What's CMYK printing

Discussion in '4-Color Offset Presses +' started by yoemei, Mar 1, 2012.

  1. yoemei

    yoemei New Member

    May 2011
    CMYK - also called CYM or YMCK - is a subtractive color model used in color printing. A color model is a mathematical model for describing colors as tuples of numbers, usually 3-4 color components or values. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black), and the color model describes a formula for creating other colors by mixing pigments of these colors in varying amounts.

    It is said that CMY mixture is subtractive (that is, magenta, cyan and yellow on a white background produces black). In CMYK model, magenta plus yellow produces red, cyan plus yellow makes green, and magenta plus cyan generates blue.

    CMYK vs. RGB
    CMYK, or four-color printing, generates a good final printout with excellent contrast. However, as the computer screen follows a RGB system, the color seen on the screen may be different from the one that comes in the final print. This is due to the differing palettes of CMYK and RGB. For example, the color (RGB, 0%, 0%, 100%), which is pure blue to human eye, is impossible to produce in CMYK. The nearest attainable color in CMYK is a dissimilar shade of purple. This disparity in conversion from RGB in the computer screen to CMYK reflects in the final print.

    Black Ink and CMYK
    Theoretically, and to an extent practically, black can be produced by mixing the magenta, cyan, and yellow - the subtractive primaries. But this is not suitable if we require a high quality print. To achieve higher quality, CMYK additionally uses black ink for coloring the print. In the following few lines, we'll see why black ink is being used over color combinations.

    On closer analysis, it can be found that the mixing of magenta, cyan, and yellow does not produce black, but something nearer to black. Because of this, CMY is unsuitable for applications that need pure black.
    Mixing of these three colors to produce black can raise a technical issue and this is the wetting of paper. Wetting of paper can cause serious problems in high speed printing where it is a prerequisite that the paper should become dry within a fraction of a second so as to prevent marking on the next page. Also, if the print is being made on low quality paper such as the newsprint, there is every chance of the paper being torn by the slightest of force being applied on it by the roller.
    Black ink allows the printer to make considerable savings in terms of money as he/she only needs to pay for one type of ink rather than for three different colors. Further, black ink is cheaper than colored inks.
    The quantity of black ink needed to substitute for the other colors varies with the technology used, the paper type and the nature of the ink. When black ink is combined with the other colors to increase the intensity, it is called as "blacker than black" or "rich black."

    Conversion between CMYK and RGB
    There is no solid rule by which one can convert CMYK to RGB and vice versa. This is because neither CMYK nor RGB is an absolute color space. Generally, while it is possible to effect an invertible transition between RGB and a subset of CMYK, the reverse process is not possible. That is, the conversion of a CMYK color to RGB, followed by the reverse conversion (that is from RGB to CMYK) may not result in the original CMYK color. Therefore, ideally, these conversions must not be used in any process where color matching is critical.
  2. OkiTech

    OkiTech Senior Member

    Jan 2008
    Nice article guys. thanks.
    I had noticed that there are few links to a "zx-printing.com" printing website at the bottom of it... I followed it, checked out prices...
    We have a company here in USA called 4over and I think price-wise they can kick zx-printing.com's butt all the way back to china :)
  3. longlivemedia

    longlivemedia Member

    Mar 2012
    Nice post, Yoemei. I feel that quite a few people (myself included) have a tendency to forget why things done up in RGB don’t always match up with what is printed using CMYK. So this is a good and easy to understand breakdown that should be helpful to some beginners.
  4. jameswaugh8

    jameswaugh8 Member

    Mar 2012
    Nice Information. thanks.
  5. printchesco

    printchesco Member

    Feb 2012
    Thanks for this. Talking between CMYK and RGB can get pretty confusing at times and it's nice to read through an article that smoothens things over. At the very least this will help people understand CMYK and RGB more.
  6. Demandseo

    Demandseo Member

    Jun 2012
    CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key, or black. These are the four colors of ink used in the traditional method of printing hard copies of images, called offset printing. The three colors, plus black, roughly correspond to the primary colors, from which can be mixed colors across the visible spectrum. CMYK is a color mixing system that depends on chemical pigments to achieve the desired hues.

  7. Huzie

    Huzie Member

    Apr 2013
    Nice article on CMYK & RGB. Thanks Yoemei :)