Below you will find descriptions of the most asked about terms, in my own words. In my years of designing, these are the top 5 that come to mind and cause confusion: (this is a work in process)

CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black – These are the colors used for files being printed. (as opposed to RGB – red, green, blue – used for monitors) All files are made using some color formatting: black and white, rgb, cmyk, duotones (two colors only using pantones or some other palette) 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. In printing, these four colors mix to create the millions of colors you see on your printed piece. Pretty amazing, right?

PDF – Portable document format – A format that allows users to view a document in Acrobat Reader. You can save a document as a PDF from almost any application, i.e.: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. the list goes on. The beauty of this format is that you can see it in Reader which is readily available for free. You don’t have to have 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. This format is the most asked about and confusing thing to people that I run across. There are many many ways to save a PDF and this only touches on the general term.

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.

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. All files are made using some color formatting: black and white, rgb, cmyk, duotones (two colors only using pantones or some other palette) For websites, emails, anything that appears on a monitor, and even printing on desktop printers (confusing even more, I know, opposite of what was said before but it gets technical there).

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, 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, they will be as crisp and clean at actual size or blown up very large.

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.