What Do You Know About CMYK?

cmyk_nailsEver wonder why the colors on your prints don’t match what you see on your computer monitor? Four reasons: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. Knowing about the color process of your printer, CMYK, can take you a long way.

Most all office and large production printers use a color process called CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black).  The graphics rendered on your computer monitor use the color model RGB, which consists of red, green, and blue.

What makes RGB different from CMYK, is that it can only be displayed using natural or produced light, such as in a computer monitor.  For printed materials, CMYK is necessary.

CMYK in Print

CMYK uses four printing plates, consisting of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.  When these colors are combined on a sheet of paper (if you look closely, they are printed in small dots), the human eye is able to see the final image.

CMYK in Graphic Design

Almost all graphic designers have to deal with the issue of working on their projects viewed in RGB, even though the final printed material is in CMYK.  It is pretty much routine for all designers to convert digitally created files to CMYK before submitting the project for print.  If exact color matching is necessary, the use of “swatches” is useful during the design process.  Swatches help designers and their clients see printed examples of what a color will look like on a piece of paper.

Once a color swatch is selected, the designer can input the color specification into their design program to ensure the desired color results.  But don’t be confused.  Just because the color on the computer screen don’t match the swatch selected on a sheet of paper, the final output will be the color you chose.

Do It Yourself

Most print companies will be able to provide you a printed proof of your project before a mass print job is executed.  If you’re printing color materials using your office printer and want to make sure you achieve accurate color matches, it may be a good idea to print a collection of swatches on the printer.  This will help you determine how various colors come out on your office printer.

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