The Ultimate Glossary Of Design & Packaging Terms You Should Know (Part 1)


Business head
October 27, 2020

Here's a comprehensive glossary of A-Z design & packaging terms, that will come in handy on your next big project. Bookmark this guide now!

Packaging protects products, adds brand value, and improves user experience. As part of design and packaging projects, knowing the right packaging terminology will help you communicate with other teams and achieve the desired outcome. 

Let's dive into Part 1 of 2 articles on the ultimate guide of packaging terms:


Artwork: Designs prepared for reproduction, that consist of illustrations, lettering, photographs with instructions on color matching during printing.

Artwork Management: Refers to the method of creating, approving, producing, and storing artwork files on a centralized system. 

Assembly: Refers to the final assembly process of a product. During the process, the product undergoes several packaging services such as collating, filling, gluing, labeling, bagging, shrink wrapping, bag sealing, blister sealing, display, inspection, and bulk mail preparation.

packaging terms
Assembly Line

Aqueous Coating: A water-based coating that is applied to seal the entire sheet, creating a smooth finish that is available in matte, satin, and gloss.

Adobe Acrobat: An application to create and view PDF files developed by Adobe Inc 

Adobe AI: A vector graphics editor and design program developed by Adobe Inc

Alignment: Refers to the positioning of text flow or image to the left, right, or center relative to a page. 


Bevel: A design effect that gives a graphic a raised appearance to create the illusion of 3D. It involves highlighting or adding shadow colors to the inside and outside edges of the borders of a text or an image.

Bar Code: An identification symbol encoding the product value in contrasting rectangular bars and spaces.

Bleed: A term used during printing referring to a space on design. It's the space until where the color is allowed to continue right up to the edge of the board.

packaging design terms
Bleed Space

Blind Embossing: Method of stamping (raising) a design element such as a logo, without the use of metallic leaf or ink. It involves placing the sheet of paper between two dies and applying pressure to create the effect.

Board Grain Direction: The orientation of fibers of a carton board found by bending it. The direction with the least resistance is the running grain direction.

Box Blank: A flat cardboard piece cut and scored, ready to be joined with other pieces to make a box.

Box Style: A category used as a descriptor regardless of box size or construction.

Bulk: In printing, this term refers to the thickness of the paper.

Blister Packaging: Securing a product between a preformed dome or bubble (usually transparent plastic) and a paperboard surface or carrier where attachment may be by stapling, heat-sealing, or gluing.

Blow Molding: A fabrication method in which a warm plastic hollow tube is placed between two halves of a mold and forced into the shape of the mold by using air pressure.

Bubble Pack: Type of cushioning process that is made by trapping air between two layers of plastic to protect wrapped products. 

Branding: The process of creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers' mind, mainly through packaging and a consistent visual language. 

Brand Strategy: A long-term plan for developing a successful brand to achieve specific goals. It affects all aspects of the business such as consumer needs, emotions, and competitive environments.

Brand Story: A narrative that encompasses the facts and feelings associated with a brand that must inspire an emotional reaction.

Brand Values: A set of qualities that a company wants its consumers to connect with through its products.

Brand Guidelines: A style and composition guide which governs the look and feel of a brand. 

Brand Manual: The visual representation of what your brand conveys. It covers fonts, style of the logo, grammar, tone, and point of view. It clearly defines the rules to achieve consistent branding.


Caliper: The thickness of a sheet of board, measured in microns.

Carton: Any box style that can be folded and shipped. 

Cardboard Carton: A carton board container used to package a variety of products.

CMYK: Refers to a color model where the letters stand for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (K). 

Color Management System: A system ensuring that colors remain consistent regardless of device or medium used to apply or display the colors. 

Color Mockup: A full-color rendering of a product’s packaging created for promotional purposes that enable the client to inspect and perfect the design before production. 

Color Separation: Refers to the process where an image is separated into component colors for multi-color print production.

Creasing: A process where a die is used to create creases in a material so that it can fold with ease.

Cut and Crease: A process where a die is used to cut printed materials into desired shapes and creasing them to provide accurate fold lines.

Copy: Typewritten pages, word-processing files, typeset galleys or pages, and sometimes source materials (text and graphics) used in a publication.

Crop Marks: Horizontal and vertical lines that indicate the edge of the printed piece.

Corrugated Fiberboard: An industry term for cardboard boxes.

common packaging terms
Corrugated Fiberboards

Curl: This refers to the distortion of a sheet due to differences in structure or coatings from one side to the other, or absorption of moisture on an offset press.

Combination Die: A plate or die which applies foil and embossed at the same time.

Collapse: Contraction of the walls of a container (e.g., upon cooling) leading to permanent deformation.

Consumer Persona: Also known as a buyer persona, this is a detailed semi-fictional representation of an ideal customer. The personas are based on market research and real data about existing customers, such as demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.

Color Palette: The choice of colors used in designing the packaging range. Primary color palettes have 2-3 colors that represent the core of the brand. Secondary color palettes showcase complementary/supporting colors to the primary palette.


Deboss: An image pressed into a board so that it lies below the typical viewing surface.

Die: A type of tool that allows for customized branding of packaging products.

Die-Cut: Refers to the process that uses a metal die to shear through low-strength materials such as cardboard, plastic, or foil.

