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What is CMYK?

Posted by Julia Goldberg on

Ever hear the term “CMYK” and wonder what the heck that technical jargon actually means? Those letters stand for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (aka black), the standard ink colors on most printers, including the large printing presses used to print our products. You may have even bought cartridges in those colors for your printer in your home or office. The press combines tiny dots of each colors to create an array of different color variations in your printed piece.

 Since CMYK mode is intended for printing, the colors in a CMYK may look funny on your screen, which operates in RGB (Red, Green, and Blue- the primary colors of light). Files for screen use should be converted to RGB. Scanners, monitors, and digital cameras all use RGB color mode since they project light to create colors. There are more colors in the RGB spectrum than CMYK, so therefore certain colors may not be replicated exactly in the printing process. The best way to avoid any surprises is to design and choose your colors in a CMYK document. If this sounds confusing to you, that’s ok - that’s what professional designers are for!

CMYK printing is the most common type of printing, and also the most cost effective. This makes color printing accessible to most businesses today as a tool to communicate with clients! This is great news, since using color in your publications has been directly linked with reader retention and information recall rates. Color can also improve brand recognition, and color marketing collateral has been shown to be 80% more effective than black and white. People are over 50% more likely to open a piece of mail that has color printed on the envelope! Thanks CMYK!


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