This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Design Techniques & Terminology

The fourth of our technical/terminology articles. When you lay out a page in a DTP (desktop publishing) program, there are certain areas of the page you need to be aware of. Below are some of the common terms used:

This is an area that gets printed but will be completely removed when trimmed. It is useful when generating proofs that need a sign-off box printed, or you can have additional notes/instructions for the printer.

If any element of your document layout runs up to the page edge you will have to use bleed. This means that you add an extra image or colour block so that it goes over the border where the document will be cropped after printing. The term bleed is used for all objects overlapping the border of your document.

After a page/sheet is printed it will be cropped to its correct final size. The bleed in your document gives the cropping some room for error. The paper itself can expand or contract, the cropping machine could be set up wrong or the person working on the brochure could make a mistake. There are lots of things that could go wrong with the cropping, and if you weren’t using bleed the images wouldn’t be neatly aligned with the side of your printed document. It is standard to have 3mm of bleed to allow for these slight movements when trimming the page/sheet.

Trim area
The trim area is the final size of the resulting printed piece. If designing a letterhead, for example, the trim area would be 297mm x 210mm, the standard A4 letterhead size.

Type/live area
Live area, which is a common specification needed for magazine advertisements, is the largest allowable size for important information within the trim area. Magazines have to allow for some slippage when trimming down the final glued edged publication. If you have important information (say a phone number) which is too close to the final size or trim area, you run the risk of having that key “call to action” chopped right out of your advertisement. Knowing this, and the limitations of their bindery systems, magazines will include both trim and live area measurements in their specifications so that designers know to avoid placing important data where it may get trimmed off. It is good practice to have a live area on all your work and you would set up this area using margins.

This is one side of one leaf (of a book, magazine, newspaper, letter, etc).

A spread is:
i) a set of pages viewed together, such as the two pages visible whenever you open a book or magazine;
ii) as above that feature a single image, a single advert, or a single article.

A graphic designer will generally use the second term when talking about a spread. A spread in the centre of a magazine, where the two pages are one physical piece of paper, is called a centre spread.


A foldout is a page which folds out beyond the edges of the publication. Gatefolds and foldouts are frequently centre spreads, but they need not be. The example below shows an advertisement spread with a foldout on either side.


A column is a vertical block of content positioned on a page; columns are bound by margins and separated by gutters.
i) Columns of copy are used to improve page composition and readability. The human eye finds it much easier to read shorter lines, so for example on a A4 page, instead or running the lines all the way across the page you would have at least two columns. Newspapers, for example, very frequently use complex multi-column layouts to break up different stories and longer bodies of text within a story.
ii) Column can also more generally refer to the vertical delineations created by a typographic grid system in which type and image may be positioned.

The example page below has been set up with two columns.

A margin is the white space that surrounds the content of a page. It can be set to the type/live area or smaller.

i) The line down the middle where two pages come together is called the gutter.
ii) The area that separates columns; this is also called the ‘alley’.


Pull quotes
A pull quote (lift-out quote or a call-out) is a quotation or an excerpt from an article; this is typically placed in a larger typeface on the same page. Pull quotes serve to lead readers into an article or to highlight a key topic. The term is principally used in journalism and publishing.


This is a vertical line that is placed between two columns of text to clearly separate one from the other.

When creating mock-ups we will drop in dummy text; this is usually the Latin text “Lorem Ipsum”. This is used to mimic actual word and sentence flow without distracting through content, when you have no content. Lorem Ipsum has been used as the industry’s standard dummy text since the 1500s. In the 1960s, it was popularised with the release of Letraset sheets containing the passages, and more recently with dtp software including versions of Lorem Ipsum as standard or via plugins.

Printers’ marks

Crop marks
Add fine (hairline) horizontal and vertical rules that define where the page should be trimmed. Crop marks can also help register (align) one colour separation to another. By using together with bleed marks, you can select overlapped marks.

Bleed marks
Add fine (hairline) rules that define the amount of extra area to an image outside the defined page size.

crop and bleed marks

Registration marks
Add small “targets” outside the page area for aligning the different separations in a colour document.

registration marks

Colour bars
Add small squares of colour representing the CMYK inks and tints of grey (in 10pc increments). Your service provider uses these marks to adjust ink density on the printing press.

colour bars

Page information
Prints the filename, page number, current date and time and colour separation name in 6pt Helvetica in the lower left corner of each sheet of paper or film. The page information option requires 0.5 inches (13mm) along the horizontal edge.

page information

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