Studio Time: Rich Black is the New Black

When it comes to banners, black is a fairly commonplace colour. Whether it’s bright text on a black background, or black text on a bright background, black is used all the time. It’s also often used in company logos.

For anyone that’s creating banner artwork, you’d expect creating a solid black object or shape to be pretty simple—simply fill it with 100% black, right? Well, yes, you’d get a black object, but it could be better.

It’s black. Or is it?

Unfortunately, printed solid black objects can often appear ‘washed out’, and like a very dark grey once printed. However, this can be resolved. A reliable way to ensure that you get a nice deep, rich black is to add other colours to the mix.

The black CMYK values we normally use:

  • Cyan: 50
  • Magenta: 50
  • Yellow: 50
  • Black: 100
100% Black Compared to Rich Black

100% Black Compared to Rich Black

Swatches

Black Swatches

Black Swatches

Most design software will have some kind of swatch feature, or colour presets. As with creating an additional swatch when you’re working with a corporate colour can be helpful, so too can creating one for rich black. InDesign already has a pure black (C: 0, M: 0, Y: 0, K: 100) swatch by default, and it’s easy to add another. Simply create any old object, fill it with the desired colour values (C: 50, M: 50, Y: 50, K: 100), click the drop-down menu in the colour palette, then click ‘Add to Swatches’. You’ll now have a new swatch that you can re-use wherever and whenever you need.

I find it best to create this swatch with no documents open. This way, the swatch will be included with every new document created from that point on.

Is this rich black I see before me?

Quite unhelpfully, many desktop publishing software packages display a simple black onscreen as a rich black. This can give you the false impression that you will get a deep colour when it’s later reproduced. More helpfully though, Adobe InDesign does give you the option of changing this behaviour, in Edit > Preferences > Appearance of Black.

InDesign Appearance of Black Setting

InDesign Appearance of Black Setting

Whether you prefer to see pure black or rich black on-screen is a matter of preference. What does matter though, is what is sent to print. With the help of our friends, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, we can give you a fully rich colour that will serve your banner well.

About Ian

Ian Oliver has always had a keen interest in design and computers. He started using CorelDRAW at the age of ten, later migrating to Adobe InDesign at fourteen. After leaving College, Ian secured his first job as a print-based designer at Dovercourt Ford in Essex, working in the marketing department alongside Scott and Wayne. He has since learnt the fine-art of front-end web development, and trained himself using best-practice modern web standards. Also interested in the world of technology, Ian now describes himself as an Open Source and web standards advocate, Graphic Designer, front-end Web Developer, expert in the intricacies of HTML and CSS, and an all-round tech geek. He sees HTML like Neo sees the Matrix.
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