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What's a process color?

From: Print Production Fundamentals

Video: What's a process color?

Look at any magazine with color photographs, all of those colors are the result of combinations of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks. Those are commonly referred to as the process colors, and I'm sure you've heard the shorthand, CMYK. As the inks are laid down on press, you can see the final color take shape. Different printing plants lay down the four colors in various orders, but the final result is the same. So I want to show you how the piece of paper looks as each successive color is applied.

What's a process color?

Look at any magazine with color photographs, all of those colors are the result of combinations of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks. Those are commonly referred to as the process colors, and I'm sure you've heard the shorthand, CMYK. As the inks are laid down on press, you can see the final color take shape. Different printing plants lay down the four colors in various orders, but the final result is the same. So I want to show you how the piece of paper looks as each successive color is applied.

Here is just the black plate alone, and you can see the range of tones within the black plate, from Shadows to Highlights. Then when I add the cyan, you start to see the image take shape. Now the magenta, and now the yellow, and there is the finished four-color piece. Here's a consideration, on a printing press you cannot print continuous tone as you could in a photograph, you have to print little dots, and that's how the range of tones gets rendered. Here if we look at a half toned image, this is the way ink really hits paper.

You can probably see a little bit of a pattern, and when I zoom in you start to see all the little dots that add up to the four colors. Again, we're going to look at the individual plates. There is the black plate, notice the angle of the lines, notice the angle of the little rows of dots. If we look at the cyan, you'll see it's a different angle, and magenta is at 45 degrees, the yellow is at 90 degrees. Now, different printing plants use different workflows and they may have different angles from the ones I'm showing you here, but the concept is the same.

Because each color prints at a different angle, you have to make sure that there isn't a pattern, that you don't have an unpleasant moire, an interference between the angles of the individual inks. If you have the correct angles and everything meshes nicely, you're going to see what's called a rosette. If you look in the upper right-hand corner here, I think it's easy to see those little rosettes. That's the sign of all the individual colors being at good angles, and you're not going to get an ugly pattern when it's printed. Here in Illustrator, I'm showing you how those little halftone dots fall on a page.

Look, each one is centered in little grid cell, it's sort of like graph paper. The number of cells along the line is called the line screen. If there are 150 little dots in a row in an inch, that's 150 line per inch halftone, and that's a pretty common value for magazines. For a newspaper it might be lower, coarser, 85 lines per inch, or maybe even 65 lines per inch. The finer the line screen, the finer the detail you can hold on press. Very coarse line screens don't hold detail very well, because little bitty details are hardly bigger than knows halftones themselves.

So for something like a coffee table book, it might be above 150 lines per inch, it might even go up to 200 or more. So now you know how little dots of color miraculously render a full-color photograph.

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This video is part of

Image for Print Production Fundamentals
Print Production Fundamentals

68 video lessons · 23317 viewers

Claudia McCue
Author

 
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  1. 2m 7s
    1. Welcome
      1m 31s
    2. Using the exercise files
      36s
  2. 7m 5s
    1. What is print production?
      1m 51s
    2. Understanding roles and responsibilities
      5m 14s
  3. 13m 49s
    1. Communicating with your printer
      3m 49s
    2. What does the printer do with my files?
      2m 39s
    3. Understanding the importance of contract proofs
      1m 57s
    4. Handling corrections and alterations
      2m 8s
    5. Attending press checks
      3m 16s
  4. 13m 27s
    1. Choosing the correct type of printing for your project
      3m 15s
    2. The art of letterpress
      1m 33s
    3. Understanding the advantages of sheet-fed printing
      2m 22s
    4. Using a web press for long runs
      1m 39s
    5. Understanding thermography
      1m 38s
    6. Considerations for digital printing
      3m 0s
  5. 15m 11s
    1. What's a process color?
      2m 55s
    2. What's a spot color?
      2m 52s
    3. Exploring how ink behaves on paper
      5m 14s
    4. Comparing monitor vs. press output
      4m 10s
  6. 15m 15s
    1. Building to the correct size
      4m 37s
    2. Folding and trimming
      3m 18s
    3. Setting up for die cutting
      3m 19s
    4. Embossing
      4m 1s
  7. 3m 17s
    1. Choosing an application
      3m 17s
  8. 9m 54s
    1. Understanding font formats
      1m 45s
    2. Using OpenType fonts
      5m 20s
    3. Fonts to avoid
      2m 49s
  9. 13m 52s
    1. Comparing raster vs. vector images
      3m 23s
    2. Understanding color space
      4m 26s
    3. Examining image formats
      6m 3s
  10. 13m 13s
    1. Looking at image resolution
      7m 16s
    2. Masking basics
      5m 57s
  11. 39m 53s
    1. Understanding Illustrator
      2m 34s
    2. Illustrator layout tips
      2m 48s
    3. Building a simple three-panel brochure
      6m 29s
    4. Using swatches
      5m 22s
    5. Working with effects
      5m 16s
    6. Cautions about some effects
      1m 23s
    7. Importing images
      2m 41s
    8. Exploring fonts
      2m 42s
    9. Saving for users with older versions
      3m 2s
    10. Saving as PDF
      4m 36s
    11. Gathering up the pieces
      3m 0s
  12. 57m 8s
    1. InDesign layout basics
      5m 21s
    2. Building a simple three-panel brochure: method one
      7m 19s
    3. Building a simple three-panel brochure: method two
      3m 21s
    4. Working with color and gradient swatches
      7m 12s
    5. Making gradients and creating a rich black swatch
      4m 45s
    6. Exploring fonts in InDesign
      2m 54s
    7. Importing graphics
      7m 49s
    8. Copying and pasting graphics
      3m 38s
    9. Saving for users with older versions
      2m 21s
    10. Packaging up a print job
      6m 57s
    11. Generating PDFs
      5m 31s
  13. 22m 43s
    1. Using Overprint Preview in InDesign
      3m 3s
    2. Managing swatches in InDesign
      5m 29s
    3. Preflighting in InDesign
      7m 58s
    4. Using the Links panel in Illustrator
      3m 16s
    5. Using blending modes in Illustrator and InDesign
      2m 57s
  14. 35m 35s
    1. Basic forensics in Acrobat
      11m 3s
    2. Using Output Preview
      5m 30s
    3. Dealing with display artifacts
      2m 52s
    4. Using TouchUp tools
      8m 17s
    5. Converting colors
      4m 11s
    6. Using preflight profiles
      3m 42s
  15. 3m 27s
    1. Submitting the job
      2m 29s
    2. Being a good print customer
      58s
  16. 1m 2s
    1. Next steps
      1m 2s

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