Rich black, blue black, warm black, matt black, photo black, whatever happened to err… black?
The rise of digital print seems to have heralded a new era of blacks enough to suit any occasion and maybe even more than that – this new dawn of digital black has started appearing in files that are going to be printed conventionally (lithographically).
One thing many designers don’t realise is that Photoshop’s default black swatch is a CMYK mix of 91C/79M/62Y/97K. Apart from not producing the blackest black, (think more dark mud) the sheer amount of ink put down means your job will not dry properly, causing a sticky minefield; you also enter the world of potential miss-registration, or ‘blur’. The last thing you want your lovely design to be is unreadable, sticky and blurry!
In our humble opinion, Photoshop’s ‘rich black’ has no place in commercial lithography, if you have a large area of black which you want to be blacker than black, the best thing to do is ask your printer what levels will work best for your job. Usually a mix of 40% cyan and 100% black works best but any printer worth their salt will always be willing and on hand to have a chat to get you the results you want! There is a school of thought that prefers magenta, arguing that this produces a warmer black – we’d say it’s more of a ‘brown‘ black.
History lesson: Way back in the mists of time printers producing spot colour work used to add a knife of Victoria blue to a duct of black to give a richer denser black, they would also add an anti rub wax as the blue delayed the drying time and increased rubbing (marking). Printers called this midnight black and for a while ink manufacturers started selling it ready mixed.
Now, this bit is very important: when it comes to your (black) text, NEVER use anything but 100% black, all on it’s own. Keep to this rule and you’ll get perfect results every time.
Top Tip: Handily, InDesign and Illustrator’s default black is 100% black, so if you keep Photoshop for your photos and use InDesign or Illustrator for your text and layouts you shouldn’t go far wrong.
I suppose what we’re trying to say here is ask your printer, they have been laying black on sheets of paper for a long time and will give you the best solution for your job.
All this talk of black and we have still to get round to the effects different stocks have on colour reproduction, drying times and finishing operations…