What Does CMYK Stand For?

Unless you’re an expert on the printing process, the term CMYK is likely foreign to you. While few people know what it actually stands for, many have heard of CMYK before since it is such a commonly used term in the industry. As experts in the printing and custom folder business, we’re here to help you learn the ins and outs, so you know the lingo next time you place your custom print order.

The CMYK colors

Tech Target defines CMYK as a scheme for combining primary pigments. An easier way to describe it is that CMYK simply stands for four different ink colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (K = key, black). Cyan is a shade of blue, magenta a shade of red, and yellow and black are straight forward standard colors. Another term you may have heard is RGB which stands for red, green, and blue, but this scheme is used mainly for computer displays, while the CMYK model is used for hard copy printing.

By combining the four standard colors in CMYK, printing presses can produce thousands of stunning colors and match any shade requested. While only the cyan, magenta, and yellow colors are needed to reproduce almost every possible color, the black is critical, especially to gain an authentic shade of the purest possible black, as without it CMY can only achieve a dark brown.

The 4 Color Process

Since CMYK are the four ink colors used in a printing press, it can be confusing as to how the many variations of colors a printing press are produced. The way a printing press is able to create other shades and hues of colors is simply by overlapping the four ink colors in different combinations to achieve the exact color desired. Once the visual effects of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black are combined, you are left with what is called full color printing. Other synonyms you may hear include 4CP, 4C, Process Printing or full color imagery, but they all mean the same thing.

Pigments versus color

If you want to get super technical, it’s important to know that there is a fundamental difference between pigment and color. Color is the energy that is radiated by a luminous object (red, green, and blue are the primary colors). Pigments on the other hand represent energy that is not absorbed by a substance like ink or paint. The primary pigments make up CMYK.

Other printing options to note include PMS printing, 1 color printing, and 2 color printing. PMS printing stands for Pantone Matching System and it is a color standardization system that allows for a wider range of reproduced colors than the CMYK spectrum. Since each PMS color has its own unique hue, this system helps with color identification and matching to specific pantone colors. 1 color printing means you’re printing one color which is most often black, while 2 color printing means you use only two individual colors. At Conformer Folders we offer all of these printing options in addition to 4CP with a spot PMS color. This is an option that is used most often for companies with a distinctive corporate color.

Custom folders that fit your brand to a tee

At Conformer Folders, we specialize in creating a wide variety of custom folders that perfectly match your branding, helping you bring your business to life with custom branded folders you can use for any project or day-to-day. By using printing press methods like the 4 color process and the best quality products, we are able to provide amazing custom folders our clients love and use often. Click here to browse our different products, or here to learn more about our artwork guidelines for more information.

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