How to create a rich black

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Solid blacks looking a little grey when printed?

Many designs use large areas of solid dark colours. Black solid areas in particular, have a tendency to look dull or washed out when printed in 4 colour process, especially on uncoated papers. Generally speaking this is because the black ink used in CMYK (litho process), is less dense, than that used in a single colour ‘black only’ job.

“The best way to ‘achieve a dense black’ is by using an underpin; it isn’t as complicated to set up as some people may think.” 

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An underpin works by boosting the black’s density with a neutral colour underneath; but without creating an overly large amount of ink on the sheet.  For a designer, or an artworker, the easiest option is to create a ‘rich black’ for the areas they want to appear dense and dark.

A ‘rich black’?

The ‘rich black’ needs to contain the underpin colour and can be easily created in most design packages.  The most commonly used underpin is a 30% tint of Cyan. So our custom black needs to be created as a 4 colour process colour with a 4 colour break down of: 30% Cyan, 0% Magenta, 0% Yellow, and 100% Black. See below for a visual



For an easy way to create a dense black, the use of a ‘special black’ colour works brilliantly.  The main advantage of this method, is to keep the normal process black colour available for any type used in the design (which would look messy with an underpin).

Also, this technique is the most widely used, and litho printers are generally comfortable printing files which use the rich black method. Read more about slipcase printing.

Another way?

An alternative is to simply use a black board – there are of course many limitations but it can be a great solution.

Myeloma Invite gold foiled onto black board

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