CMYK, or ‘Four Colour Process’, or ‘Process Printing’ is the technique for reproducing colour images on paper. CMYK itself stands for the four basic colours used, CYAN, MAGENTA YELLOW and BLACK.
I don’t know why but I have always just taken it for granted that that was that!
Sometimes someone else’s questioning makes you stand back and question yourself. Did I actually know? Im sure I did, my first job was In-house designer at a Printing company, however I do now!
Its really very simple and logical but strangely seems to not be commonly known.
One mistaken explanation is that ‘K’ was used being the last letter in “black” and because ‘B’ can not be used as it would cause confusion when referring to ‘RGB’.
(RGB being the colour setup for your monitor screen/tv – Red Green Blue)
While this is sensible, not encouraging the confusion, it is not the case. ‘K’ actually stands for Keyline or Key plate. (A suggestion that it may stand for ‘Kohl” is quite logical however, a black dye or pigment!)
This originated from the times (not that long ago!) when we used to produce black line artwork with a red keyline around a solid colour or tint. So Keyline or key plate seemed to stick.
There is enough confusion for printers today when given RGB files by mistake that have to be converted before printing. If ‘B’ was used instead of ‘K’ the confusion between RGB (Red Green BLUE) and CMYB (Cyan Magenta Yellow BLACK) would be immeasurable.
I can see the Printer now tearing hair out in reams!
A job that is printed using CMYK Four colour process from an RGB file can and would often have dire results. The colours printed will not be the colours you see on the screen.
It is however a very common mistake, and from many discussions have turned many a Printers hair grey!
So, here’s a tip, when sending a job to print, check its ‘OK’, thats O ‘K’ not RGB?