Color Bars

Are you speaking my language?

Language of Design

It seems that more and more there are whole new languages being created that only the creators and people in the know seem privy to.

When my mom decided to join  the world of texting, it didn’t quite work out the way she had hoped. When she typed LOL at the end of a notice about a friend’s dog dying, she thought she was sending “Lots of Love.” Needless to say, the friend was not comforted by all the laughing out loud. I myself have to look things up and keep my fingers crossed that I am in fact saying what I mean to say. Maybe it’s generational or maybe it is just an assumed knowledge of a subject that makes people frustrated by others’ lack of knowledge. Fortunately, there are many sites to help out the text challenged individual like and netlingo.

Whatever the case, I know a few art directors that will agree with me and, that not understanding our use of abbreviations or initials, makes us as crazy as you. So to help bridge the communication gap, I am providing you a little cheat sheet.


Web: 72 dpi (DPI = dots per inch) are considered low resolution and are generally used for computer-based design.

Print: 300 dpi or higher are considered high resolution and are used in most printed jobs. Although this can vary based on the print job (digital vs. offset), it is always best to have images larger in size and resolution than you think you will need. Images can always be sized down without loss of quality but it is never a good idea to size up.


Vector: .ai, .eps, .pdf, .svg are source files that can be used and sized to fit any need. They are best used for logos, charts and icons and are always the best files to send to the designer when available. (Saving a raster file as an .eps does not fool us.)

Raster Prints: .jpg, .tif and .psd can be used for printing when they are provided at 300 dpi or larger.

Raster Web: .gif, .png and .jpg are used for web or any screen display. 72 dpi at the actual size works best.

Lets go a step further.


.ai: Adobe Illustrator files (vector based, good for logos, art on banners, illustrations, etc.)

.eps: Encapsulated Postscript files (vector based, good for logos, art on banners, illustrations, etc.) can be opened outside of Adobe Illustrator.

.pdf: Portable Document Format (can be vector based but are not always created as a vector) are documents that are self-contained and include all the graphics and fonts. They are meant for reading but can also be used (high resolution) in the print process. PDF files are universal and easy to be read on both PC and Mac computers.

.svg: Scaleable Vector Graphic files can be used on the Web to resize images within a site for use on mobile to desktop without the loss of quality.


.jpg or .jpeg: Joint Photographic Experts Group are raster images that are continuous tone or gradients that are compressed to be a smaller file. Used for Web images that need to be crisp, RGB.

.gif: Graphic Interchange Format are raster images that are solid color and have no gradients on the Web, like buttons, charts or icons.

.png: Portable Network Graphics are raster images that has transparency capability, so it can be layered on top of other images or backgrounds.

.tif or .tiff: Tagged Image File Format are raster images that are best used for high resolution images for printing, CMYK.

.psd: Adobe Photoshop images that can be a layered file that can be later saved as any of the above formats.

And a little Further …


RGB: Red, Green and Blue. The three colors used by monitors to create the full spectrum of color. RGB are typically more intense than CMYK.

CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (I have no idea why it is not CMYB, but that is another issue) are used for all printing. Either offset, which will include plates of color on a press, or in digital format which will include toner colors.

HEX: Six-digit color coding system used primarily on the Web for coding. It helps to keep colors consistent on the web.

PMS: Pantone Matching System a proprietary color space used in a variety of industries, primarily printing, though sometimes in the manufacturing of colored paint, fabric and plastics.

As you can see the list can go on and on, but the above will give you a safe start when having conversations with artists about the elements needed to start a project.

Since TLGO, let me know if there is anything I can help you with and I will try to answer TTBOMK.

Lots of Love or LOL,

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