Tips for creating rich black

I had an friend of mine on Twitter ask me about rich black.  Some of you may be asking “uh, what is that?” Well, time for a quick tutorial.


Press_InkRich black, simply, is the process of running a percentage of cyan, magenta and yellow under the black, particularly if you’re printing a large solid black. It makes the black denser, and gives it a “richness” by adding color.


For many years, when I worked in traditional pre-press (with art boards, film and screens) we usually used a 60% screen on our cyan plate, because the cyan and black are both “cool” colors.  However, if you wanted to add some warmth to the black, you’d add yellow and magenta.  With today’s technology, you often add all three colors to your mix.  NOTE: Each print services provider has their own preferred CMY mix ratio under the black, and they may have one for coated paper and a different one for uncoated paper.  Check with them before building it yourself in your file.  

Many print companies prefer a mix of 40% cyan, 30% magenta and 30% yellow under their black for litho printing jobs, and 100% for EACH color if the job is running digitally.


Many clients may have files that will be submitted to different print services providers,?????????????????? and each of those may have their own preferred mix to create rich black.  A suggestion then would be to build your file with only the solid black, but make sure you tell your account rep that you want a rich black underneath.  That way, the PSP can build the file for the best rich black dependent upon the paper it’s being printed on, or which method it’s printing.

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About John Prothero

John Prothero is a print professional with over 30 years experience in the print industry. Starting out as a driver delivering jobs, he worked in bindery, proofing, plating, traditional prepress (camera and stripping), scheduling, job planning, job management, account management and digital job production. His skills also run in the area of blog authorship, social media management, and lead generation and qualification of prospective clients. John is also a contributor to Rhode Island Creative Magazine, a digital publication that highlights the creative spirit of the state of Rhode Island. You can read their online issues at
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