Leading? Kerning? CMYK? Spot Color? Halftones? RGB? High-Resolution? Native Files? Vector Art?
Are you confused yet? What does it all mean?
Unless you are registered with the U.S. Department of Labor as a Journeyman Graphic Designer (like me, long story), you don’t really need to know all this stuff. The majority of if is archaic, much of it dating back to the beginnings of modern print with Johannes Gutenberg and his Bible.
Some of the terminology has been absorbed right into your basic desktop publishing programs. For example, the word LEADING, meaning the space between the baseline of successive rows of type. At one time, type was actually set using metal dies. To space out the text lines there were various thicknesses of lead strips that would be put between the rows of words to hold a certain distance. If you wanted more space you would put more or thicker lead strips. Likewise, in typography the word KERNING has carried on…think of words and their letters like a row of kernels of corn, all in a row, nestled tightly together…the source of the term. And by adjusting the Kerning, you adjust the space between each character.
Other than that, what do you, the consumer, really need to know in order to get your jobs printed and look good?
Native Files or Vector Files – these are really important. Most of you have paid someone, perhaps us, to design your logo and the only thing you have to send someone when you want to print it is a low-resolution JPEG from your website. Protect your investment and get the NATIVE FILES! Once your bill has been paid always ask to receive a native file of your logo. A native file is the default format from the program in which it is created. Most of the time you are not going to have the programs needed to read these files, but your printer, sign makers, web designers do have them and they are vital to reproducing your materials correctly. These files most often end with extensions like .ai, .eps, .indd, .ps. Sometimes PDFs will have the “real” art embedded in them but sometimes they do not. So again, protect your investment.
High-Resolution Photography – in the days of 14 megapixel camera phones you would think this is not a problem, but 100s of times a year we have people wanting a brochure and all they have to give us are photos downloaded from their websites. Photos on these new high-definition monitors are designed to render photos that are 72 dpi (dots per inch) and look really nice. However, the resolution of printing is 300 – 400 dpi depending on the press; so if you try to print a web image, you are going to end up with a really bitmapped, ragged looking image. Keep your original, high-resolution photos in a safe place; either on an external back-up drive or on your Cloud. I can always make a big picture small, but making a small picture big is impossible.
CMYK vs Spot Color – Ink colors and printing come in two basic classifications:
Four-color process uses 4 translucent inks to mix together to create literally millions of hues. This is the only method by which your printed piece can have full-color photography. C=Cyan, M=Magenta, Y=Yellow and K=Black. Why K? Who knows, but that is what it is! I think “K” was probably chosen because “B” was already used in RGB color mode (R=Red, G=Green, B=Blue – the colors of light, but that’s a whole different story we can get into later). Now, the main drawback in printing four-color process is that you have less accuracy when it comes to color matching. If it is imperative that a certain color to remain exactly the same throughout several different printed pieces, four-color process may not be the way to go. This is where Spot Color printing comes in.
Printing in Spot Color uses inks that are opaque and pre-mixed by a very exact formula to always yield the same color. Back in the 1950s, a company called Pantone® introduced a proprietary color space system known as the Pantone® Matching System (PMS). This is the color system used worldwide in every print shop from here to Zimbabwe! If you order a letterhead printed in Wyoming with PMS 185 red ink and then open an office in Moscow, Russia and have the same letterhead printed there, your stationery will match.
So, all that being said there are literally hundreds of terms and their definitions on our website, but you don’t have to know them all…because we do!