Everything You Need To Know About The Four Color Process

Yup. Just 4 colors. Every single, color, a printed piece is an alchemy of just 4 colors. And these 4 colors are, drumroll please, CMYK. 




K=Black (lots of speculation on why “K” is black, that’s another blog.)

Four Inks and Separate Layers

 On the printing press, each layer of these four inks is put down via a separate plate (this is why registration marks are so critical). Each plate is perfectly lined up, each color is overlapped, and the dot patterns combine to form the image. When you come to SmithPrint, you immediately see our giant Heidelberg presses. Each roller represents a color, so a clean sheet of substrate is put in at one end and the 4-color final printed piece comes out the other end. We have a 6-roller press that also lays down specialty inks and varnishes in one pass.

Design Pitfalls of a Printed Piece 

 Problems come into play when the designer mixes in spot colors to the design, uses RGB mode, or doesn’t include registration or bleed marks. So, let’s break that down.

Spot color is great and has its uses. But it’s not intrinsic to the 4-color process. It’s typically used for jobs that don’t require full-color imagery, or when specific PMS colors are required.

RGB refers to the color spectrum on a monitor Red, Green, Blue. It has nothing to do with the print process. Often designers need a printed piece to match a digital design for the website, digital ads, social media, etc. The printed piece must be converted to CMYK.

Printers Marks include registration, bleed, fold or perforation lines, etc. Without these marks, the printer can’t align the plates or perform cutting, folding, and other specialty finishing work.

Come Take a Tour of SmithPrint

You are always welcome to come take a tour of our printing facility, talk to our experts, and collaborate with our designers. We work together to make your printed piece better than you hoped it would be.