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What is CMYK?

Some things in life seem self explanatory. Others seem to need some help for understanding. Usually an acronym has a deeper meaning than just finding out what words the letters represent. In the case of CMYK, the words are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key and the meaning is definitely not found in just those four words.

CMYK can be confusing because if you see a visual representation of CMYK, there is a black part, but that is not the word in the acronym. Black is the key color in the build. It usually provides the detail or key elements of the design being printed. Contrast and lines are almost always found in a black and white scale, where as other color (CMY) information describes and enhances the contrast or lines present in the image.

There is a special difference between CMYK and what you see on the screen on which you are reading this. CMYK on a digital screen is a representation of what actual print looks like. In order to explain better, RGB color needs to be introduced.

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue. RGB describes visible light. If you combine those colors of light, you can make any other color. When all are fully present, you get white light. When none are present, you get darkness, or no light. CMYK is the opposite. When all are fully present, you get a rich black, when none are present, you get white.

CMYK describes the colors of ink present to reflect light back to your eye. We print your labels and stickers with CMYK inks primarily (with Orange, Violet, Green and White ink options). If you have any further questions regarding CMYK, RGB or how to build your artwork, please feel free to contact our customer service folks by calling 877-277-4682 or clicking the Live Chat link at the bottom of this page.

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