Four colour process and how it works.

Full colour printing is actually a trick played on the brain and the eye. A full colour image is in fact made up of only four primary process colours. These colours being cyan, magenta, yellow and black, often abbreviated to C.M.Y.K.

Enlarged Halftone CMYK dotsFour colour process printing is an illusion based on the mixture of the four process colours in a calculated and regimented way, which from a distance appear to produce a larger range of colours and thus a full colour image.

The full colour image is printed in a ‘rosette’ pattern of dots. The dots vary in size depending on what is happening in that particular area of the image, to give the illusion of light and dark or a ‘halftone’.

Stack of newspapers printed in full colourThe use of halftones can most easily be seen when looking closely at a black and white newspaper picture, with dark ‘shadow’ areas having larger black dots, and the light ‘highlight’ areas having smaller black dots.

In order to achieve the illusion of full colour, the dots of the four process colours are mixed in the halftone fashion laying each colour of dots over the previous, with different mixtures of each coloured dot helping to achieve the desired colour outcome.

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