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When Black is not Black

Modern offset printing with CMYK color is capable of presenting a kaleidoscope of vivid colors for exciting and memorable business cards. When it comes to black, care must be taken in their make-up so you get satisfactory results.

The difficulty begins when one of these formulas is used to fill in the background of a design. All black (K) 100%  in a large block may look pure black on-screen but when printed it produces a black that can best be termed grey-black.  The Photoshop default black is Cyan – 75% Magenta – 68% Yellow – 67% Black – 90%. This results in a total Ink coverage of 300% and that’ s considered over-saturation. This can cause drying problems when sent to press.

Which black is best? There is no one agreed upon formula but  C=60/M=40/Y=40/K=100 is often mentioned (and a favorite at Others prefer 100K combined with either 40% Cyan or Magenta.  All of these would be in the so-called “rich black” preferred by printers who want dark black without over-saturating the paper (and wasting ink). If in doubt, call the printer and ask what large scale black they prefer.

Don’t use the rich blacks for your text. The multiple ink passes could cause your fine text to look fuzzy and without detail. It’s better to use 100K only in most text.

Printers are familiar with the problem with some blacks and should kick out any of those problem cards. You can insure against an undesirable result by ordering from a reputable printing firm with a full customer service staff.

While we are speaking of colors, it’s best to begin your design in CMYK if possible.  We must submit work to print in CMYK only. Converting from RGB to CMYK can produce color hue shifts. It’s best for your designer to examine any possible color shifts and make adjustments if necessary.

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