Glossary of Magazine Layout Terminology & Definitions

Looking for a particular magazine design, layout or publishing term? New to publishing? Or maybe you’re just drawing a blank?

Either way, you can find most any term or definition used in magazine design, periodical publishing,  annual reports, catalogs, and related categories.

Magazine design terminology and definitions

Terminology is key to knowing the layout design industry and dealing with the different online and offline publishing functions involved, like print and WebDev. Just scroll down for alphabetic order. for the layout design term you’re searching for Or better yet, just do a search on this page for what you need!

Layout Design Terms & Definitions:

A – B – C – D – E – F – G – H – I – J – K – L – M – N – O – P – Q – R – S – T – U – V – W – X – Y – Z

Adobe InDesign

Definition: The layout design tool of choice for many periodical and magazine. It also allows for easy creation of brochures.

Adobe Illustrator:

Definition: A vector image design software tool that has been in use by Adobe-leaning designers for decades.

Adobe Photoshop

Definition: The industry standard software tool for most graphic designers for creating and modifying all major image formats such as JPEG, BMP (bitmap), and TIFF.

Back Matter

Definition: Material that follows the main content sections of a magazine. In some magazines or other periodicals,. these can include content like an appendix, glossary, or a bibliography, just as they might appear at the back of a book. For example, scholarly magazines and literary reviews sometimes do this.

Banner

Definition: In online periodicals, this may be an image with a headline and accompanying ad or callout copy. Within the discipline of typography, however, any large headline can be called a banner, especially when spanning the width of the page.

Baseline

Definition: The invisible horizontal line upon which the “feet” of the characters on a line of type are set. This line is used for proper alignment of type.

Binding and Finishing

Definition:  The activities performed on printed material after printing and bleeds are cut off, and which are typically performed together. Binding is the fastening together of the individual sheets. Finishing involves all of the additional decorative treatments of the page such as embossing or die-stamping.

Bitmap

Definition: A digital image which is comprised of pixels (individualized points of color).

Blanket

Definition: A specially-designed synthetic rubber mat which is typically implemented in offset lithography. It’s used to transfer (i.e., “offset”) an image from a metal plate to a paper surface.

Bleed

Definition: The planned extra margins of the paper designed into some pages of a print publication, which are to be later cut off by the printer. The bleed allows magazine publishers to run full color images to the edge of the paper without use of undesired white margins. These bleeds allow the final trim size (final dimensions of the paper) to meet the desired size with the color running to the edge as planned. Bleeds normally range in width from 1/8″ (0.125″) to 1/4″ (0.25″).

Bleed marks

Definition: Hairline lines (“rules”) that delineate the excess (“bleed”) outside area of the paper “leaf”/page of an image extending outside of the defined page size. These help to guide the printer’s trim of the publication’s paper leafs/pages.

Block Quote

Definition: Four or more lines quoted within the body of the text layout, set apart to help the reader more clearly discern the author’s words from the words the author is quoting. Blocked quotes are indented on both left and right sides well inside of the right and left margins or page edges.

Block-Style Paragraphs (“Block Type” or Block “Text”)

Definition: Within the discipline of typography, paragraphs that are set without indents are typically known as block text, as they form solid rectangular-shaped blocks.

Body Text

Definition:  The central text of a magazine or other periodical section or article.

Byline

Definition: In a magazine the byline is simply the line added to an article which identifies the author by name. In some cases, more than one author or contributor may be listed int he byline.

Callout

Definition: A visual design element which is used to highlight a specific piece of information not contained in the main body of an article. Callouts are usually smaller than a typical sidebar and may involve text, graphics, or both. In layout design, they normally allow an online reader to click to another web page to take an action, such as branching off to a new browser tab to subscribe to the online magazine they’re reading.

Camera-Ready

Definition: Content such as copy and/or artwork that requires no additional layout processes like redrawing, positioning, or typesetting. Camera-ready is ready to be photographed for a negative or printing plate. Examples of usage: camera-ready art and camera-ready copy.

Cap height

Definition: Within the larger discipline of typography, the cap height is simply the distance from the baseline of the text characters to the top of the capital letters on such a line.

