Design Cheat Sheet

Having trouble understanding our designer speak? We’ve put together a ‘cheat sheet’ to help you understand our lingo and to help you better understand some of the various processes around print and digital design.

Graphic Design Sheet


Also know as four colour or process colour, CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. When you print CMYK you are combining these four colours to get your desired colour. When printing CMYK the colours of your image are broken into four parts and then a printing plate is created for each of the four parts.

You’ll need to print CMYK if your printing anything that has a photograph in it and it can sometimes be a more economical option when you have an image with multiple colours in it. See below a colour breakdown of a photograph and the CMYK plates used to create the image.

What is CMYK

Want a bright popping pink, vibrant orange or a fluro like Neon Zoo? Then you’ll need to print pantone. Also known as spot colours (or PMS colours), printing with Pantone ink means that the printer will mix the exact colour you request according to a universal colour registry. Pantones are often used by brands to create consistency across multiple print runs and varying items. You choose pantone colours for coated and uncoated stock (see below) to ensure colour consistency retained.

When printing only a couple of colours Pantone printing can be quite economical, however, the more colours used in the design, the more printing plates required. Separate inks are required per colour, so costs can spiral when you print a job with multiple spot colours.

Pantone colours

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue and is used for anything that is light based whereby the lights are added together to achieve your desired colour. RGB should only be used when preparing graphics that will be seen on a screen. ie; For websites or digital graphics.

What is RGB Colour

Offset printing is the most common type of printing. When printing offset, a plate it created for each of the colours in your job. Ink is then transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket then to the paper.

Offset printing is always recommended when you are printing a large quantity and you can expect to get a good per unit price and high consistency of colour and quality across on each print.

Digital printing is when you print direct from a digital based medium (i.e no printing plates). When you are printing digital you can only print CMYK. i.e. No Pantone inks. Digital printing is usually quite quick and more economical for smaller print runs.

A1 – 594 x 841mm
A2 – 420 x 594mm
A3 – 297 x 420mm
A4 – 210 x 297mm
A5 – 148 x 210mm
A6 – 105 x 148mm
DL – 99 x 210mm

common Paper sizes

GSM refers to the paper weight that you are using and measures in grams per square meter. Below is  a guide to some of the more common GSM’s and their usage.

35 – 55gsm is what is used for most newspapers

50 – 60 gsm is commonly used for a retail catalogue (aka junk mail)

80 – 100 gsm is normal copy paper

115 –  200gsm is normal for an advertising flyer

180 – 250gsm – commonly used for magazine covers.

300 – 350gsm is the standard business card weight  

Coated paper comes in a gloss, matt or satin finish and will generally have a smooth finish. On coated paper the ink sits on top of the paper whereas on uncoated paper the ink sinks in. You will therefore find that on uncoated paper your colours will appear slightly muddier due to the inks sinking in.


Z Fold
Also known as a concertina, accordion or zig zag. A ‘Z fold’ uses 2 parallel folds to create six panels of equal sizes. The 2 folds are made in opposite directions which then forms a Z shape.

Roll Fold
A roll fold is when you fold a piece of paper similar to how you would fold a letter and each of the folds will always fold inwards.

French Fold
In a French the sheet is folded both vertically and horizontally. Often used in booklets that open out to a poster.

Differnet types of folds


Spot UV
Spot UV is when a varnish is applied to certain areas of the artwork. It helps to high light certain parts of a design. See the Sweet Poison business card below where ‘Poison’ has a spot UV applied to it.


Sweet Poison, Newcastle West Spot UV business card design by Neon Zoo

Die Cut
A die cut is when a form or knife is created of a particular shape. i.e; A star cut out of your print. The initial creation of the die makes for a more expensive print runt, however once a form has been created you can use it multiple times without the additional costs being incurred. See the sample below of the die cut on the Keys business card.

Keys Business card die cut

Cello Glazing
Cello Glazing is the process of adhering a thin sheet of film to the print. It comes in matt or gloss and is a common finish on many business cards these days. Matt Cello Glazing was used on the Sweet Poison and Keys business cards (above), as well as the HunterNet presentation folder below.

When you emboss your artwork, a mould is created to form a relief on your print material. See below an example whereby the HunterNet logo has been embossed.

Hunternet Brochure emboss

Foiling is a non-ink technique that uses heat to transfer a film to your material. Often used with metallics, white can also be quite effective when used on a darker paper stock (e.g box board or kraft paper). See below the blue foil used on Wilde Legal’s letterhead.

Wilde Legal letterhead foil sample

If you’ve got any questions, or anything you think needs to be added to our cheat sheet, please get in touch!