Let's say we are making something, say, a picture, and we want to set up (prepare) the basic things such as the size, the material, the shape and the color of the canvas. Or if we are making a wooden figurine, we want to prepare a piece of wood of an appropriate size and color.

Is there a single word to describe the process of setting up those? I thought about "styling", but it occurs to me that "styling" has a slightly different meaning, more like "developing the design concept" or something.

If it is impossible to say it in one word, what would be the shortest phrase to describe that?

  • 4
    Can you use "preparing"? That's a single word, and you've used it in your question several times.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Aug 7, 2012 at 13:59
  • 1
    By "set up" do you mean to find and gather the materials, or that work has to be done to the items to make them usable?
    – dj18
    Aug 7, 2012 at 15:53

4 Answers 4


Prep or prepping is a term used for just what you are describing. The dictionary entries sometimes label it as "informal," but it is a commonly used term, especially by medical personnel, artists, craftsmen, and cooks. It is defined as:

  1. To prepare (someone) for a medical examination or surgical procedure.
  2. To prepare or prime: prep a surface for painting.

And as:

Prepare (something); make ready - scores of volunteers help prep the food

Prepare oneself for an event - to prep for his role he trimmed his unruly locks


Besides JLG's suggestions of prepare and prepping, and obvious generic alternatives such as ready and set up, you could try the following:

  • spadework: "Work done in preparation for something else"
  • prep work: "preparatory work"
  • groundwork/foundation: "lay the groundwork", "lay the foundation"
  • legwork: "do the legwork" (usually used when there's a lot of walking/researching to do)
  • preliminary: "in preparation for the main matter"; "The preliminary work which is undertaken before a Conference actually takes place is of great importance and often imposes almost as great a strain on the Section concerned as the Conference itself."

It’s not better than “prepping” (which I do think is ideal for the examples), but having wandered over here from StackOverflow, the first thing that came to my mind on reading the title was “initializing.” Just adding that as another option I haven’t seen mentioned.



Prototype (n)

The first or original type or model

transitive verb

To make, or use, a prototype of

  • 3
    I think not: a prototype is a more-or-less complete work which serves as a model for subsequent works. The questions asks for a term for the initial stages of work. Aug 7, 2012 at 14:14

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