CalArts: Funds. of Graphic Design-W3: 3.7 Mixing Color: Paint, Print and Screen

As a graphic designer, you have to think about color in different contexts. 
And this can actually have quite a big effect on that color.

And those contexts are mostly to do with looking at things, looking at graphic design, onscreen or offscreen.

When you’re looking at something onscreen, 
the light is shining through a monitor and that’s very different from looking at something that’s printed,

for instance, where what you’re actually seeing is the light bouncing back off the paper through the ink.

So there are two very, very different color systems that are associated with this.

Onscreen Color

When we’re looking at something on the screen, we’re really looking at color made up of red, green and blue. Or RGB,

and this is common to pretty much all devices. Whether it’s phone, television, computer screen.

So if we make a Venn diagram of how red, green and blue colors interact with each other
you can see that what happens is when you combine all three,
you actually get white, 
which is very different from how pigments work.

You can also see how, for instance,

  • if you mix red and green you’d get yellow.
  • if you mix red and blue you’d get magenta.
  • if you mix blue and green you’d get cyan.

Again, very different from how pigments work.

And this is because RGB is basically additive [ซึ่งมีลักษณะหรือเกิดจากการเพิ่มหรือบวก] color.

What this means is 
you’re basically starting out from black
and you’re adding light to colors. 
And when you’ve added 100% of everything
you would end up with white.

And if you think about it, this makes sense, because you’re really working with an onscreen medium.

So you’re kind of painting with light, if you like. 
So you’re starting out from black,
and everything that you add has to be made out of light in order to be seen.

Painted Color

If we now look at painted color, or pigment
one of the first things that you’ll notice is 
the difference between painted color and RGB on screen color ,
is that one of our primary colors is different.

So instead of green we now have yellow as one of our primary colors.

And if we look at a Venn diagram of how these three colors interact, 
you can see that they interact in a very very different way.

When you mix all of these three colors together you get black instead of white.

So here we have our primary colors of red, blue, and yellow.

And you can see that where each single primary color overlaps with one other single primary color, it makes a secondary color.

  • So red and yellow overlap to make orange.
  • Red and blue overlapping to make purple.
  • Blue and yellow overlapping to make green.

And these kind of concepts of making secondary colors out of primaries are very familiar to most of us just from being a child and mixing paint together, and seeing what the effects of different pigments mixed together are.

Printed Color, Four Color Process,

Printed color, also known as four color process, works in a slightly different way than the two other systems that we’ve looked at, RGB and painted color.

To begin with we are working with 4 inks. 
Cyan, magenta, yellow and black, which is also know as CMYK.

CMYK is predominantly used as the way of mixing inks on a four color offset press.

If you were doing a job as a designer, and the work was actually being printed instead of being shown on the screen, for instance, you’d need to know how to deal with CMYK, 
and how to get something printed that’s gonna really look like how you imagined, or how you envisioned it, or saw it on the screen.

And CMYK ink works in the same way as pigment color does.
In other words it’s a subtractive color.

So you can see here when you add cyan and magenta together
you start to get a purple color which is very similar to mixing blue and red that we saw when we were mixing pigments.

When you mix all three colors together though, cyan, magenta, and yellow
what happens is you should really be able to obtain a black 
but you can never really get a true dark rich black
and that’s where that fourth color comes in.

And you can see here that that fourth color instead of being called B for black is actually called K, 
and there’s a couple of different hypothesis สมมุติฐาน as to why that is.

Normally it’s the K stands for key.

And black in offset printing is used to add detail and often used to print a line that holds all the other color work together.

And that’s sometimes called a key line. 
So that’s one reason why it might be called “K”.

And another reason which I’d like to think is rather a myth is that it’s there to differentiate itself from the cyan plate which could also be called blue.

So if you had a B for blue and a B for black it would be too confusing.

When CMYK is used on a printing press, basically each one of those colors is a separate plate on the press.

And each color is put onto those plates in terms of a very, very small dot.

And when these dots overlap, in the same way that we can see the colors overlapping here, they can form other colors.

So it gives you a full range of color out of just those four plates.

And you can see this quite easily for yourself. 
If you actually look at a printed image, say a four-color image, a full color image, like this photograph, for instance, that’s been printed,

and if you zoom into it really close, you can actually, you’ll be able to see the dot pattern, and you’ll be able to see how those different dots are overlapping with each other, and how they’re making other colors.

So, you can see here these very small areas, different colors, and there’s some white in there, some black in there, yellow. 
But you can see there’s very pure colors.

So, basically everything that you look at that’s printed with a CMYK dot is kind of an optical illusion.

Again it’s tricking your eyes into thinking that there’s another color there when in fact, it’s just dots that are overlapping.

Spot Color

The last kind of color we’re going to look at is spot color.

And this is really a subset of CMYK.

And spot colors are used in offset printing.
And they’re used when you need a very specific color that you maybe can’t mix out of the CMYK color set.

So, sometimes this might be something like a bright orange or perhaps a fluorescent color or a metallic.

And you’d use a special ink for this, the way you would mix that precise color of ink, 
and then you would run that as one of the plates on the CMYK offset press.