CMYK

Definition: The color design shorthand for the color schema of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. CMYK is typically used as the basis of “four-color” or “full-color” print jobs. Tiny dots comprised of these four colors are combined in many different combinations to produce a large range of other colors. CYMK is the print world’s (original) version of the RGB color schema (red, green, and blue) for digital colors.

Color bars

Definition: The use of small square blocks of color representing the CMYK inks and hues of grey-scale, usually employing 10pc increments. Such marks are used by printing houses to adjust ink density on the printing press itself.

Color separation

Definition: This is the method by which full-color photographs are divided into four primary color components of process color printing . These four colors are CMYK (or cyan, magenta, yellow, and black).

Column

Definition: This is a a vertical block of content positioned on the page. Margins flank the sides of columns to give them space or “breathing room and are often separated by gutters.
Column formatting of a page’s text is generally considered to improve the readability of the text on the page, by providing shorter lines of running horizontal text to follow. Columns also allow text to not appear as dense and time-consuming as it may actually be. Newspapers often use this technique.

Condensed font (condensed type)

Definition: A font having narrower widths than the standard typeface. This is sometimes used to conserve space in a limited-space format.

Continuous tone

Definition: A photographic image not composed of halftone dots.

Contour

Definition: Within the discipline of typography, contour refers to the setting of type in a shape in order to outline the appearance of some particular object relating to the theme of the text. This was first a device of poetry publications like those of E. E. Cummings.

Copy

Definition: The text of the magazine is the copy. Also, any material that is to be typeset, such as a typewritten document. Printing use: copy also can refer to other page elements that will become part of the printed pages in a magazine or other such publication, such as photographs and illustrations.

Crop marks

Definition: Thin hairline horizontal and vertical lines that delineate where the page should be trimmed by the printer. Crop marks are used to help to align (or register) one color separation from another.

Cutline

Definition: A caption that describes or annotates images in a magazine layout, such as illustrations or photographs.

Digital edition

Definition: An online version of a magazine issue which is converted into web pages. Originally, a digital edition is strictly an identical facsimile (exact copy) of the print edition in electronic format, usually a PDF. This term may often be more loosely used to mean a digital version of a magazine, but this is inexact, given the history of the term’s usage.  See elsewhere for more on creating a static PDF digital edition facsimile of your magazine issue versus responsive, high-performance magazine website versions of your magazine.

Downrule

Definition: The vertical line placed between two columns of text to emphasize their separation.

Dropcap

Definition: A decorative element used in some layouts whereby the initial letter of an article or other section of text is made larger than all the rest. This technique is also a technique sometimes used in book chapters. A dropcap can gain the visual attention of the reader to entice them to go ahead and begin reading the text.

Editorial

Definition: In a magazine, an article written by the magazine editor that expresses an opinion or stance on a recent topical issue. Unlike other content in a magazine issue, editorials provide something like an official opinion on behalf of the magazine, usually on a controversial issue. For this reason, editorials may be infrequent or rare, since the need for them may not normally arise.

Eyebrow

Definition: A textual or design element that sometimes is placed at the top of an article page, such as on section pages. Such an element can be used to indicate the magazine section to which the article belongs. These are used similarly to website “breadcrumb links” and are the origin of this online navigation method. Example:  Fashion: “Stripes Are the New Floral”.

Feature

Definition: A centerpiece article within a magazine issue, frequently topical, but sometimes digressing on a particular aspect of the magazine’s overall theme. A cover story is a prime example of a feature, and most magazine’s have a cover story feature, if not other features, as well.

Flipbook

Definition: Usually, this is a Flash-based replica that simulates the experience of flipping pages in a print magazine, but within the digital format of “flipping” pages in digital format. Flipbooks are typically made with XHTML, such as the “flippable” Kindle editions of books.

Foldout

Definition: A foldout (or “gatefold” is a page which folds out beyond the edges of the publication.Foldouts  are typicallu centerfold spreads, but not always.

