Most people don’t know that almost the entire spectrum of colors can be recreated using just 4 colors.  If you don’t have experience with graphics, CMYK or 4 color process can be confusing!  Why?  Because you want to print all of the colors, not just 4!  Here is what you need to know about CMYK.

The CMYK color model is a subtractive color model used in color printing and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four inks used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black).

The K in CMYK stands for “Key”, NOT black as many believe.   Most printers (including Julin) will refer to it as black because that is the color printing plate it represents but it stands for Key because in four-color printing, cyan, magenta and yellow printing plates are carefully keyed, or aligned, with the black key plate. The Key plate is the plate that holds the detail (lines, contrast, etc.) in the image.

A color image is separated into 4 different color values (called a color separation) by the use of filters and screens. The result is a color separation of 4 images that can be transferred to printing plates and sequentially printed on a printing press with the colored inks cyan (blue) , magenta , yellow and black.  The 4 colors are combined one layer at a time, each layer an intricate pattern of dots, when overlaid, create the desired colors and reproduce the original color image.

It is called a subtractive color model because you start with a light, bright surface (the paper) and “subtract” lightness as you add more color.


Most of the entire spectrum of colors are reproduced with just the four process ink colors. The four color printing process is universally used in the graphic arts and commercial printing industry for the reproduction of color images and text.

And that, is the basics of the CMYK color model!