Printing Lingo: What do terms like 4/4, 4/1, 4/0, 1/1 and 1/0 mean?

Terms like 4/4 , 4/1, 4/0 etc. are a sort of printing industry shorthand to express how many ink colors are applied to each side of a printed piece.

4/4 is pronounced “four over four” and means there are four ink colors applied to the front of the piece and four ink colors applied to the back. These four colors are not just random colors – they are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and BlacK, also known collectively as CMYK. CMYK printing is also called four color process or four color printing and is used to generate what we know as full color printing. So a printed piece designated as 4/4 has the four CMYK ink colors applied to it on both sides.

4/1 is pronounced “four over one” and means one side of the printed piece has the four CMYK ink colors applied to it but the other side only receives one ink color. In most cases this single ink color is black but it could also be a PMS spot color, so it is always best to further identify the single color when using the 4/1 designation.

4/0 is pronounced “four over zero” and means one side of the printed piece has the four CMYK ink colors applied to it but the other side has no ink – it is completely blank.

1/1 is pronounced “one over one” and means both sides of the printed piece receive one ink color each. Again, this single color is commonly black but it could be any PMS spot color. Likewise, 1/0 is pronounced “one over zero” and means one side of the printed piece has a single ink color applied to it but the other side is completely blank.

Less common designations are 2/2 and 2/1, which will need more clarification as to which colors the numbers 2 and 1 stand for. The 2 could be two PMS Spot ink colors or one PMS Spot ink color and black. Likewise, the 1 could be black, one of the Spot colors used on the front or a different Spot color. For this reason, using the 2/2 or 2/1 designations will require that all the corresponding colors be clearly listed.

Hopefully you found the above explanation helpful. If you have any other questions about printing in full color, two colors, one color or any other printing or ink related questions, we are always happy to help. Just give us a call or send us an email.

Take care!  Keith

About the Author

Keith Beaty is the owner of Formax Printing Solutions in St. Louis, MO. Formax provides a complete array of offset and digital printing services. Specialty areas include full-color printing, all types of softcover books, laminated printing, plus fulfillment and mailing services. If you ever have a printing question or project you would like to discuss, Keith is always happy to help. He can be reached at 314-434-5500 or 866-367-6221. Keith and Formax have been providing worry-free printing and related services for over 30 years.

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