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In printing, there are different ways you can use the color black. Due to the way the print process works, using blacks in printing can result in many different shades of black and grey. In this article we’ll be explaining the different ways black can be used, and how to keep all your blacks the same if this is what you desire.

How come when you want to print, there are different shades of black?

In the CMYK print process, all colors are made by mixing cyan, magenta, yellow and black  (K), (CMYK). These colors can either be used singly; or mixed by printing separate color layers on top of one another.

When you analyze a color in the CMYK print process, their values are seen as percentages ranging from 0% to 100%.

For example, in this image, Orange is made up of 0% C, 58.32% M, 100% y and 0% K.

How do you achieve the color black in CMYK?

In the CMYK process, you can add up different colors to create black. But still, there are different shades of black. There’s true black, which is 100% K and 0% CMY, and there’s rich black, which is a combination of C, M, Y and K in various percentages.

What is the difference between True Black and Rich Black?

True black appears black on screen but when printed it comes out as dark grey or black. Although it comes out as black, it isn’t the darkest black you can print.

Rich black, on the other hand comes out much darker than True black does. Designers and printers mix different C, M, Y, K colors in different percentages to get Rich Black- for example 60% Cyan, 40% Magenta, 40% Yellow and 100% black (K).

It does not really matter what color combinations you mix to achieve the rich black you use for your design, as long as you make all the blacks uniform in your design.

True Black and Rich Black

Are there still other shades of black?

Yes, there are. The common ones are warm blacks and cool blacks, and these are gotten by adding up different percentages of the CMY inks. The next image illustrates the gradient percentages of CMY inks.

What is registration black used for?

Registration black is a mix of 100% cyan, 100% magenta, 100% yellow and 100% black (K). It is gotten by printing 100% of all the CMYK colors on top of each other. It lays too much ink on your paper, so avoid it while designing. You should only use it to make sure that all the printing plates are aligned.

How do you achieve the perfect design?

Make sure all your blacks have the same CMYK value. If they don’t all have the same CMYK value, then they might look similar on screen but different in print. The key is to use uniform CMYK values to get matching blacks for print.

Have fun designing!






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