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Designers usually use a wide color palette in all their projects, they even tend to have “own colors”, a selection of two or three tones that they use over and over again in their work, marking authorship and style. For those who spend hours designing or drawing there is not a single blue, for example, there is cobalt, turquoise…

One would think that the same is not true of black: that black is only one and becomes gray when it is lighter. But you have surely heard more than once that different blacks are used in printing , and that there is a much blacker or super black black , necessary in some printing jobs.  

In these lines we are going to try to answer some doubts that might arise when we are finishing our projects to send to the printer and we use the color black in backgrounds or texts: How will the final print look with this black ? Are there different varieties of blacks? What is rich black and what is it for?  

The inks used in printing: the CMYK model 

The printing press usually uses the CMYK color model , also known as four-color printing or four-color printing. This system is based on the use of four colors, cyan (C), magenta ( M ), yellow ( Y for yellow ) and black ( K ), which combined in different proportions result in all the colors of the spectrum. visible. 

If you want to know more about the inks used in printing, take a look at this post about the differences between CMYK and RGB . 

These are the four inks that are used in printing, and by mixing them we get the color we are looking for. In design, layout or photo editing programs, this color is expressed in percentages of ink. For example, if we set ink C to 100% and the rest of the inks to 0%, we will obtain 100% cyan saturation:

What is enriched black and how is it obtained?

We have seen the CMYK model, and we have known that by working with this model we can select percentages of each ink to obtain new colors. However, if we indicate 100% K we will not obtain a perfect black, since in some printing systems, such as offset, for example, this color will be seen as a very dark gray, that is, a not completely opaque black.

To prevent this from happening, each printer has their own tricks , which will depend on the machines they use, the type of paper or the final finish they want to obtain. Most professionals add different combinations of cyan, magenta and yellow (CMY) inks to K ink in different proportions, depending on the tone and saturation of black they want to obtain. The result of these combinations is what we call rich black or super-black.   

In this, as in almost everything, each teacher has his or her own booklet. There are endless recommendations on what percentages are ideal to achieve an enriched black. For example, there are those who point out that the ideal is to add 30% cyan to 100% K, for example, and leave the YM at 0% (that is: 30, 0, 0, 100), but that the resulting black It is cold”. To obtain, however, a “warm” black, the same operation is done, but with 30% magenta (that is: 0, 30, 0, 100):

For a very saturated black we could create a combination of 30, 30, 0, 100, or opt for a 30, 30, 30, 100 for maximum saturation. But with these last two combinations we run the risk of making too much dirt, causing stains or difficulties in repainting, or soaking the type of paper we use with ink and making it difficult to dry, for example.  

The “registry” or standard black

On the other hand, we have  standard black , which is “normal” or “register” black (also called pure black, solid black or solid black), that is, 100 % K ink, while the rest of the inks are remains at 0%. This color comes by default in all palettes, that is, it is not necessary for us to create it when designing. It is not a super-black, and is commonly used on paper if there is no stain or background image .   

This black is the most commonly used for text on a white background , because it means that only one ink is used for printing – a single plate in offset printing presses – thereby avoiding registration problems , which are errors that can occur when the printing plates are not properly adjusted to each other and cause the text to not appear completely clear, in other words, to appear “blurry”. As a general rule, in four-ink printing it is recommended to avoid rich black in most processes that use a white background and opt for 100% K.  

What is the best black for printing?

Which black should you choose for your printing projects?  Well, as almost always, the answer to this question will depend on the final result you want to achieve in your project. 

Normally pure black (0, 0, 0, 100) will be used in texts on white backgrounds , although if you want to highlight some text or title, to give it relevance over the rest, you can use a rich black to your liking. However, if the text is placed on a black background or on an image, illustration or graph, you should use a rich black so that it can be read clearly.     

However, it is always advisable to speak with your printer and follow their proposals, because as a professional they will know how to advise you in each case.  

The effect that your printing work has on your target audience will depend on the combination of colors, fonts, images and composition. Remember that at  you can always count on specialized advice at all times to achieve the best in all your projects.