging the knowledge gap, designers can better communicate with printers, ensuring the satisfaction of both parties and the success of the project.


  • What is the difference between RGB and CMYK?
    • RGB is a color model used for digital displays, while CMYK is used for color printing.
  • Why is the choice of file format important in printing?
    • The choice of file format can significantly affect the quality and the ease of printing, especially in maintaining design integrity.
  • What are the advantages of digital printing over offset printing?
    • Digital printing offers faster turnaround times and cost-effectiveness for short-run projects, while offset printing is more economical for larger runs with high-quality output.
  • How does the Pantone Matching System (PMS) benefit graphic designers?
    • PMS provides a standardized color matching platform, ensuring color consistency across different printed materials.
  • What factors should be considered when choosing a printing method?
    • Considerations include project size, budget, desired quality, and turnaround time.