How do I get True Black in Photoshop? Here’s How

As a graphic designer for 20+ years in the print industry, there are certain things you need to know about color. And having the correct black is one of them. Read on to find out about True Black.

To get True Black in Photoshop, open the Color Picker and slide the CMYK values to C-78, M-68, Y-67 and K-90. True Black is the default setting in Photoshop.

Many people don’t really look too closely at their color palette. And in most cases you don’t have to. But when it comes to Black and the printing of Black there are a few differences.

Black vs True Black

What is the difference between black and True Black? If you have a file in Photoshop where Black is listed as a color, it may well be just ‘Black’. When you open the color picker panel you can see that in the CMYK values C M & Y are all 0% and Black is 100%.

So why can’t we just leave it like this? 100% Black sounds pretty black, right? Well, no actually. The color looks black on screen but if it is printed, it actually will print a dull dark grey.

True Black on the other hand, made up of C-78, M-68, y-67 and K-90, overlays the four colors together when printing to give a dark black tone, and one that gives a true reflection of what we know to be black.

This mix of the four separations allows for color to be laid down whilst printing to give the deepest black without too much ink.

Other Blacks

While we are on the topic of CMYK color options, there are two other blacks we should mention.

If we look at our color panel again, we could just slide all four tabs – CMYK – to 100%. But no, we can’t. This is a definite No, No. This creates Registration Black. This color is for Registration Printer Marks ONLY and should never be used as part of your file.

Printers use these marks to line up separation plates, to check if anything is off on their machines or out of place colorwise.

It should only be used for these marks.

The other Black is Rich Black. Rich Black is a little like True Black and are sometimes referred to as each other. However, Rich Black has a different CMYK make up than True Black. C-60 M-40 Y-40 BK-100. This adds to 240, where True Black adds to 300.

Rich Black is more economical on ink usage but still gives a rich dark tone.

The True Black configuration is the default Black in Photoshop but a Rich Black value make up gives a much deeper tone of black and uses less ink.

Where to Use True Black

Whether you are creating a flyer or a billboard will depend on what black you should use.

Flyers are much more forgiving, due to their size, unless you are using a black background or a large black font, then standard black is fine to use.

Because True Black is a mix of all CMYK it becomes rich and dense. This means that if you have posters or billboards with True Black it will make the black almost pop from the artwork. If you have Black type printed over another aspect of your file it will reinforce the darkness even further.

Why does True Black matter?

As I say, if you’re printing small text or a Black and White File, standard black is probably ok.

If you are launching a campaign or trying to make an impression, you want to get noticed. You don’t want your black to be flat and dull. What would be the point of that?

You want it to be striking and memorable.

A little knowledge of printer colors goes a long way to making your job look fantastic. Always use True Black where possible.

Here are some other posts you might find useful:

How do I change the color mode in InDesign?

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on

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