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Rich, true, cool and warm black

Rich, true, cool and warm black

There are few better ways of establishing your design nerd credentials than starting a conversation about different black colours. These colours are also an important aspect to ensure you get the best possible print results and are often overlooked. 

Most layout programs use ‘true black’ as the default for black, that is 100% Black. In contrast ‘rich black’ (occasionally referred to as 'blacker than black') is a mixture of solid black with one or more of the other CMYK colours.

A typical rich black might be composed of

  • 100% Black
  • 50% Cyan
  • 50% Magenta 
  • 50% Yellow

‘Cool black’ can be achieved using

  • 100% Black 
  • 70% Cyan 
  • 35% Magenta
  • 40% Yellow

Finally ‘warm black’ is

  • 100% Black
  • 35% Cyan
  • 60% Magenta
  • 60% Yellow

In theory it would be possible to achieve the richest of blacks by using 100% Black, 100% Cyan100% Magenta and 100% Yellow. In practise however this is limited by the amount of wet ink a paper and printing process can handle. For example when using a poor paper such as newsprint the additional ink required to achieve rich black may cause the paper to disintegrate.

Rich black should be used when the design calls for a large, black solid surface with a deep black tone or when printing large bold letters. However if you want to print a small black area or smaller text, you should consider using true black, otherwise there is a risk that the ink will bleed. 

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