Terms Every Graphic Designer Should Know

4 Posted by - March 30, 2014 - Press

In order to have a strong workflow and understanding of basic graphic design, one must have a good understanding of collaboration. In order for collaboration and understanding to be effective, it is important to have good communication. Lets go through some important basic design terms that are essential for any aspiring graphic designers to communicate with each other.

  1. Raster images vs. vector images

Photos are an example of raster images. Raster (also called bitmap) images are from thousands of pixels which create the color, form and content of the image.

Photoshop is the most common raster image editing software. It allows you to edit the color and other aspects of the pixels. However, raster images are made of a limited quantity of pixels, making resizing difficult. If you expand a raster image by altering dimensions, the software has to interpolate pixel data in order to alter the image size, resulting in loss of quality.

Raster images (sometimes referred to as bitmap images) are made up of thousands of pixels which determine the colour and form of the image.

Photos are raster images. Photoshop is the most common raster editor, enabling you to manipulate the colour and other properties of the pixels. But, because raster images are made up of a finite amount of pixels, resizing can be tricky. If you make a raster image larger dimensions in Photoshop, the software has to make up data in order to add the size. This results in loss of quality.

Vector-based images are usually created in Adobe Illustrator and are made up of points, each of which has a defined X and Y coordinate. These points are joined by paths to create shapes. Color can be added to these shapes. Vectors have to ability to be scaled without the loss of important picture quality, because of their properties.

Vector graphics have become incredibly complex. Because vectors can be resized, they are often used for creating logos and graphics for a variety of uses.

  1. DPI vs. PPI

There are two main ways resolution is usually described in: PPI and DPI.

DPI stands for ‘Dots Per Inch’ and it explains the number of dots per inch on a printed page or image. The higher the DPI, the better quality the image. (300DPI is standard)

PPI means ‘Pixels Per Inch’ and describes the count pixels per inch on an image. By scaling up an image the number of pixels per inch will increase (Photoshop then tries to interpolate data) which loses image quality.

Resolution only applies to raster graphics.

  1. CMYK vs. RGB

As a designer, it is very important to know the difference between the two main color modes accessible.

CMYK is the color mode usually used for magazines, newspapers, flyers, etc. It stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). RGB refers to the colors visible on a computer LCD display (the color of the pixels): Red, Green, and Blue.

It is important to know when to use CMYK, and when to use RGB colors on projects. Usually, anything dealing with the web or computer based graphics should always be in RGB and printed material should be created in CMYK.


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Tyler French
Graphic Designer