Folio

Definition: The information at the bottom of non-ad magazine pages, usually featuring the page number, and sometimes also including other typical information like “top-of-page” information such as the magazine title and issue name. Sometimes, the folio can refer to the folded paper that forms “pages” in a magazine, book, or other printed publication.

Fractional ads

Definition: Ads smaller than 1/2-page (e.g., 1/3, 1/4, etc.). Some fractional ads may be called half-page ads, quarter-page ads, etc.

Gutter

Definition: The center margins of a printed and bound magazine issue.

Halftone

Definition: An image consists of tiny dots of varying size and color density, mimicking the appearance of continuous gradations of color tone. Halftones are often required in the print reproduction of photographic images.

Hickey

Definition: A printing defect caused by a particle of debris attached to the printing plate at the time of printing.

Kerning

Definition: A font design term for the spacing between the font characters. Kerning can be adjusted to accommodate the reading experience, as well as factor in spacing considerations.

Latin

Definition: Mock-ups typically use Latin text (“Lorem Ipsum”, etc.) to stand in for actual text in the vernacular of the intended audience’s language and region. This simply allows dummy text to represent the space where actual text will later go in a design where text is not yet available or created.

Layout

Definition: The design of the page, as it is “laid out” on the printed or digital page. Also sometimes known as “page layout”.

Leading

Definition: The line spacing on the page layout. More precisely, leading is the distance between any two baselines of lines of type on the page (with the assumption these will all be uniform).

Leaf

Definition: Another way of referring  to a sheet of paper in a periodical, book, or other publication. Each side of a leaf is essentially a page in the publication in a book or perfect-bound publication, whereas each side of a leaf in a saddle-stitched publication would be two pages (one leaf is thus stitched into two pages per side for a total of four total pages).

Masthead

Definition: The front-area section of the magazine that contains a listing of magazine staff and contributors, as well as issue information such as issue volume and number, copyright details, ISBN number, and sometimes other legal notices.

Nameplate

Definition: The magazine’s logo that appears on the cover of the magazine and sometimes elsewhere within the pages wherever the magazine brand is represented.

Output specs

Definition: The specifications used for printer reference when outputting final PDFs from the digital files used to create the print version of the magazine, such as resolution.

Page

Definition: A single side of a leaf of a magazine,or other such material to be printed, such as a newspaper.

Palette

Definition: The complete collection of colors and color hues available or used in the color scheme. The palette of a magazine would then be not the total collection of colors in the images and other elements in total, but just the total collection of such colors and hues in the non-image graphics of the layout and cover.

Paper stock

Definition: The paper on which the print version of the magazine will be printed. Normnally, when paper stock is mentioned, it is in reference to the specifications of the paper type, thickness, color, degree of gloss, etc.

Perfect binding

Definition: A binding process that makes smooth the gutter edges of the interior of the magazine and coats them with adhesive, to then bind the sheet containing the covers and spine. Perfect binding works best for book-style publications with lots of thicker pages. Many catalogs use perfect binding to accommodate numerous pages.

Prepress

Definition: In print magazines, this is the multi-stage quality checklist of checks executed by a magazine designer before the outputting of the final proof.  This process is intended to eliminate all visual and other errors before the magazine goes to publication, either to print, online, or both.

Press-ready files

Definition: Files (typically in PDF format) that are to be sent to the printer to produce the final printed edition of the magazine.

Pull-quote

Definition: A visually-emphasized quote snippet from a magazine article used to draw attention to an interesting fact or opinion contained in the article. Such elements add to the visual composition of what might otherwise be a rather plain block of text.

Ragged

Definition: Within the discipline of typography, ragged lines of type are those not justified (or aligned) to the right margin.  Sometimes this is alternatively referred to as ragged right.

Registration marks

Definition: The use of “targets” just beyond the final page area for aligning the different color separations.

Resolution

Definition: The amount of detail contained in any print or online image, such as a photograph image. 300dpi (dots per inch) is the“high-resolution” standard for printing. Printing at below this level will often result in obvious distortions or in the image appearing “pixelated” (showing dots rather than a consistent surface). Medium-resolution images (150dpi) are often acceptable for online flipbooks and digital editions, while low-res images (72dpi) are the norm for website images. It’s best to start with the highest DPI  standard possible (300dpi for print, 72dpi for the Web) and stick to it, in order to avoid unexpected resolution problems.

