I am very much a novice when it comes to working with printing and colour values and I am using InDesign for the first time.

I am working on an all black and white photographic magazine, which will naturally be printed with CMYK colours. I have added black and white photos exported from Adobe Lightroom with an sRGB colour profile.

For regular objects added to ID I have made a new colour swatch for rich blacks. However I've noticed the blacks on the photos and the objects with rich black (70,50,30,100) look rather dull when "Proof Colours" is selected. Especially since I will print on matte paper, I am losing a lot of deep blacks.

FYI, I have set the appearance of black on screen as 'Accurately', as well as printing/exporting as 'Accurately'.

Any way I can achieve a richer black mag?

Reworded my question:

I know rich blacks are possible, as long as one adds some CMY to 100% K. This is easily done when adding regular shapes in InDesign by setting a new colour swatch. These blacks are richer than the blacks I am getting in my photos. I am suspecting the photos are only using K values, and none of the CMY. Would it be possible to get these rich blacks the same way as when one adds rich blacks to any shapes added in InDesign?

1 Answer 1


photos exported from Adobe Lightroom with an sRGB colour profile.

sRGB is not CMYK.

Photos should be CMYK to see color more accurately for print production. Chances are if you were to open a photo and merely convert it to CMYK, you'll see the same "dull" blacks. (And you can then adjust the photo for the desired CMYK output.)

What is happening with Proof Colors --- InDesign is converting the sRGB to CMYK for you, based upon the application's set Color Preferences and Profiles in order to preview the colors. And this typically does result in what may appear when printed via the CMYK. Rich, vibrant, RGB Blacks on screen are often impossible to pull off in CMYK with ink.

For me, if something is to be commercially printed in CMYK, then everything in InDesign is CMYK, including any linked images. I do not allow InDesign or the PDF Generate/Distiller to auto-convert colors for me.

Also with inks, a rich black of 70C50M30Y100K is a decent rich black. You really don't want to go much higher with percentages due to ink limits. So, you may have to simply deal with the fact that ink (CMYK) is never going to appear as deep and rich as light and pixel may (monitors).

"On-screen" CMYK previews are approximations. Screens can't output CMYK color, they always output RGB color. So they "fake it" for CMYK based upon color profiles. Only a color proof from a print provider will generally give an accurate representation of the final print.

Trying to match what you see on screen with a previously print piece, especially where black is concerned, is a lesson in frustration. A printed piece can be "tweaked" on press to add or remove ink, or the ink density can be changed on the press.

You could always run a spot varnish to deepen blacks more, but that may be a budget concern - especially if it's designed to be a 1 color job.

At a certain point one has to "trust the numbers" more than your eyeballs. If you know everything is set up correctly by the numbers, then you merely have to trust that the screen preview is lacking. As posted, that's a decent rich black. I assume you got those values from somewhere because you liked that appearance. But you should also be aware that every print provider can have their own preferred rich black values due to their familiarity with their own environment and machines. So, while good numbers, they may still be adjusted by a print house.

  • There is no way to export in LR with a CMYK colour profile. Regardless, as you mention "Rich, vibrant, RGB Blacks on screen are often impossible to pull off in CMYK with ink". Prints I have at home are significantly richer than what I am seeing on my screen though, the photos lose quite a lot of blacks. Any way I can improve on this?
    – Tim Stack
    Jul 15, 2019 at 20:40
  • Then, to me, Lightroom is an inferior tool for print production. I realize you live with what you have. :). You really can't compare "on screen" with previous prints. On screen if faking CMYK because it must use RGB to display anything. Apples and oranges and all that. A color proof from the print house would give a MUCH more accurate preview of the printed pieces.
    – Scott
    Jul 15, 2019 at 20:46
  • But, would converting the photos to CMYK in PS be to any advantage? After all I will export the ID file as a PDF with a CMYK profile. And I take there is no way of modifying the print/photos to get those deeper blacks in the photos? After all deeper blacks are evidently possible, I am just not getting those values in the photos
    – Tim Stack
    Jul 15, 2019 at 20:56
  • If you want to control color, then yes, you need to control color in the images i.e. convert them to CMYK and adjust if necessary. The PDF generator in InDesign will adjust color exactly the same way Proof colors in InDesign is adjusting color. They are both on-the-fly color conversation based upon application settings and color profile preference. Your rich back numbers are good numbers. If you are seeking "Vanta Black"... well that's probably not going to happen. Chances are if you convert the photos to CMYK, you'll see, and be able to correct, the same "dull" issue.
    – Scott
    Jul 15, 2019 at 20:59
  • I have just taken one of the photos in to PS and changed its colour profile to CMYK, but there were no changes. I'm a bit lost as I did expect a change and with that would be able to edit the photo to fit my needs
    – Tim Stack
    Jul 15, 2019 at 21:45

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