Color-Theory-wheelDo you remember when you were a child and things really did seem black-and-white? Good was good and bad was bad? If you were good you were rewarded and if you were bad…well you know what happened! I know this seems as if I might be going off on a moral tangent, but trust me I am not. I am going to talk about printing plain black versus rich black. And believe me, they are two entirely different things.

I have had several print ready files come in for printing catalogs and booklets recently to USA Printing Online that did not use the correct black for the color they were trying to achieve. Let me stop you right here; do not panic I am not trying to teach you color theory. I am just hoping to give you a few tips that will make submitting your print files to your printer a little easier. By the way, the RGB on the right side of the image above just completely forget about that right now. Printers cannot print in RGB and can only reproduce your images in CMYK or four color process.

I could go on for days about CMYK versus RGB and other color theories, but this post is about plain black versus rich black.

QUICK DEFINITIONS (Rich Black versus Plain Black):

Rich Black –  C=50%, M=20%, Y=20%, K=100% (This is our preferred build.) You can experiment with the setting in your design program and see which build you prefer. You can also check out and see what others’ say about it in the Rich Black Discussion in Adobe Forum

Plain Black – 100% Black

Here are a few tips on when NOT to use rich black:

Spot Colors:  If you are printing with spot colors, you would not want to pay for CMYK in addition to the spot colors. Rich black does not make sense in this scenario

Black and White:  It is the same theory as above; why pay for 4 colors when you only need 1 color, black.

Fine Print:  Do not use rich black in long segments of small text. This causes registration issues on the press


Please feel free to contact me for further discussion on this topic. I can be reached directly at 866-887-7218 or via email at


Until next time,


Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)