Using black ink for offset printing can be a tricky business. We’ve all been there, scratching our heads when we see a supposedly jet black area turn out grayish, greenish or even bluish in print. Fortunately, graphic designers and printers have a few tricks up their sleeves to solve this common printing problem and create what is known in the printing industry as rich black or deep black.
There’s black and then there’s black
Printing rich black can be done in several ways. Some printers stick to a recipe that uses 100 percent black, 60 percent cyan, 40 percent magenta and 40 percent yellow. Others choose to use 100 percent black with 40 percent magenta, 40 percent yellow and throw in 40 percent cyan into the mix. Some printers, however, choose to omit yellow altogether as it sometimes causes ink piling (buildup). When attempting to print rich black, the substrate needs to be taken into account as well. Paper that has, for instance, a slightly bluish undertone needs little less cyan added.
Avoiding excess ink coverage
If you’re wondering why printers don’t use 100 percent of each color to achieve rich black, maximum ink coverage is your answer. As a rule of thumb, ink percentages for offset/commercial printing should never exceed 240 when added up – unless you want to risk causing problems on the printing press, long drying times and muddy images.
Printing small black objects
It’s best to refrain from using rich black for thin lines or areas that are less than 5 mm wide as this is known to cause registration issues.
About to print rich black?
If you want to make absolutely sure printing rich black won’t cause excess ink coverage issues, use a preflighting tool – it will take care of all of your worries and automatically reduces the ink values to your own standards while keeping the black nicely deep and rich.
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