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Standard Black vs. Rich Black

Standard Black vs Rick Black RGB vs CMYK Ink Values

The black produced in black-and-white printing differs significantly from the black produced in full color CMYK printing. When creating your design, keep in mind that there are two types of black: standard black and rich black. Standard black uses only black ink (100% k), whereas rich black contains elements of other colors (cyan, magenta, yellow). Because rich black uses more ink, the resulting color will be deeper and more saturated. If you are using rich black, then we highly recommend you visit our guide on reducing ink saturation.

The two might look the same on your screen, but they won’t on paper. In print, the difference will be something like what you see below.Be sure to check the values for each color in all your blacks for the sake of consistency.

Black (K) vs Rich Black (CMYK) Values

Standard Rich Black Color Ink Values Difference Illustration

When Not to Use Rich Black

The one time you do not want to use rich black, even in a full color CMYK project, is for very delicate lines such as small text or line art. The microscopic variations in plate registration between the 4 colors can cause slight color shadows to appear around the text, called ghosting. This is prevalent in newspaper printing.

Ghosting Example

Below you can see ghosting due to the thin text and black background being setup as CMYK profiles(Rich Black) instead of greyscale(Standard Black). Because rich black is made by four plates distributing ink on top of each other, there can be a slight variance with one of the plates being slightly off. Below, you can see the result when the magenta plate shows variance. The variance is especially obvious when the text is so thin. If the black was set as standard black (greyscale) then only one plate would be needed and ghosting wouldn’t be possible.

Rich Black Ghosting