Welcome to the Dictionary!

From RGB to CMYK and all the way through to raster and vector, join Dot in her whimsical journey through the vocabulary of graphic design.

3 Color RGB 4 Color CMYK Adobe Creative Suite Baseline Bleed Color Palette Crop Die Cut DPI Fonts & Typefaces Kerning Leading Margins & Guidelines Opacity Orphan The Pantone Matching System (PMS) Pixel Raster Sans Serif Serif Tracking Vector Widow


3 Color RGB

RGB refers to the color mode used on electronic screens and online in which red, green and blue light are combined to produce an array of colors. Because RGB is viewed on backlit screens, a printed image may not always match up exactly to how it looks on-screen.
Linked Terms: CMYK, Pantone

4 Color CMYK

CMYK refers to the color mode used in color printing in which cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks are combined to produce an array of colors. The letter K is used to refer to the black ink. Some colors are very difficult to achieve with CMYK printing, such as very light, and very saturated colors.
Linked Terms: RGB, Pantone

Adobe Creative Suite

The Adobe Creative Suite is a collection of companion software programs. There are several programs within the suite, but the most common programs used by graphic designers are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe InDesign. Photoshop is a graphics editor that is used primarily for raster imagery, Illustrator is a vector graphics editor, and InDesign is used for desktop publishing and layout design. Even though many projects can be completed with the use of only one program, many designers use more than one in combination to complete a single project.
Linked Terms: Raster, Vector


In typography, the baseline refers to the imaginary line on which most letters sit.
Linked Terms: Fonts & Typefaces, Leading


It's hard for printers to print ink all the way to the edge of a paper. When this is necessary, an image is first printed at a slightly larger size and then trimmed to the desired size afterwards. This extra image area is what's referred to as the bleed. It's important when designing something that will require a bleed to keep all text or important information away from the edges, in case it is accidentally trimmed off.

Color Palette

A color palette can refer to two things. In computer graphics, it can refer to the total number of colors that the system is able to display. The term can also be used to refer to a specific, limited set of colors selected from the larger whole.


Cropping refers to removing unwanted areas from an image. Images are cropped for many reasons; to remove an insignificant portion, change its aspect ratio, or to allow it to fit more pleasingly into a composition.

Die Cut

Die cutting is a technique that allows both simple and intricate designs to be cut into paper and other similar materials using a sharp metal blade. Die cutting allows cuts be made in the center of a sheet of paper without starting from the edge. Elaborate die cuts can be expensive to create, and so they are often a specialized finishing option for printed pieces.


Printers generate images by placing several small dots near each other. From a distance, these dots bled together to create a smooth surface. DPI, or dots per inch, refers to the number of these individual dots that a printer can place in a 1 inch line. The DPI therefore describes the printer's output resolution. For many printing purposes 150 DPI is an acceptable print resolution, but when an extremely high quality print of an image is needed 300 DPI is generally the minimum acceptable resolution.
Linked Terms: Pixel

Fonts & Typefaces

In typography, a font is a distinct styling of a set of characters. A typeface refers to a family of fonts which may have individual variations in weight and size. For example, the Helvetica typeface is made up of several fonts, such as Helvetica light and Helvetica bold.
Linked Terms: Sans Serif, Serif


In typography, kerning refers to the process of adjusting the spacing between two individual characters.
Linked Terms: Leading, Tracking


In typography, leading refers to the amount of vertical space between the baselines of consecutive lines of type. Leading is also sometimes referred to as line-spacing.
Linked Terms: Baseline, Kerning, Tracking

Margins & Guidelines

In layout design, the margin refers to the area between the edges of the page and the main content of the page. Guidelines are vertical and horizontal lines used to separate and divide the main content area that can be used as reference points to position elements precisely. While they can sometimes be illustrated by solid lines on-screen, both margins and guidelines do not print.


The opacity of an image refers to how transparent it is. A completely transparent image has an opacity of 0%, and a completely opaque image has a opacity of 100%.


In typesetting, an orphan is a word, part of a word, or very short line that appears by itself at the end of a paragraph. Orphans can easily be fixed by adjusting tracking or paragraph widths so that the extra word is either pushed up to the previous line or joined by other words to fill out the blank space.
Linked Terms: Kerning, Tracking, Widow

The Pantone Matching System (PMS)

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a standardized color reproduction system that allows colors to be exactly matched across a variety of different media and printers. Metallic and fluorescent colors can also be achieved using PMS colors. If you need a lot of different pieces to all match exactly, or you want a printed piece to be an exact match to a color swatch, printing with a PMS color is often a better alternative to CMYK.
Linked Terms: 3 Color RGB, 4 Color CMYK


A pixel is the smallest single component of a digital image. An image with a lot of pixels is said to have a high resolution, while an image with few pixels is called a low resolution image.
Linked Terms: Raster, Vector


Raster images are based on pixels, and so are resolution dependent. This means that they can't be easily enlarged without losing quality. Enlarging the image doesn't add more pixels, but instead only makes each pixel larger, resulting in a blurry and choppy image.
Linked Terms: Pixel, Vector

Sans Serif

Sans-serif is used to refer to a typeface that doesn't include serifs on the end of its letterforms. Sans serif typefaces are often used to display text on computer screens because the lack of serifs make them easy to display even on low resolution screens, where serifs could disappear or become distorted.
Linked Terms: Fonts & Typefaces, Serif


In typography, a serif is a small line or shape attached to the end of a stroke of a letterform. Serifs come in many shapes and sizes, and can be thin and dainty or large and pronounced depending on the style of the typeface.
Linked Terms: Fonts & Typefaces, Sans Serif


In typography, tracking refers to the process of uniformly adjusting the amount of spacing between a block of text. Tracking is also sometimes referred to as letter-spacing.
Linked Terms: Kerning, Leading


Vector images are not based on pixels, and are instead based on geometrical lines and points. This allows them to be easily scaled both up and down without sacrificing image quality; the image can be easily reformed at any size using the geometrical coordinates.
Linked Terms: Pixel, Raster


In typesetting, a widow is a single line of text from the beginning or end of a paragraph that is left dangling at the top or bottom of a column, separated from the rest of the paragraph. Widows can be fixed by adjusting the layout of the text so that the dangling line either rejoins the rest of the paragraph, or is joined by other lines to make the dangling less noticable.
Linked Terms: Orphan, Leading