Black is Black …… or is it?

Posted by 24 Aug, 2011

‘Black is black’ so the old Rolling Stones lyric went, but when it comes to print, not always.  I came across  this problem recently when working with a client who likes black even more than Steve Jobs who, it is reported, spent something approaching a hundred thousand dollars getting the right sort of black for Next computer cases in the eighties.

The problem arises when you produce graphics with a background that graduates to black  in say Adobe Photoshop and then import those graphics into page layout programme Adobe InDesign in this case, which also has a black background.  The two black merge and create an invisible join and the job is done… right? ….wrong!  Whilst it might look OK on your screen when printed or output to pdf the Photoshop black is grey and sticks out like a sore thumb.  See example below.

As you can see the oval Photoshop vignette to black is visible against the background black in InDesign. The problem relates to the way the two programs create their black swatches and the final image processing when creating the final pdfs for print. (If you don’t see a difference increase the brightness on your monitor)

However help is at hand, if you have experienced this problem and been tearing your hair out trying to fix it, here is a simple step procedure to remove the problem.

In Photoshop or other image editor

1. Make sure your file is using the CMYK colour space.
2. Ensure the printer profile  is the same that to be used in InDesign (I use the default setting)
3. The black swatch that you use to create black needs to be set to C100, M100, Y100, K,100

In InDesign
In preferences set ‘Appearance of Black’ to rich black
Do not use the default black swatch in InDesign to create your background.  Create a new black swatch in the swatches tool panel and as in Photoshop set its CMYK values to 100 each and use to set the background colour of the piece.


I hope you found this short article useful.  If  Applause can help with any of the tasks in your digital day please call.


Categories : design for print, Projects 2011

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