Most who read this blog will understand what the term “Four Color Process” means. This essential staple in the printing process is how a printing press uses a few base colors to create almost all colors imaginable. Four Color Process involves the utilization of 4 ink colors – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Better known as CMYK.
The CMYK color model (process color, four color) is a subtractive color model, used in color printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four inks used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key(black). Though it varies by print house, press operator, press manufacturer, and press run, ink is typically applied in the order of the abbreviation.
The “K” in CMYK stands for key because in four-color printing, cyan, magenta, and yellow printing plates are carefully keyed,or aligned, with the key of the black key plate. Some sources suggest that the “K” in CMYK comes from the last letter in “black” and was chosen because B already means blue. However, this explanation, although useful as a mnemonic, is incorrect. K is used as “Key”, which was possibly chosen because black is often used as outline.
The CMYK model works by partially or entirely masking colors on a lighter, usually white, background. The ink reduces the light that would otherwise be reflected. Such a model is called subtractive because inks “subtract” brightness from white.
Once you see this process in action, it all makes much clearer sense. 4 images each printed in C,M,Y and K are laid on top of each other to create the final image
Now the fun part. Do you have a magnifying glass in your desk? Or a printing Loupe? During your lunch break today take a good look at the print around you. The packaging your lunch came in, the ink on your printed lunch box, the poster on the wall in the lunchroom, it all most likely contains 4 color process.