Graphic terms: what does 4 × 0, 4 × 1 and 4 × 4 colors mean?

One of the most common subjects in the graphic world is the amount of colors in the print. In order to understand the client’s project and to formulate an adequate budget, it is essential to know how the material will be printed. For this, questions such as, if the material will be printed on the back, and if it will be colored or black and white, are fundamental when informing the value to the customer. And this is where the famous nomenclatures come in, 4 × 0, 4 × 1 and 4 × 4 colors.

If you have any questions about what these terms actually mean, follow our article that we will explain to you. 

What does 4 × 0, 4 × 1 and 4 × 4 colors mean?

Understanding the CMYK color pattern

Before explaining what the 4 × 0, 4 × 1 and 4 × 4 colors nomenclatures mean, it is essential to explain what they are related to. For this, we will quickly explain about the CMYK color standard. But, if you want to know the CMYK color standard in depth, check out our full article on the difference between the RGB and CMYK color standards  .

The color standard used by industrial printers is CMYK. This pattern is a subtractive color model: it means that the amount of ink must be reduced to obtain lighter colors, reaching white with the total absence of pigment.

What does CMYK mean?

  • C – C yan | Cyan (a light shade of blue)
  • M – M agenta (a pinkish red)
  • Y – Y ellow | Yellow
  • K – Blac K | black

All shades of a print result from mixing different proportions of these four pigments. When mixed, it is possible to obtain thousands of other colors, such as green, orange, lilac, brown, red, purple, among others.

As we mentioned above, industrial printers work with the CMYK system, that is, with four colors. When printing in this process, each color is placed on the paper in separate layers, that is, each color is printed one after the other, thus resulting in all other colors. 

However, it is possible to work with each color in isolation. For example, if you want to print completely black text, you can use only one color: K (blac K ).

The quantities of colors printed on each side of the paper are represented by the nomenclatures 4 × 0, 4 × 1 and 4 × 4. And now that we know the origin of the terms, let’s go to the explanation.

4x colors


If you produce a brochure or a business card, for example, with only one side printed, you will have four colors on one side and none on the other. Therefore, this would be the case for a 4 × 0 color print, that is, 4 colors on the front (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) and no color on the back.

4 × 1 colors

If the material is printed double-sided, but on the back you work with only one of the four CMYK colors, it will be the case for 4 × 1 prints – four colors on the front, one color on the back. By default, when we speak 4 × 1 colors, it is understood that the color that will be used on the back will be black (K), with the percentage of the composition varying, for example, 50% black, 10% black, for if you get the gray tone. The important thing is, when we speak 4 × 1 colors, it is not allowed to add more than one CMYK color on the back of the printout.

4 × 4 colors


Following this logic, a color print on both sides is an example of a 4 × 4 color print  , where we use cyan, magenta, yellow and black on the front and back of the printout.

There are also some graphic materials that are printed using only one of the CMYK colors. Examples are notebooks, receipts and order blocks. For these types of materials, printing is carried out only in front of the printout and usually the color chosen is black (K). For these situations, it is understood that the impression will be 1 × 0 color. 

In conclusion, the reasoning will always be this. We analyzed how the composition of colors used on the front of the print will be and the same for the back. 

Knowing and applying these terms correctly is very important in the budget phase of your project, because depending on the amount of colors, the cost of printing may increase or decrease.

Did you like our article? We hope you have resolved all your questions.

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