Saddle-stitching

Definition: In this process, a magazine is laid flat, then stapled from the outside cover toward the inside centerfold, before being folded to the final magazine dimensions. Too many pages and/or too thick a paper stock can make saddle-stitching more difficult or impossible. In such an event, perfect-binding may be the best option.

Section

Definition: An article category that appears in a magazine.

Sidebar

Definition: A type of content format visually separated within the page from the main article and typically related to, though diverging from, that article.

Silhouetting

Definition: A production process whereby image software is used to isolate a subject from a photo or illustration from the background. Photoshop (PS) is a leading software tool for this.

Slug

Definition: As with a typical bleed, the slug is the marginal area outside the post-cut printed page. Slugs are handy for generating proofs that require a sign-off box to be printed in the bleed and checked off before printing. Some publishers alternatively use this area to create additional printer instructions. See bleed for slugs without printer instructions. 

Spine

Definition: The narrow center  of the periodical’s cover that separates the front cover from the back cover of a perfect-bound publication. Writing can be printed in this section of the cover, such as (usually) the magazine title, issue volume and number, and season or month.

Spot/Pantone/PMS colors

Definition: These colors are available in thousands of hues and represent specific color hues. They are used to faithfully reproduce brand colors when deviation is not allowable. Pantone is named after the company that originated this precise color specification for print.

Spread

Definition: A set of two facing pages in a magazine issue. Spreads allow a wider viewing area for layouts. The most common spread location is the centerfold.

Stock images

Definition: Photography, illustrations and other images that can be purchased and licensed through a stock photography website like Shutterstock. Stock images are perfect for artistic or themed photography and other artwork, making it unnecessary to create custom-made images or photos. Using stock photography is a common practice for big and smaller magazines alike, though custom images are still used whenever possible or available. Stock photography is not normally used for key graphics like the cover image. The general affect of using stock images is to set the tone for a piece, or depict scenes for which there are not available original photos.

TOC

Definition: Quite simply, the TOC is the table of contents. This is the main reference point for print and online magazines, though for online magazines, they also fulfill the function of navigation when the user/reader clicks the article or section title. In online TOCs, the cover may be part of the table of contents, also.

Trim

Definition: The final trimming away of bleeds/slugs on the outside of the final area of the magazine.

Trim area

Definition: The trim area represents the final area of the magazine (or other such printed material).

Trim size (synonym of trim area)

Definition: The final size of a printed magazine, once trimmed of all bleeds. See trim area (just above).

Type area (or “live area”)

Definition: The type area is an advertising industry specification required for magazine advertisements. The type area spec is the largest set of dimensions used for key ad information within the trim area. Since ad space can potentially be cut into during the trimming of the leafs/pages of the periodical, best practices dictate to avoid getting key information or calls to action too close to the trim line. One way this is done is by using margins that ensure a safe spacing exists at the edge of the the ad just inside the type/live area.

Typography

Definition: The creation, manipulation, and use of various fonts/typefaces, and all such elements. Typography is a part of the overall toolbox for magazine design.

Vector images

Definition: Images that require the use of mathematical processes to create their shapes. Vector images are created in vector image software, like Adobe Illustrator. Illustrations, Flash animation images, logos and icons typically use this format to avoid distortion and anticipate all sizing/scaling needs, without a loss of image quality (resolution).

White space

Definition: The empty space within a layout, and which also can be used intentionally as a design technique to create the visual cues that assist in the guiding the reader’s visual focus to a particular place on the page. White space (sometimes spelled “whitespace”) is sometimes also known as negative space, and often serves to help create the most appropriate mood, ambiance, or aesthetic.


We hope this glossary of magazine design terms and jargon met with your approval.

Any questions? Feel free to leave your burning question below. We’ll answer it or find the best possible answer for your unique circumstances if you can go into detail. Design advice given in the post comments are on the house! 🙂

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