Using Rich Black

Ink absorption rates will differ depending on the material being printed on. Business card stock will require more drying time than all-purpose printer paper. Gloss and laminated materials provide the benefit of intensifying the look of artwork because the light is reflected from these surface back through the ink itself.

But when a non-glossy material is being printed on, the ink will be absorbed into it instead of sitting on top of it. This can sometimes cause colours and black to appear less dense than they are, giving a ‘washed out’ effect.

How Printing Companies Deal with Colour Intensity

In a situation where a two-colour press is being used to print inkjet labels in black and one other colour, the flow of ink onto the labels can be controlled by increasing or decreasing the pressure on the rollers.

If a CYMK printing process is being used, whoever is operating the machine does have control of each colour. However, should the black need to be more intense, the operator must be more careful in this scenario because adjusting one colour to create a more intense black will also affect the intensity and blend of the other colours. At the worst, the elements of the label will lose their balance.

100% Black is not the Answer

When creating any text or artwork to be printed onto inkjet labels, it can be supposed that choosing 100% black when creating the label will be enough to provide the desired intensity. This is often chosen based on the colour which appears on the computer monitor being used during the label design phase.

But colour monitors use green, blue and red for their displays, which makes all colours – including black – appear far more vibrant than they will be once printed. Unfortunately, as a result, 100% black is still very likely to look as though it’s been either printed in a grey tone or appear to be washed out. Therefore, the solution lies not in the percentage of black used in the image, but in the percentages of the other colours being used.

Rich Black

Rich black is a combination of percentages which include the cyan, magenta, yellow and black colours. The best combination to use will depend on the process and system being used to print the labels. However, a common combination of percentages is 40% each for cyan, magenta and yellow, and then a 100% setting for black.

A word about yellow: when using the 40-40-40-100 combination mentioned above, it should be noted that yellow can help to neutralise the resultant rich black. However, on the other hand, yellow won’t add a lot of density to the black. As well, it may cause ink to have issues with spreading and build-up.

A more ‘neutral’ shade of black can be produced by using a combination of 60% cyan, 40% magenta, 40% yellow and again, 100% black. This is the highest ink coverage you are likely to be able to get from a printing company without incident. If using this combination for your labels, avoid adding more under colour, as this can cause issues when printing time arrives.

Things to Keep in Mind

Where your labels contain other colours in the ‘cool’ range, the printer will likely adjust the amount of black to these colours. This could mean adding cyan to the black for a ‘cool rich’ black. If your labels contain warm colours like those in the brown spectrum, then adjustments will be made to make a black containing yellow and magenta.

Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is never to be married to your black; your printer is likely to have their own preferred settings based on their experiences with several different printing mediums.

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