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What kind of black should I use when designing for print ? explains what rich black is, but when should it be used?

If it gives a "blacker black", why not use it for all black elements in a CMYK job (body text/line art/tints)? Would there be any downsides?

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I'd say the answers (and comments) to the earlier question do explain it pretty well, you just have to read between the lines a bit. To summarize, use rich black for large black areas, key black for fine details like text (unless spot black is available, in which case you may want to use that instead). –  Ilmari Karonen Nov 21 '12 at 17:22
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Printers may also complain about too much coverage. Magazine ad color was always difficult because if the item above yours on the sheet was flooded, it had the potential to screw with your color balance. Not much you can do about it and, ultimately, only you care! I have had frank private conversations with technical guys, and they complain about it but there isn't much one can do. –  horatio Nov 21 '12 at 17:51
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4 Answers

Getting a "blacker" black is just one of the advantages of rich black, it also helps to reduce banding, especially in modern digital printing processes, but also in lithographic print, and it tends to dry faster for large areas of print where litho inks are used... seems to not really make sense as rich black will have more ink coverage. but solid blacks seem to take days to dry.

As other answerers have noted however, it isn't a great idea to use multiple process colours on type or small areas of black as the advantages are drastically reduced because of the low coverage and you get the added risk of plates being slightly out of alignment and getting blurry text or magenta / cyan halos around your text. Even with some digital print processes on type you'll get the same problems because of the way dots are laid down onto the paper in quite rigid lines.

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I use rich black when ever there's more than an eighth-inch of area to cover. What that means if large type with thick strokes or area of solid black call for rich black in my opinion.

I never use rich black on body text or small elements.

I don't believe there's a "rule" or practice for when or when not to use rich black. It's all merely designer choice. The only no-no is you never want to use rich black on areas of paragraph text unless it's a solid k overprinting a color (that would qualify as a rich black, but the type is merely set as black).

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Shifted plates are always a concern in smaller elements. But there really isn't any advantage to rich black in small elements anyway since you won't notice the difference (except when there's a problem).

The bigger issue to be mindful of is overprint vs knockout. If you'll be using your black over photography at large sizes you have to remember that black is overprinted. A straight black is translucent, thus, will be effected by the photography beneath. Rich black not only gives you greater depth it also knocks out the colors you use in your black wherever it overlaps other colors (such as photography). This can give you more even color in headlines or graphic elements. The risk is, again, mis-registered plates: You could end up with halos around those elements.

Bottom line: If you trust your printer, rich black can create a nice effect on larger elements.

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This is more of a community wiki sort of question, but the obvious problem is that with super-fine lines (small type sizes etc), your type may at the very least become fuzzy because of the dot screens used to compose CMYK.

At the worst, the plates are misaligned slightly and you get color halos.

I have seen both in print.

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