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Getting to Know the CMYK Color Model

CMYK color model, four color or process color

The CMYK four colors, process color, or color model refers to the subtractive color model that is utilized in color printing as well as to explain the process of printing itself. In CMYK, there are four inks to use in the printing are used as reference: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key or black. Even though it differs by press operator, print house, press run, and press manufacturer, the ink is applied typically in that order of abbreviation.

The use of “K” in CMYK refers to ‘key’. It is because of the use of printing plates of cyan, magenta, and yellow in this four color printing are aligned or keyed carefully, using the black key plate. Even so, some also say the use of “K” was taken from the word in ‘black’ and “B” had been taken for blue. This explanation, even though very helpful as a mnemonic, though is incorrect as the first one, in which K is utilized as ‘key’ was the most reasonable logic considering how black is a color often used for outlining.

In the CMYK color model, it works by masking entirely or partially colors on a lighter background, usually white. The ink thus diminishes the light to be reflected later. This is the reason why such color model is also called subtractive as the inks “subtract” the brightness from the white background. While in RGB color model, white is used as the “additive” mixture of the color black and primary colored lights is referred to as the nonexistence of light, the opposite is what happens with the CMYK. To save the cost of printing on ink while producing darker black tones, dark and unsaturated colors are created by utilizing black ink rather than the mix or cyan, magenta, and yellow.

The CMYK is weighed with sport color printing, where inks in specific colors are utilized to create the colors to appear on paper. A few print presses can print at the same time using four color process inks in addition to extra spot color inks, which is often required for printed materials with high quality like books and marketing brochures. This color model is also one with a relatively minor color gamut with light and saturated colors usually can’t be made with CMYK.

Comparing CMYK prints and RGB displays can be really difficult. It is especially true considering the technologies on color reproduction and properties can be very different. The monitor of a computer can mix shades or red, green and blue in order to produce color pictures. Meanwhile, a CMYK printer uses the light-absorbing colors instead, which are combined using halftoning, dithering, or other optical techniques.

Inks that are used in printing, similar to monitors, create a color range that is merely a subsection of visible spectrum, even though both RGB and CMYK color modes possess their own certain color ranges. The result of the item displayed on the monitor of computer probably doesn’t completely match the appearance of one printed completely, if the opposite color modes are mixed in those mediums. If you are designing objects to print them, you will see the colors they are using on the RGB mode used by your computer screen. Hence, it’s usually hard to visualize how the color will end up later after printing.

In order to recreate color this CMYK model codes to absorb light instead of emitting it, just like what the RGB color mode assumes, the “K” element will absorb all wavelengths. Hence, it is hence achromatic. The components of cyan, magenta, and yellow are utilized for this process of color reproduction, then they are seen as the inverse for the RGB color mode with cyan absorbing red, magenta absorbing green, while yellow absorbing blue or (-R, -G, -B).


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