The colorspace used in the printing process, referring to the colors Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.
Cyan is a light blue, magenta is a deep pink, yellow and black are of course familiar to all. CMYK printing is also known as process color printing, and the inks sometimes called process blue, process magenta, process yellow and process black.
Ink or toner of the CMYK colors is transferred to the substrate – paper, plastic or whatever it might be – as tiny dots of pigment, too small to be discerned easily with the unaided eye. The amount of each CMYK color the eye sees in any part of a printed image is controlled by varying the size of the dots. The dots combine visually to create a wide gamut of color, wide enough to recreate most continuous tone images very well.
A separate unit of the printing press, or toner cartridge, delivers each of the colors.
Additional colors can be used to extend the color gamut, either with additional units of the press – 5 or 6 colors being fairly common – or with additional passes through the press, replacing the CMYK inks with whatever special colors are required. See 5 color printing.
Compare with RGB colorspace.
See also: process color, 5 color printing; screen angles; color gamut.
Further reading: Everything you never knew you wanted to know about full color printing.« Back to Glossary Index