High Contrast Mode:

Printing Terminology: What is Color Separation?

A full-color image shown with its four color-separated files of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black

Color Separation...

In the world of full-color printing, Color Separation refers to the process of isolating the individual colors that compose an artwork file so the file can be accurately reproduced on a printing press.

How many individual colors are needed to produce full-color printing?

If you were to flip through a full-color brochure or magazine, your eyes would detect thousands of different hues and shades of color. So it may seem hard to believe that a commercial printing press produces full-color images using just four ink colors.

These four ink colors are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, which are known collectively as CMYK. By using different percentages of these four CMYK ink colors (from 0% to 100%) about 16,000 diverse colors can be created.

CMYK printing is the standard method for producing full-color output within the commercial printing industry.

A 4-color image with all four colors separated
Before a full-color image can be printed on a commercial press, it must be color separated into four files: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

CMYK Printing requires a separate file for each of the four ink colors

The CMYK color separation process divides a full-color artwork file into four separate files - one file for each of the four CMYK colors.

For example, when you submit a full-color artwork file to a commercial printing company, its pre-press department will use specialized software to analyze the full-color file and then separate it into a Cyan file, a Magenta file, a Yellow file, and a Black file. These four distinct files allow the full-color image to be replicated on a printing press.

Color Separation is required for Offset Printing and Digital Printing

If the project is to be produced on an offset press, each color-separated file will be used to create a printing plate for its corresponding ink color. If the project is to be produced on a digital printing press, the color-separated files can be transferred directly to the press without the use of printing plates.

Whether the production method is offset or digital, the printing press will apply the four CMYK colors one at a time. As the paper, cardstock, or other substrate travels through the printing press, the four ink colors overlap to progressively create the full-color image.

Because full-color images are created by adding the four ink colors in succession, CMYK printing is also known as 4-Color Process Printing.

Color Vision can produce CMYK printing using Offset or Digital Presses

As a full-service commercial printer, Color Vision has an in-house prepress department to perform the color separations needed for your full-color print projects. We'll work closely with you to ensure your submitted artwork files are print-ready and that you receive the quality results you expect.

Give us a call at 800-543-6299 when you're ready to discuss your next print project. Or, if you would like to send us your project's specifications so we can email you a quote, please access our Quote Request Form by clicking here. As always, we look forward to working with you!

American Express Discover Mastercard Visa

High Contrast Mode: