Understanding Black Color Differences in InDesign

TDG Favicon


21 October 2016

By default, when you begin a new project in InDesign, one of the color options available to you in the color swatches panel (Window-Color-Swatches or F5 shortcut) is [black].

When you print using the default [black] on items in your project such as text or background fills, the result can be more deep grey than black.  That is because the default [black] swatch provided in the swatches panel is known as process [black].  It is 100% of the key (black) but it does not contain any color values for Cyan, Magenta and Yellow.

To solve our situation and to have our black be a much darker, truer black tone, we need to create a new color swatch known in the design industry as ‘Rich Black’.

To create our Rich Black, we simply need to increase the levels of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow when creating our new color swatch and leave the level of key (black) at 100%.  There are many variations of Rich Black, and by speaking with your print provider you can often get the settings they prefer for rich black.

For our demonstration, I am going to share with you the rich black I normally use in my projects. We create a new swatch by clicking on the ‘new swatch icon’ on the lower right of the swatches panel or by clicking on the fly-out menu on the top right of the panel and selecting ‘New Color Swatch.’

InDesign Swatches Panel

InDesign Swatches Panel

Choose the fly-out menu on the top right or the new swatch icon on the bottom right to create a new swatch.

In the New Color Swatch dialogue box, we need to enter our preferred value for rich black.  We are going to enter the following values:

Cyan = 60
Magenta = 40
Yellow= 30

Uncheck the ‘Name with Color Value’ box and enter the name ‘Rich Black’ for easier recognition of that swatch in our panel.  We can now click ‘Ok’ and close the New Color Swatch dialogue box.  You have now created your new swatch and are ready to use it in your project.

“Always check with your print provider for their preferred rich black settings.”

Additional Insights

By default, InDesign is set to display all blacks as rich black.  So normally, you would not accurately be able to tell the difference in your black tone.  To remedy this, go into your preference menu inside InDesign (Edit-Preference-Appearance of Black) on PC or (InDesign-Preferences-Appearance of Black) on Mac and in the first dropdown menu change the on screen option to ‘Display All Blacks Accurately.’  This will allow you to easily distinguish between your black color swatches you are using.

You can also create more subtle tones in your print projects by using cool rich black and warm rich black.  Add more yellow value in your CMYK to get a warmer black or add more cyan value to get a cooler black

When using typography under 18pt, stick with using the general [black] or create a new swatch with 100% K only.  In smaller text, a rich black can make the text appear almost blurry.

Always use a rich black when putting text overtop of photographs or or background fills.  This will ensure the text looks great.

Appearance of Black InDesign

Appearance of Black Dialogue Box

Change the screen setting to easily see the differences of black colors used in your project.

Learn Something New?
Maybe Subscribe to our Newsletter for more Insights.