In illustration, design and printing, composite (or comp) has several different meanings which all essentially mean taking separate parts and putting them all together. Comps can be created in many different mediums including pencils, colored pencils, markers, and in digital formats such as scanned images or photographs.

In the design and illustration fields, a comp is a preliminary design, sketch, or mockup, short for comprehensive, synonym with dummy. Comp may also be used in verb form: comp, comps, comped, comping: “We will comp it for the client. She comps ads for a living. I comped the web page. He is comping the layout.”

In design, illustration, and photography, a comp is an image composed of multiple separate parts.

In publishing/prepress/printing, a comp is a color separation file which contains all of the color information, and can be printed either as a combined file, or separated individual color plates. Short for composite.

In graphic design, illustration, printing, and advertising, a comprehensive layout or comprehensive, usually shortened to comp, is the page layout of a proposed design as initially presented by the designer or illustrator to a client, showing the concept and/or relative positions of text and illustrations before the final content of those elements has been decided upon. The comp thus serves as a draft of the final layout, and (if approved) is used as guide for further design changes and, ultimately, production.

Traditionally, the four stages of an illustration or other commercial art creation (e.g., advertisement) are: 1. Sketch — the initial idea roughly ‘sketched out’ in order to quickly transfer the idea on to a physical substrate, 2. Layout — the idea laid out in relative position for further development, 3. Comp (short for “Comprehensive Layout”) — the idea created in such a way as to closely mimic the final creation; usually as a step toward approval by decision-makers, and 4. Finish — the idea rendered in the appropriate medium for sale, display, or reproduction.

The illustration element may incorporate stock photography, clip art, or other found material that gives an idea of what should be visually communicated, before entering any negotiations concerning the rights to use a specific image for the purpose. Picture agencies may encourage such use free of charge, in the hope that the comp image (sometimes referred to as a “positional” image) will end up being used in the final product. For this reason, it is sometimes mistakenly believed that “comp” is short for “complimentary,” as it is in some other promotional contexts.

Even in the age of rapid desktop publishing software, comps may be developed using hand-rendering techniques and materials to avoid investing too much time on the computer before client approval of the idea, depending on the complexity of the production task. A hand-rendered comp may be useful in helping the client refrain from “nitpicking” the production quality and focus on the design idea.

“Comp” may also stand for composition or composite layout. The word “comp” can also be used as a verb. For example, an artist may “comp something up”; that is, they will create a comp.