Interesting Facts about CMYK Ink Colors

Interesting Facts about CMYK Ink Colors

Have you ever wondered about the type of printer ink you are using? If you’ve owned or used many printers in the past, you may have noticed that each printer uses a specific type of printer ink. The type of printer ink you purchase depends completely on what brand and model your printer is. While some printers use RGB ink, majority of printers use CMYK.


You have probably heard of CMYK. However, do you know what these letters stand for? Have you ever wondered why this is named as such?

Here are some interesting tidbits on the CMYK:

1. CMYK is composed of four colors. CMYK refers to a specific printing process, but the four letters also stand for the four colors that make up is this color model. The first color is cyan, which is a blue-green color. Magenta is the second ink color, and is a shade of reddish pink. The third color is yellow, and the fourth color is pure black printer ink. This particular black is also called key black.

Many people believe that the letter “K” in CMYK comes from the last letter of the word “black,” since “B” already stands for the color blue. Although this explanation may seem logical, it is incorrect. In four-color printing, the printing plates of the cyan, magenta and yellow colors are keyed or aligned with the black key plate. Most of the time, printer ink is applied in the order of the abbreviated colors.

2. The black ink is not a combination of the three other colors. In order to produce deep black tones and dark colors, the CMYK model uses black printer ink instead of the combination of the cyan, magenta, and yellow colors. When the colored printer inks are mixed to produce a black ink color, the result can be substandard. The amount of ink used from a combination of the three colors would soak the paper and would then take a long time to dry. Also, mixing cyan, magenta and yellow would produce a dark brown color, and not quite a black ink color.

The black ink color helps reduce the costs of printer ink. To replace one printer ink cartridge would cost much less compared to having to replace three ink colors.

3. CMYK is a subtractive color model. CMYK is considered as a subtractive color model because it technically subtracts the brightness from the color white. It either partially or entirely masks colors on a lighter background. The printer ink color decreases the amount of light that is reflected. The four-color process printing uses the four main colors to reproduce thousands of different colors. Each of the four colors is printed on the page one at a time and in differing amounts.

4. Halftoning gives us color options. CMYK printing uses halftoning, also known as screening. Halftoning allows us to choose from a wide range of printer ink colors. Very tiny dots of each of the primary colors are printed to produce a small pattern that humans make out as a solid color. For example, magenta can be printed with a 20% halftone in order to produce a pinkish color. Without halftoning, printers would only produce seven colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, green, red, a shade of purplish blue, and black.


This Article is written by John C Arkin.


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