FPO in Graphic Design

Placeholder images in print aren't used as often as they once were

Graphic Design Home Business
Credit: Cultura RM/Robin James | Getty Images

In graphic design and commercial printing, FPO is an acronym indicating "for position only" or "for placement only." An image marked FPO is a placeholder or a temporary low-resolution illustration in the final location and size on camera-ready artwork to indicate where an actual high-resolution image will be placed on the final film or plate.

FPO images are commonly used when you've been supplied actual photographic prints or another type of artwork to be scanned or photographed for inclusion. With modern publishing software and digital photography, FPO is a term that is mainly historical in nature; it's rarely used in everyday practice anymore.

Uses for FPO

Before the days of fast processors, FPO images were used during the design stages of a document to speed up the process of working with the files during various drafts of a document. Processors are much faster now than they used to be, so delays are minimal, even with high-resolution images—another reason FPO isn't in use much.

FPO would usually be stamped on an image to avoid accidentally printing a low-resolution image, or an image the publisher perhaps did not own. Images not to be printed are usually labeled with a large FPO across each one, so there is not confusion about whether or not they are to be used.

In newspaper production, newsrooms that use paper "dummy sheets"—grids with columns along the top and column inches along the sides—block images or illustrations FPO by creating either a black box or a box with an X through it. These dummy sheets help editors estimate the number of column inches necessary for a given newspaper or magazine page.

FPO and Templates

Although they may not be labeled as such, some templates contain images that can be considered FPO. They are there simply to show you where to place your images for that particular layout. The text equivalent of FPO images is placeholder text (sometimes referred to as lorem ipsum, since it's often pseudo-Latin).

Occasionally, FPO is used in Web design when an image labeled FPO allows coders to finish building a website without waiting for the final images for the site. It allows the designers to account for color palettes and image sizes until the permanent images are available. In fact, many Web browsers (including Google Chrome) allow for optimized page rendering, wherein FPO placeholders fill the page and the text surrounds it; the images only pop into the placeholders after they've been fully downloaded.

Modern Analogues

Although FPO placement isn't as common with a fully digital production cycle, common publishing platforms still retain vestiges of the practice. For example, Adobe InDesign—a leading design application for print projects, like books and newspapers—by default will place images at medium resolution. To see the high-resolution image, you must manually override the image or tweak the application's settings.

Open-source publishing tools, like Scribus, behave similarly; they support placeholder images during document editing to reduce processor overhead and streamline the text-review process.

Was this page helpful?