Dan Margulis Applied Color Theory

What Does the "K" Stand For?

   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 21:22:58 -0000
   From: "Deaubrey"
Subject: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

This topic came up in a color/art class of mine today and no one had a "final" answer.

What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

Some say "Kohl," some say "Keyline or Key," and some say it's the last letter in "blacK."

Does anyone here have "the" answer?

Thanks,

David Deaubrey Tighe
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   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 17:20:47 -0800
   From: "Mike Russell"
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

From: "Deaubrey

What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

Key - both because it's the plate you line the other plates with, and to  distinguish it from "Blue", the printer's term for Cyan.

Mike Russell
www.curvemeister.com
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   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 17:28:15 -0800
   From: J Walton
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

On 2/13/06, Deaubrey  wrote:

Does anyone here have "the" answer?

No, but you'll get some responses anyway..

J Walton
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   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 16:56:45 -0700
   From: "Les De Moss"
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

K stands for Black. B is not used as it would be confused with Blue.
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   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 16:06:40 -0800
   From: Marco Ugolini
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

It is my understanding that it indicates "Key", as in "Key Plate."
 
In printing, the Key plate is the one assigned to the darkest ink, which usually carries the defining elements of image detail.

In theory, the Key plate could be a dark brown, or a dark blue, or some other dark ink. I have worked in situations where a dark ink other than black substituted for it.

So, it seems unlikely to me that "K" stands for the last letter in "black".

Regards.

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Marco Ugolini
Mill Valley, CA
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   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 18:25:47 -0700
   From: "Andrew S. Webb"
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

All of the oldest pressmen I’ve know said it was Key, because it was the key to the CMYK process.

_andrew webb

WebbWorks Words & Pictures
http://www.webbwork.com
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   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 18:20:54 -0800
   From: "Paul D. DeRocco"
Subject: RE: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

From: Marco Ugolini

It is my understanding that it indicates "Key", as in "Key Plate."

In printing, the Key plate is the one assigned to the darkest ink, which
usually carries the defining elements of image detail.

In theory, the Key plate could be a dark brown, or a dark blue, or some
other dark ink. I have worked in situations where a dark ink other than
black substituted for it.

So, it seems unlikely to me that "K" stands for the last letter
in "black".

I don't doubt your correctness, but meanings shift as usage changes. In
computer graphics, K has come to mean black, because that's what it always
is. If K simply referred to the darkest color, then a CMY process like a
3-color dye sub would be referred to as CKY, or perhaps KMY, rather than
CMY.

Ciao,               Paul D. DeRocco
Paul                ___________________________________________________________________________

   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 20:39:01 -0600
   From: "jimbean"
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

I am sorry, I cannot agree with the recent answers... david asked about K, in cmyk...  it seems to me that if we are discussing cyan, magenta, yellow, then the K has to be black to be consistent.. the question didn't say: 'what could the k mean or stand for in the context of a printing process.. etc...
k may equal key, k may be discussed as the 'key' , if you printed the K (black ink?) first.. then maybe yes, you could use it a a registration key.. I am certainly not an old timer press guy.. however the recent answers are not consistent to the specific question...  what then does the C stand for in cmyk, the suntan ink?  but at least we are having fun discussing this... the current generations of inkjet printers all have LK, would you call that light key, light registration key?  k=black or at least k equals the black plate...   enjoy the evening, jim bean
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   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 21:19:53 -0500
   From: "jc castronovo"
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

"Kicker" plate is what an old plate retoucher told me many eons ago, CMY being weak without the kick, but I like the idea of the k in the letter black. More importantly, this is English. In other countries, is it still CMYK or do they go by the first letters of their color names?

john castronovo
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   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 22:06:35 -0500
   From: "Iliah Borg"
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

German versions I heard

Karbon

Kontur

Kontrast

ISO seems to suggest "Key"

Best regards,
Iliah Borg
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   Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 19:20:32 -0800
   From: Marco Ugolini
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

In a message dated 2/13/06 6:20 PM, Paul D. DeRocco wrote:

I don't doubt your correctness, but meanings shift as usage changes. In
computer graphics, K has come to mean black, because that's what it always
is. If K simply referred to the darkest color, then a CMY process like a
3-color dye sub would be referred to as CKY, or perhaps KMY, rather than
CMY.
 
I don't believe that this would be an appropriate use of "K". If we go back to the fundamentals, C, M and Y are the subtractive primaries derived from the additive primaries R, G, and B, of which they are the reverse (though not precisely). The key plate is an *extra element* with no direct correlates in the additive scenario, whose presence is necessitated by the impurities in the CMY inks and their inability to generate, by themselves, a truly dark neutral black.

Giving either C or M the moniker "K" in 3-primary subtractive environments would represent a wildly confusing and inappropriate use of the term: C+M+Y are a non-changeable set, whereas K is the extra element added to an essential core.

Regards.

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Marco Ugolini
Mill Valley, CA
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   Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 11:42:48 -0000
   From: "claire_higgins80"
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

I've always worked on the understanding that K stood for Key. Although I can see how the K in Black works for some people.

Claire Higgins.
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   Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 08:10:15 -0500
   From: Jim Rich
Subject: Re: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

Back before Al Gore  invented the internet and during the time of John Yule refined the CMYK process, the K in color printing stood for the key line and then its meaning moved toward black.

My..02
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   Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 11:20:21 -0200
   From: Clic!o
Subject: RE: What does "K" stand for in CMYK?

Hi, JC,

Here in Brazil is CMYK allright, and "K" is known as the "key" plate. At least that's how press people teach in the graphics art colleges around here.
:-)

      Clic!o Barroso
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   Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 08:32:56 -0500
   From: "Wayne Eddins"
Subject: K=Key

K for black means key. It is an old letterpress term. Back when a full range black (not a skeleton black) was used, the black was more important and carried most of the detail in the image.

Wayne Eddins
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