Graphic Design Terminology: CMYK

CMYK: An acronym for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black). CMYK refers to the colors of the ink used when you’re printing and is also called 4 color process printing. Mixing together these 4 primary colors to create other colors like purple, green and orange is know as subtractive color. Think of this process like mixing paints as you did as a kid in art class. Red and Yellow = Orange. Yellow and Blue = Green. Blue and Red = Purple. Mix all these colors together and you’ll eventually lose all color and end up with a muddy black mess. If you’re going to be printing your designs, working in CMYK format is preferred because it’s easier to match the colors to your printer. Don’t believe us? Go open your desktop printer, because the chances are it uses CMYK ink cartridges. Same goes for those big industrial printers, but on a much larger scale.

It’s 3thought’s goal to be a resource, educate and promote professional graphic design. If there’s a design term you’re not familiar with, or have more info to add to our definition, please do so in the comments section below. For more design terminology view 3thought’s ongoing “Graphic Design Terminology” page.

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