What the K! Adding the K in CMYK printing

One thing you may be wondering about printing is, why, when we call ‘C’-Cyan, ‘M’-Magenta & ‘Y’-Yellow, we call Black ‘K’?

Well, some would have you believe it’s because it’s the last letter of Black and that B was already used up by RGB. Well, that’s not true. it actually refers to the ‘K’ in Key. We call the Black plate, the Key plate (it’s all to do with Keylines, a traditional process to separate/indicate printed areas .

The reasons/benefits behind this is a little geeky, but I’ll try to sum it up in a few bullet points:

  • It costs less to use just Black ink, rather than a mix of other subtractive primary inks.
  • Tones created by mixing CMY are unsatisfactory and without detail.
  • Quicker drying times when using less ink, less chance of
  • Using only Black text creates sharp results, avoiding blurry text caused by multiple colours and registration issues.

I hope that clears up what the K! in CMYK means. If you have any other questions you’d like to see us answer, just add a comment below.


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