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.

We hope the explanation provided above was useful to you. If you have any further inquiries regarding full color, two-color, one color printing, or any other printing or ink-related queries, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. We are always delighted to assist you. Give us a call at 866-367-6221 or submit our quote request form.

Take care! Rick

About the Author

Rick Stallings 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 book printing, full-color printing, laminated printing, map printing and mailing services. If you ever have a printing question or project you would like to discuss, Rick is always happy to help. He can be reached at 866-367-6221 or by submitting our easy quote request form. Rick and the Formax team have been providing worry-free printing and related services since 1985.

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