The CMYK Four Color Language

Quick!!  What does this mean:

To begin with, you must understand how ink is applied on the paper.  ANY offset process that involves “full color” uses a MINIMUM of the four colors to the left.  These colors are put on the paper with tiny, tiny dots.

These dots are placed VERY close to each other (the finest offset dot available on Earth is called STOCHASTIC printing and you can read about it here.

Above you see a comparison of these dot patterns.  The top is from a newspaper where the dots are visible to the eye.  The next at 175 and still visible to the eye.  The last one is our version of the dots…which you can’t see without a lens.  They are simply too small.  My hope is that you can see how offset printing is really just the individual dots of C, M, Y and K ink.

For clarity, here is an enlargement of the top image (or, just go find a magnifying lens and start looking at printed pieces).

No mixing…just patterns that trick your eye into seeing colors that are not on the paper.  Even lousy printing succeeds at this mission!

So..if you were going to print FULL color on BOTH sides of a sheet, this is how you would represent that process:

4 / 4 …which means CMYK “over” CMYK…or full color, both sides.  This is read as follows “four over four”.

SO, let’s invent a few more formulas:

4 / 0 Means: Full color on one side and NOTHING on the other side (kind of like a poster)

4 / K means: Full color on one side and BLACK ink on the other side (traditional post cards use this)

4 + FLOOD VARNISH / SAME means: Full color then a flood varnish coating on both sides of the sheet (learn more about coatings here)

4 + PMS + SOFT TOUCH AQ + DRY TRAP SPOT GLOSS VARNISH / SAME means: Full color plus a Pantone color (silver? fluorescent green? you must specify) plus a soft touch flood the a dry trap of a spot of varnish on BOTH sides of the sheet.  Again, learn more about floods and coatings here).

We could invent many different combinations of this formula but this should give you the basics so you know how to speak the language.  Is this the Language of Love?  Not really…I would not recommend bringing this subject up while cuddling in front of the fire this weekend.   But it IS the language of printing and I love printing so, I guess, it COULD be some sort of language of love?

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