Digital Printer: An industrial scale-press with the ability to print in multiple colors simultaneously.

Direct Print: This is a type of printing that penetrates the surface of the packaging, instead of a label or laminate that goes on top of the product.

Drip Off Matt/Gloss: A printing finish that provides a spot-gloss finish and textured matt effect with high levels of detail. It uses standard inks and allows the application of gloss varnish via a plate followed by a matt varnish that creates a reticulation effect.

Drop Test: A procedure used to test the safety of package contents during shipping.

Design Direction: Combination of imagery, vectors, text, and colors in a mood board to suggest the visual style for a particular option. This stage follows the research stage and aids in brands visualizing.

DPI: The term stands for Dots Per Inch, which specifies the resolution of an output device, such as a printer or printing press machine. Print resolution runs from 300 - 1200 DPI on a laser printer and 125 - 225 DPI for photographic images on a print brochure. The desktop laser printers have an output of 300 dpi, medium-resolution printers have an out-put 600 dpi, and image setters have an out-put of 1270-2540 dpi.


Embossing: The process of raising letters or designs out of the typical viewing surface of the board.

Elements of Design: This refers to the color, shape, size, space, line, value, and texture of a design.

EPS: This is a short form of the term encapsulated postscript. It's a common file format for exporting Illustrator files. It also contains a bitmap preview of the image as well as instructions written in the postscript language that describes how the object is to be printed. 

Expanded (font): A font in which the set widths of the characters are wider than the standard typeface. 


Foil: A thin layer of metal applied to paper, board, or mylar carrier for hot stamping.

Four Color Process: Full-color printing that uses four constituent colors: Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, and Black.

Flute Corrugation: The wave-like shapes that comprise the overall construction of corrugated boards.

Fulfillment Center: A facility where products are picked, packed, and shipped after customer purchase.

Fill Point: The level to which a container up to which it's usually filled or at which it has its nominal capacity.

Frosting: A crystalline finish or pattern on a glass surface.

Format Adaptation: Adaptation of a design from one format (for example, labels) to another (for example, mono cartons) is considered a format adaptation which includes the rearrangement of design elements and change of scale and ratios.

Font: A full set of characters in a specific typeface, at a specific point size, and in a specific style. A font also includes the design in various weights, such as bold or italic, and is more comprehensive and complicated to design than a typeface.

Font Weight: The font-weight refers to how thick or thin (bold or light) a font looks.


Grease Resistant Packaging: Packaging that has a special coating or a finish applied to it to repel grease, oil, and wax.

GSM: The term stands for Grams Per Square Metre that is the standard measure of board weight.

Gutter: The inside margins or gap between items is the gutter space allowance used to accommodate the unusable print area.

Grayscale: Application of black ink for print that simulates a range of tones where a grayscale graphic image appears to be black, white, and shades of gray, but it only uses a single color ink.

Glow: The opposite of shadow, it creates a surrounding highlight of an image. High radiance creates a soft glow while low radiance creates a hard, bright glow, such as a neon glow.

packaging design terms
Gradient Packaging Colors

Gradient: A gradual transition of colors used to add depth, color the object, or render a shiny/ metallic look to a design element. A gradient is mostly linear (straight) or radial (fades from the center outwards). Web images that use gradient fills should be saved in jpeg format. 


Hairline Register: In printing, the term refers to the range that lies within plus or minus 1/2 row of dots.

Hickey Printing: Printing defects such as spots/ imperfections in printed items due to particles of ink or board fiber getting “trapped” onto the printing plate or blanket. 

Hot Stamp: A printing method in which metalized or pigmented foils are applied to a sheet with a heated metal die or plate. 

Hinge: Refers to the joint used to attach a lid to a base. 

Heat-Seal Label: A label made of material coated on one side with a heat-seal coating, usually a thermoplastic resin. 


Insert: Any shape of chipboard, vac-form, or foam placed or attached into a box to hold the product.

Inkjet Printing: Non-impact printing where tiny drops of ink are formed into letters, numbers, or other configurations and sprayed onto the surface of the material to be printed.

Adobe Illustrator: A vector program often used by designers to create logos and work on typography developed by Adobe Inc.


JPEG: The term stands for Joint Photographic Electronic Group. It is a common file format for full-color and black-and-white graphic images. JPEG images allow for more colors than GIF images and are usually smaller in size. Unlike GIF and PNG, JPEGs don't support transparent backgrounds. 

Justified: Refers to the position of test or image aligned in a way that all the lines are of equal length.


Keyline: In artwork, an outline drawing of finished art to indicate the exact shape, position, and size for elements such as halftones, line sketches, cut and fold lines, and other design elements.

packaging design terms
Keyline Designs

Kraft Board: Refers to Coated Natural Kraft (CNK) that provides a combination of product protection and brand impression. Engineered from natural and recycled fibers, the kraft board offers high levels of elasticity and tear resistance.

Kern/Kerning: In typography, kerning is the process of adjusting characters for a better fit between letters and white space. 

In product display typography, kerning is an essential process because the white space between large characters is quite noticeable.

The Takeaway

When involved in packaging projects, don't get stuck on technical packaging terms, just bookmark this page and part 2. So, the next time you are unsure about a packaging term, you can use them as your cheat sheet.

Related Articles