Color Label Solutions

Color Label Solutions

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Printing Black

 I’ve said many times in the past that black is the most difficult color to print.

 Some time ago, I wrote how gloss poly seemed to produce the best black colors:

And later, I showed how our new whiter matte poly was producing better blacks during one stop of a Northern California road trip:

What I have not discussed before, is how artwork and the creation of black in the art changes the color of the print output.


According to Tony Molina, the inhouse Graphic Artist for Color Label Solutions, “most artwork today is created in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Quark and other software.  In this software, many people believe that 100% K (black) is the best way to produce this color.  However, 100% K is not really black and can be somewhat flat.”


According to Phil Forbes in this article in PackHelp:


"Turning all these percentages (C,M,Y,K) up to 100% will give you black that's kind of dull, washed out and not very black at all.”


Rich Black

As an example of the differences in black color print output, we received recently artwork to test print.  When printed initially, the black was not very “rich”.


RGB Values Not Zero
RGB Values Not Zero

By opening this file up in Photoshop and using the Color Picker function, Tony found the RGB values 35, 31, and 32; but the K% was 74:


RGB Black
RGB Not Zero

According to Tony, “using RGB values that create at least a 90% K value will create rich black colors. Make the R, G, B values 0 will create a black color that meets the 90% K requirement.  In the above referenced article, the author, Phil, has the C,M,Y, settings at 60, 60, 60.    You can have any combinations you want as long as all 4 primary colors are used and the black is 90+.”


Here Tony changed the colors in the same artwork to get a better black produced.

RGB Zero Black
RGB Values Zero

And this color produced a much richer black.


RGB Zero Black
Richer Black

To check this myself, I opened up BarTender and created a simple black square.  Once I selected black, I found that this software creates this color following Tony’s recommendation: Zero for R, G, B.


RGB Values 0
RGB Values Zero

And when I printed on our matte poly, the black color print output looked great.


BarTender Zero Black
BarTender Color Picker Black

The color picker in BarTender does not offer a C,M,Y,K option.


The bottom line; how you create black color in artwork makes a big difference in your print output.  One caveat: different printers and label media also make a difference in print output.  For example, we’ve found the black from the Memjet-based Afinia L801 or L901 printers produce darker, richer black colors generally when compared to the Epson printers; regardless of the artwork.  The dye-based inks in the Afinia printers produce very nice blacks.  Although the pigment-based inks in the Epson printers can produce great looking black colors, artwork and labels are more important in getting the print output you desire.


If you need help with your label printing or even label artwork creation, contact us.  We’ll help you get the quality and look you want with your on-demand label printing.


Guy Mikel



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