What is the Four Colour Process?

Whenever you pick up a magazine or full colour newspaper you are looking at the product of what is called “four colour process” printing. It is a worldwide standard for printing colour, but what does it really mean?

It is quite an amazing procedure. Basically we can break down all real world colour into four primary colours: Cyan (light blue), Magenta (a purplish red), Yellow and Black. This is what is known as CMYK (K is for Black). Back in the old days a camera was set up with different filters and screen angles and four separate photographs were taken of an image to create the CMYK separations. Today, computers handle this complicated process with ease.

If you have a very strong magnifying glass you can actually see how this works. Take any full colour picture (it can be a from a magazine, a brochure or even a product label) and have a really close look at it. What looks like smooth colour is actually a series of very small dots – and these dots are made up of just four colours – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. But with high resolution printing, the naked eye will not see any of the dots, it will just look like a smooth full colour image.

Four colour process printing is just printing a full colour image using these four colours: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

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