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Understanding the Black in Designing for Offset Printing

Posted in Articles on November 20th, 2015 | No Comments

100% Black

If you are new to print design then remember, Black is not that simple as it sounds. There are many variations of black in digital world and you wouldn’t like to choose the wrong Black for your print design. You should know how black is printed and at least have an idea on how it will end up when it comes back to you in the printed form. So, here are some tips and techniques on using ┬áBlack color in the artwork for print.

RGB Black and CMYK Black

RGB Black is 0 RED, 0 GREEN and 0 BLUE which is Photoshop’s default Black. This Black is used in the designs, created for displaying on the screen or monitors like websites, banners and videos.

CMYK-Black-for-print

Now, take a look at the color percentage for the same Black in the CMYK section. It has 75% CYAN, 68% MAGENTA, 67% YELLOW and 90% BLACK. It is called Rich Black. This is the terrible combination of colors in Black for the print.

CMYK-Black-for-print

Only 100% BLACK is appropriate to use in artwork for print which is also known as CMYK Black or Plain Black.

CMYK-Black-for-print

Comparison

CMYK-Black-for-print

So, how does CMYK work in printing?

In Offset Printing, CMYK color mode is used. C M Y and K are four separate inks, applied on the paper using metal plates, which mix with each other to produce different varieties of colors.

CMYK-Black-for-print

For example to get a Green color, CYAN and YELLOW is mixed. Varying in the percentage of the CYAN and YELLOW, different tones of Green can be created. So, amount of these four colors plays vital role to produce a good quality print.

CMYK-Black-for-print

Any image used in the print artwork is also a combination of all these 4 colors. During the printing process, all of their respective plates should be accurately aligned and are supposed to be precisely printed on the intended position of the paper.

CMYK-Black-for-print

How does it effect on Black?

The Photoshop default Black contains all four colors and total ink coverage is 300%. Depending on different factors like ink, paper and printer, percentage of ink coverage is determined. But the maximum value should be 280%.

The default Black is over 280% so there is risk of over-inking. The risk grows a lot while using it in the smaller text.

CMYK-Black-for-print-7

The worst case is when any one of the four CMYK plates are slightly unaligned, resulting in the fuzzy text and blurry image.

CMYK-Black-for-print-7

In any design, mostly texts are always in Black and new designers are likely to use default Photoshop Black in their design. This results in fuzzy and blurred text making the design awful. So in print design Black is considered and cared the most.

Then, what is the right Black?

CMYK Black
100% K Black is the best option to use while creating print ready design. By applying this Black, you are using only one plate which produces sharp and clean result and it is best for smaller text. It is also called CMYK Black or Plain Black.

CMYK-Black-for-print

Deep Black
When you apply the CMYK Black to the large area it will be look like washed out. As a solution, we can use Deep Black for the large area. It is the mix of 40% either CYAN or MAGENTA with 100% BLACK which makes it dark. If Cyan is mixed then it is called Cool Deep Black and if Magenta is mixed then it is called Warm Deep Black. You can also use this black in large and bold text as they cover more area in compare to the small and thin one.

CMYK-Black-for-print

CMYK-Black-for-print

Other Blacks

Registration Black is the Black you should never use in the artwork for print. It is mix of all four inks and only used in printer’s marks such as crop and registration marks.

CMYK-Black-for-print

Written by Ashok Shrestha
Ashok Shrestha is an up and coming graphic designer for both print and web. He is knowledgeable in Adobe C.S. 3/ C.S. 4, Joomla and Wordpress. He likes to experiment with various techniques in both print and web.

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