Inkjet-based color label printers use ink cartridges containing different colors of inks which are blended to create a full gamut of colors. The colors are cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black (K).
While “C,” “M,” and “Y” are obvious and easy to remember, black does not use the obvious “B” abbreviation. This is because “B” is already used in the RGB color model for “Blue.” The letter “K” for black stands for “key” in the four-color printing world because the cyan, magenta, and yellow colors are aligned with the black key plate. An easy way to remember that “K” refers to black is that the letter “K” is the last letter of the word.
Thus, a CMY ink cartridge contains cyan, magenta, and yellow ink while a CMYK ink cartridge contains cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. CYM ink cartridges are also called tri-color ink cartridges as they have three colors rather than four. Primera LX500 color label printer uses a tri-color CMY ink cartridge.
That’s not to say your printer won’t print black though. For example:
- Many color label printers blend the colors in a CMY ink cartridge to produce black. This type of ink cartridge system is a good choice for simplicity as there’s just one ink cartridge to deal with. However, when one color runs out, the entire ink cartridge must be replaced even if there’s still plenty of ink for the remaining colors.
- Other color label printers use one tri-color ink cartridge along with a separate black ink cartridge. Since we tend to print more black colors (such as text, barcodes, borders, and so forth) than the other colors, it makes sense to dedicated a complete ink cartridge to black. This conserves the cyan, magenta, and yellow inks for other colors. In fact, some color label printers, such as the Afinia L801, have two black ink cartridges which is denoted with two “K”s as in CMYKK.
Finally, color ink cartridges come in two forms: single or individual cartridges. Thus, a color label printer may require just one ink cartridge containing all of the colors (CMY or CMYK) or it may require three or four individual ink cartridges containing the individual colors. Using individual cartridges requires more ink management but it also conserves ink. Thus, if you have a print run that’s heavy on yellows, when the yellow ink runs out, you will only need to replace the yellow ink cartridge. Had you used a color label printer with a tricolor ink cartridge for this same print run, you’d run out of yellow but need to replace the entire ink cartridge despite having plenty of cyan and magenta ink to spare.