What is CMYK? CMYK color palette

For today, probably, there is no such person who does not know. Practically each of us at least once printed out any document or text. Surely many have come across the abbreviation CMYK. It can often be found in the field of printing. However, not everyone knows what it means. What is CMYK? Let us try to consider this issue in more detail in this review.

Optical illusion

Color palette

Before attempting to understand what CMYK is, it is necessary to consider the nature of a phenomenon such as natural light. Few people know that the concept of color is only in a system whose elements are different surfaces, light and observers. However, optical illusions do not end there. Although our eye perceives white light as colorless, it contains all the colors present in the spectrum. Coloring of objects is obtained precisely due to the presence of many components. After the white light reaches objects, the surface, regardless of their characteristics, begins to absorb certain colors. The rest are reflected.As a result, the observer perceives the image as bright or dull.

Reproduction of images or text

Printing is most often done on paper. As a rule, initially it has white color, but at the same time it is characterized by the ability to reflect the full range of shades falling on its surface. The higher the quality of the paper, the better the reflective characteristics will be. The dye is a substance that absorbs a particular color. If it delays rays of any length, except those that correspond to the red component of the spectrum, the viewer as a result will perceive only that color. If you look at this pigment when illuminated with a blue lamp, it will be visible in black. The number of reflected colors is reduced when all sorts of dyes are applied to the white paper. For example, when applied to a blue dye paper, a situation arises when it will not absorb only it.

There are also combinations of colors, by mixing which you can get a paint that can absorb completely all the rays. As a result, the paper becomes virtually black. In particular, it’s enough just to put on it the same amount of yellow,cyan and magenta pigment. The CMYK color model does not require white ink, since it is the color of the paper itself. But on those elements of the picture, where necessary, do not put any dyes, thereby leaving the surface in its original form.

Subtractive model

colorful balloons

Like other printed materials, paper is a surface that has the ability to reflect artificial or natural light. It is most convenient to calculate what percentage of the rays change its direction than the one that is absorbed. Thus, if you remove the three primary colors from white - the so-called basic colors of RGB, you get a set of additional colors CMY.

“K” instead of “B”

For those who do not know what the CMYK color palette is, this name can be a shock. As mentioned earlier, this system uses four different color pigments. The first letters of their names are taken in the abbreviation. Black is also used. According to one version, “K” is short for Black. In the printing industry, it is used instead of “B” to indicate black film. This is done in order not to be confused with the same letter from the RGB model, where “B” means blue.The problem is that professional color correction programs work with a dozen channels and use all available color spaces.

Offset colors from Germany

colored squares

There is another point of view on how the letter “K” is deciphered. Perhaps this is an abbreviation of the word "key." This is how the black ink plate is indicated. It is used over the previously applied three previous dyes. However, many experts believe that "K" comes from the word Kontur. The validity of this version is confirmed by the fact that the black film in the printing house is traditionally called contour.

How to read in Russian

CMYK system has been used for quite some time. However, many still do not know how to correctly read the name of this abbreviation. Professionals usually pronounce it as "Cm-Wye-Kay." Some also use the terms "process colors" or "full color."

The difference between CMYK and RGB

What is CMYK? What is its difference from RGB? The main feature is that CMYK is used in typography. Model RGB is usually used in monitors, televisions and other displays. They are composed of pixels.These elements are small dots, each of which has three highlights, depending on the brightness of each of which a different color is obtained.

When printing from a computer, the offset machine or printer does the same, using CMYK colors - CYAN, MAGENTA, YELLOW, KEYCOLOR. Viewing images using the RGB scheme in connection with this may differ with the result on paper or other physical media. The reason lies in the way the image is transferred from one color scheme to another. Full compliance here is simply impossible. Many of the shades of the RGB palette are simply missing from the CMYK scheme. They are replaced by the closest shades. However, the differences may be too noticeable.

How many colors are used in each model?

paint in a can

It has long been known that it is necessary to mix other colors to obtain the desired color. So, if you take in the same proportions yellow, cyan and magenta, you can get black paint. But for some reason, it is also necessary to use additional pigment.

There are several circumstances under which four-color autotype involves the use of black paint.

  1. The combination of cyan, magenta, yellow dye produces a dirty-brown color as a result.
  2. Process colors do not guarantee the stability and saturation of shades of gray areas of the picture.
  3. When displaying small details of a picture or text without using this dye, there is a great risk of inaccurate coincidence of the points of application of magenta, yellow, and blue hues.
  4. Black pigment is much cheaper than other dyes.
  5. In inkjet printing, mixing 100% cyan, magenta, and yellow dyes at one point produces a fairly strong wetting of the paper. As a result, the surface is deformed, and the time required for drying increases. Especially often such problems arise when offset printing.
  6. Some printers have a limited amount of ink. On such printers to get a real black color by mixing is impossible in principle. Therefore, an additional black dye is used.

CMYK printing: what is it?

four different colors

What is the CMYK color system? In the case of printing on an offset or laser printer, it is possible to apply a layer of paint of a certain thickness on each individual point or leave the substrate intact.In order to accurately convey all the semitones, the image must first be rasterized or, in other words, presented as a combination of dots of four colors. The percentage of each paint is determined by the density of their placement. Close points merge. As a result, the human eye perceives the desired shade.

There are the following types of rasterization:

  • amplitude: the number of points is constant, only their size is different;
  • stochastic: there is no exactly defined regular structure of points;
  • frequency: the size is maintained with a changing number of points.

How to get high quality print?

colorful drops

What is the feature of color CMYK? Today many homes have printers installed. They are especially useful when creating essays, coursework and preparing homework. Some also use printers to print photos. But very often, such actions end in real disappointment. A picture that appears bright on the screen turns into a dim copy on paper. It's all about the principle of transferring images from the RGB model to CMYK. To understand how the printed image will look like,You must use the software Adobe Photoshop. The picture in this case can be edited to make the result more qualitative.

CMYK: numeric representation

What is each number that defines a hue in the CMYK system? In fact, this is the percentage of paint of a given color. For example, to get khaki, 30 parts of blue paint, 80 parts of yellow, 45 magenta, and 5 of black are mixed. Designate such a color can be a combination of C30 M45 Y80 K5. In itself, the numeric designation in CMYK color does not describe. This is only a set of hardware information that is used for printing. The resulting color will depend on many factors: paper quality, condition of the printing machine, size of the raster point and others.


In this review we understand what is CMYK color. Interpretation of this abbreviation - CYAN, MAGENTA, YELLOW, KEYCOLOR. Using a combination of these paints allows you to get any shades.

multicolored circles

Now, we hope, it is clear what CMYK is. We examined in more detail all the advantages and disadvantages of this color system. It is commonly used in typography. This model is also known as subtractive, since in it primary colors are subtracted from white.RGB, unlike CMYK, is used to display the image on the display. This palette is characterized by a large color gamut. It consists of only three colors - blue, green, red.

In this review, we tried to tell in detail about the CMYK system. Due to the fact that modern technologies are not standing still, but are constantly evolving, there is a possibility of the emergence in the near future of a more refined CMYK color model. According to experts, respectively, and print quality will improve significantly.

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