Printing has actually come a long way in the last couple of decades. Anybody who has a printer is probably familiar with the most common color printing format: 4-color printing. 4-color printing uses exactly what’s called the CMYK color process of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (i.e. black) inks. Nevertheless, CMYK likewise depends upon the paper it’s printed on to truly accomplish a constant spectrum of colors through a procedure called halftoning.
Halftoning permits for less than full saturation of the main colors; tiny dots of each primary are printed in a pattern little enough that human beings view a solid color. Magenta printed with a 20% halftone, for instance, produces a pink color, since the eye perceives the tiny magenta dots on the white paper background as lighter and less saturated than the color of pure magenta ink.
Without halftoning, 4-color printing could produce only 7 colors: the three primaries themselves (cyan, magenta, and yellow), plus three secondary colors produced by layering two of the primaries (red, green, and blue) plus matte black. With halftoning, a complete constant series of colors can be produced. Nonetheless, the range is very narrow in comparison to the actual color spectrum. Subsequently, other printing processes have likewise been created such as 6-color printers, 8-color printers, and 12-color printers.
6 Color Printers
Pioneered in 1998 by Pantone Inc under the name Hexachrome, 6-color printing included orange and green inks to the traditional (and still the most typical setup) CMYK. The extra two inks broaden the color gamut for better color reproduction. It was therefore likewise referred to as a CMYKOG (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key, Orange, Green) process. Hexachrome was discontinued by Pantone in 2008 when Adobe Systems stopped supporting their HexWare plugin software, however other companies have continued to offer 6 color printers, albeit under the generic name instead of the trademarked “Hexachrome.”
However, Hexachrome was very tough to adjust appropriately (which is why it needed the HexWare plugin to begin with), so some 6-color printers rather utilize a CcMmYK process of including a light cyan and a light magenta to widen the color range of the middle tone region, which helps improve the look of blue skies and a number of skin tones.
8 Color Printers
Even with 6 colors, though, printing in large formats still experiences granularity and 6-color printing is often challenging to calibrate (if using CMYKOG) or uses more ink (for the CcMmYK procedure) in order to render darker colors. In an attempt to attend to these problems, in addition to enhance the color range even further, 8-color printing was invented.
8-color printing is an expansion of the CcMmYK process, this time adding light yellow and “light black” (i.e. gray) to create a CcMmYyKk procedure. On the entire, 8-color printing achieves a couple of clear wins:.
- Increases apparent resolution.
- Produces finer details.
- Guarantees smoother gradient shifts.
- Produces brilliant and crisp colors.
- Lowers graininess.
Nevertheless, it also prints slower.
12 Color Printers
12-color printing is the most photorealistic alternative, especially for large-format printing. The 12-color procedure takes the CcMmYK process and adds a glossy black (in contrast to the K black, which is matte) and a special color “enhancer” (which is typically a kind of gloss) to enhance the look of every print. The staying colors vary depending on the maker, but in all, 12-color printing broadens on the CcMmYK color gamut by over 80%!