I’ve spent so much time trying to explain some of these terms to people. It caused me to want to start a glossary.

CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black – These are the four basic colors used for printing. When mixed together, millions of colors are created in print. Also known as process color, full color, 4/4 (meaning four colors on each side) or four color printing. All files are made using some mix of colors. Some color system terms are: cmyk, rgb, pantone, pantone process, black and white or grayscale and duotone (two pantone colors). When you are sending a file to print, and the printer asks you to send a cmyk file, they are not asking for a .jpg or .tif or .eps. Different things. You can have a .jpg file that is broken down using either cmyk or rgb.

Files going to a four color press need to be saved as a cmyk. That’s only the color breakdown. Then it will be saved as a .jpg, .pdf, .eps, .tif, or any number of formats. So if you have a .jpg, when you open it in Photoshop, you will see the color breakdown you’ll see it was made of cmyk.

RGB – Red, Green, Blue – These are the colors used for files on screens and monitors. Think of your tv set with the three color tubes, one is red, one is green, one is blue. Those three colors mix to create all other colors you see on your screen. For websites, emails, anything that appears on a monitor, rgb is required. Then the file will be saved as a format, either .jpg, .gif, .png or some format used on monitors. Confusing enough? Well here’s another twist;  desktop printers such as the one you have, the copy center near you, or large chain copy centers, do not necessarily require a file to be saved in cmyk. Desktop printers have four cartridges that are cmyk. However they print rgb files very well and sometimes even better than cmyk.

PDF – Portable document format – A format that allows users to view a document in Acrobat Reader. Maybe the most confusing thing people ask me about. Here’s why:  You can save as a PDF from almost any application.  You can save as .pdf from: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Microsoft Word, Excel, your browser etc. the list goes on forever. Each pdf can be opened in Acrobat Reader. Everyone knows about Reader, it’s the free version you can easily download, allowing you to open a .pdf, no matter what application you created it from. You don’t need the original application from which it was created such as Photoshop. You cannot edit the document in Acrobat Reader, but you can edit some things in the full version of Acrobat which is a paid version.

If a .pdf is saved from Illustrator, it can be opened in Illustrator with all original layers, vector art and can be edited completely. Again, so confusing for people to understand. When I need a logo for a billboard, it will be printed large. I’m looking for something that was done in Illustrator because it can be enlarged 1000% without pixelating, because there are no pixels. The file may be an .eps, .ai (Adobe Illustrator), or .pdf.

Vector Format – Vector files are made of line drawing programs such as Illustrator, Correl Draw and Freehand (from the past). This means that the files are not made up of dots or pixels, as in dots per inch. What makes them special, is that you can create a logo or billboard in one of these programs, very small. But when you print them out very large, the text and anything you drew within the program will be as crisp and clean at actual size or blown up very large. If you place a photo into Illustrator, the photo will be whatever resolution it was saved as from Photoshop or from the camera, etc. That photo WILL pixelate when blown up larger. But the text never will.

Registrar – If you think of what the term registrar means:  “an official responsible for keeping a register or official records” it will help you understand domain names. A Domain Name Registrar is a company that has been licensed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or the local domain name authority in their country to sell domain names.

WYSIWYG – (pronounced “wissy wig”) – What you see is what you get. Meaning: when you are working on a document, you are working without code, basically seeing the end result as you are working on it. You often hear Drag and Drop which is kind of the same thing.