15 Graphic Arts Terms that Every Graphic Arts Student Should Know

Graphic Arts Terms

Graphic arts professionals are in great demand in today’s economy. A degree in graphic arts or design will equip its students with the graphic arms terms and skills needed to start a career in the field, but it never hurts to start early and teach yourself some of the key basics. Here is a list of terms and concepts that any graphic arts student should know. These will give you an idea of some of the subtle elements that you can incorporate into your graphic arts work.


A brand is essentially the overall image of a company. It is represented through the words, images, and actions of the company, its representatives, and its materials. Branding should always be kept in mind when designing materials to represent a company or product.


Typography is the arrangement and style of letters and words. In graphic design, typography is vital to conveying messages effectively and representing the brand well. There are many nuances involved in this subtle art form. If you need help with Typography and essay writing, check out a company like customessaymeister.com.


The palette of your design is the selection of colors you decide to use. There are many options, and the palette you choose can help reinforce the brand message. Color scheme options can include:

  • Different shades of a single color (monochrome)
  • Three colors next to each other on the color wheel (analogous)
  • Two colors opposite each other on the color wheel (complementary – blue/orange, red/green, yellow/purple, etc.)
  • Three colors that are equally spaced along the color wheel
  • Many more combinations

The relationships of colors are powerful. For example, a color can really jump out when surrounded by its complementary color.

Thumbnail Sketch

These are sketches, drawings, or quick layouts, often done by hand, to test out concepts before progressing to something more formal on screen. Think of it as visual brainstorming.


This is just what it sounds like: intersecting rows and columns of lines used to align elements of a design. Keeping things exactly where they need to be will make your designs look much more polished and professional.


Scale involves the size relationships of everything in your design or an element within it. Keeping things to scale means preserving the relative size of each element when making it larger or smaller.


This involves the amount of detail within an image or design. Higher resolution items can be enlarged while still maintaining their clarity. Lower resolution items get pixelated when enlarged beyond their capacity.


This stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key and is used for printing. The colors are combined in endless ways to make the colors in a design, and when they are all combined, the color moves toward black.


This stands for red, green, blue and is more for on-screen purposes.

Pantone Matching System

This is a system in which colors are numbered for exact identification of colors selected for design.

Display Type

These are the letters or words that are intended to grab people’s attention. They are often the title, catchphrase, or call to action of a design piece.


Similar to display type, this is the overall scheme for attracting attention to different elements in a design, starting with the most prominent. Think of it in terms of title, sub-title, etc.

Color Theory

This is the use of colors, how they interact, and how they affect people. For example, warm colors like yellows and reds can give an exciting feeling, while cool colors like blue and green can have a calming effect. Using colors in this manner helps support the messages conveyed by the words, images, and overall design.


This is the difference between opposing elements in a design, like between the thickness of one item and the thinness of another or between the darks and lights of an image. Darker darks will make the lights stand out.


This is the amount of “color in a color,” or the vividness of the color. High contrast color is intense, while low contrast color is pale or faded.

With a basic knowledge of graphic arts terms like typography and color theory, you can start putting them into your designs to give them greater impact.