rich black color featured image
Graphic Design Printing

Rich Black Color in Graphic Design

Colors are the heart and soul of this beautiful world. Our universe would be quite tasteless without all the heartwarming colors. These colors have the power to impact a human being’s emotions.

Designers use colors to attract people, influence them and even convince them to buy a product.

Designers use combinations of colors to evoke feelings in people; for example, the combination of red and yellow color makes people hungry, red-colored clothes make people seem more attractive, purple is the color of nobility, sky blue makes people calm, etc.

The power of colors, therefore, cannot be denied, and mastering the skill of color manipulation can come in handy for graphic designers.

Black Color

Black color symbolizes power, significance, and mystery. Designers know its power and strategic importance, and use it to target the audience in such a way that it evokes desired emotions in them.

Despite there being a wide variety of colors, lots of companies and organizations design their logo in black, or a combination of colors in which black is foregrounded.

close up of a black stone surface

Black reflects a mix of messages like power, confidence, authority, etc. It can cause a flow of emotions in the audience. It makes the brand seem more genuine and sophisticated.

Black Comes In Different Shades, Like:

  • Midnight blue
  • Dim gray
  • Ebony
  • Taupe
  • Davy’s gray
  • Charcoal

But in the printing process, these colors come out pretty different than in online versions. Likewise, the good old dark black that we see on our screens often changes to grayish or muddy, when printed.

This is due to the uneven mixture of the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key) toners in printers.

In this post, we will be talking about the Rich Black Color. It is often used instead of the dull black color in graphic design and printing.

What is Rich Black Color?

In printing, when huge areas are featuring black spots designers prefer to use the rich black color instead of the plain black color.

The reason for this is that the ink of plain black in printing comes off as grayish or muddy, which is not what designers want.

greyish black color example

Rich black is exactly what it sounds like. It is the rich deep black tone that we see all around us, contrary to the plain black which is not what it looks like.

People who aren’t designers or printers don’t know the difference between the two, and can easily confuse plain black with rich black.

How is Plain Black Different from Rich Black?

In printers, there are CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key) toners. With the combinations of these four colors, printers produce all the desired colors by combining these four colors.

As I mentioned before, every color in the printer is produced by a mixture of different percentages of the CMYK toners. Plain black is produced by the ‘key’ toner set to 100% in the printer.

Meanwhile, rich black is produced by the combinations of sub-tones of all the four CMYK colors. This layering of the different sub-tones is the reason behind rich black’s richness and depth.

Why Choose Rich Black Color Over Standard Black?

The quality of the color variation is different in printing. Noticing the difference on a computer screen can be tough. When printed, rich black comes off pretty neat and dark, whereas the standard black is flat and muddy.

black and white image of a window

But often, standard black is way more useful than rich black. For example, in small fonts, the plain black is much more legible than rich black. The layering of different tones can affect the crispness of the printout.

Rich black uses different layering to be produced, which can be pretty costly. But standard black uses only the ‘Key’ toner, which is cheaper than its alternative.

Where to Use the Rich Black Color?

When printing in layers of different colors, rich black is used. Plain black is sometimes translucent in layered printing, which is not what designers expect. It is also used in large fonts to produce a deeper color.

Where is Plain Black used?

When we need to print in black and white, plain black is just right to express the colors when there aren’t a lot of colors. Printing of the documents are done in plain black because rich black produces smudgy results.

How to Produce Rich Black Color

There is no hard and fast rule for making the rich black color. The process varies depending upon the tool we are using.

cmyk configuration of rich black and black

Although a more popular opinion on getting the rich black color is 40% Cyan, 40% Magenta, 40% Yellow, and 100% key, or, to produce a more neutral rich black color, the combination of 60% Cyan, 40% Magenta, 40% Yellow and, of course, 100% Key is used.

Produce Rich Black with Different Software

Graphic designers use various tools to make their designs, and each software has its own way of achieving rich black.

Rich Black in Photoshop

In Photoshop the default preference is set to ‘Display All Blacks as Rich Black’, which can make the designing process confusing because of rich black and plain black look the same on the screen.

But if you change the document setting from RGB to CMYK, you will see the following result.

effect of a rich black setting

‘Text’ is Rich Black color, whereas the background is plain black color.

To get the Rich Black in Adobe Photoshop, set the CMYK to 60%, 40%, 40% and 100% in that order.

rich black setting in adobe photoshop

Rich Black in Adobe Illustrator

The process of setting rich black in Adobe Illustrator is similar to that of Adobe Photoshop.

If we want to see rich black, we need to change the preferences to ‘Display All Blacks as Rich Black’.

Then we set CMYK to 60%, 40%, 40%, and 100%.

preferences for rich black in adobe illustrator

Rich Black in InDesign

In InDesign, go to ‘Windows’ option in the top navigation bar, then click on ‘Colour’.  Go to ‘Swatches’ at the bottom of the list, and a table like the following will come up.

indesing swatches setting

Click on the red square button, which is on the top right of the table.

The following bar will pop.

creating new color swatch in indesign

Click on ‘New Colour Swatch’, and a table with CMYK options will come up.

Adjust the CMYK colors to 60%, 40%, 40%, and 100%.
Then press OK, and you will get the beautiful dark rich black color.

setting the rich black color setting in indesign

Rich Black in Corel Draw

In Corel Draw, to achieve Rich Black Color, press ‘Shift’ and ‘F11’ to open Uniform Fill.

Then set CMYK to 60%, 40%, 40%, and 100%.

You are all set to use a rich black color.

Final Words

It’s essential to check if all your blacks match in your design, as the different shades of black will be very noticeable and can ruin your design.

The rich black will appear darker, and the plain black will look smudgy and grayish, which will cause the design to be mismatched.

Using the right kind of black enhances the design and adds value to it. The color adds gravity to the design and attracts the targeted audience.

Now you can also use rich black color in your designs and work towards a successful graphic design career.

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