Design for Better Printing: Black vs Rich Black

Posted on Nov 2, 2016 in Design, nSights
Design for Better Printing: Black vs Rich Black

When working with large format printing, there are a number of design considerations that can make your project easier, and create a much better looking result. This is the fifth in a series of posts that will explore some of these considerations from an expert perspective. We hope these posts will help you gain an understanding of ways to make your future trade show booth even more eye-catching.

Getting your blacks to look right when working with large format printing is often just as important as getting your brand colors correct. A lightly printed black can make your artwork appear washed out and flat, especially when working with fabrics and backlit graphics. On the other side of that coin, a deep black can add a lot of depth and contrast to your artwork.

Printing with only black ink does not fully saturate most substrates, and a “true black” may actually look more like a dark gray on the final piece. Adding in a mixture of cyan, magenta, and yellow inks will increase the saturation of the black and make it appear stronger and darker. Adding a fairly even amount of all three colors to your CMYK mixture yields what is referred to as a ‘rich black.’

Rich black and true black will usually appear to be identical on your computer screen, but the difference can be great when finally printed.

A common variant of rich black is “Photoshop black.” This has a deep mixture of all four inks and is very close to how RGB black is converted to CMYK by Adobe Photoshop. This black can be very helpful when you are setting black vector content over a dark raster image for the smoothest transition between the foreground and background.



Some tips to help you specify your Pantone colors when working with Adobe Illustrator:

The default black swatches in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign are set up as a true black. It’s a good habit to create a new swatch in your document the first time you need to use a black, rather than going back to fix it later. In Illustrator, it’s helpful to make your black swatch ‘global’ so you can adjust it later if needed.

When you want your printed colors to make the right impression, contact us at

We’re with you,every step of the way!

Team Nichols