I just finished laying out a book that’s to be printed as 1+1. For table headers and a few other things, I used a light grey.

Now, for some reason (not sure why), I just realised I’ve defined all these greys as CMYK 0/0/0/100 tinted down to 15% or 7% or whatever the needed lightness was, rather than just defining them as CMYK 0/0/0/15 (or whatever) to begin with, which is what I’d usually do.

But then I wondered – is there actually any difference in this case? It’s a monochrome black, so presumably the tint and the lower K value (side question: what do you call a non-tint-based lightening like that?) will end up giving the same result. Or will it?

Is there, in the case of single-channel colours, any actual difference between tinting a 100% colour and defining a colour as less than 100% in that channel? If output format makes a difference, please assume offset printing, but I’d be interested to know if there’s ever any difference.

2 Answers 2


No, there is no difference between using a tint swatch and manually defining a swatch with lower values.

Even using opacity to lighten the color should yield the same result if the background is white.

You can easily check this by opening the Separations Preview panel, setting View to Separations and mouse over swatches defined in the different ways.

  • 1
    Thanks for confirming that. On screen, the opacity one only gives the same result with overprint preview/simulation on, but when printed it will of course be the same. Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 11:57
  • oh my god! This is epic! you know soooooooo much! I love this answer. Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 16:00
  • is this true for all ( illustrator, photoshop and InDesign) ? Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 16:01
  • and also for web and print? Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 16:01
  • @NeverLookBack, uhm ... yes; i would say that (you make me wonder if there might be some exception 😀). But only on white background as mentioned. And in RGB it's a bit reversed as the values are not set in % ink. So for example a 50% tint of RGB(0,0,0) becomes RGB(127,127,127).
    – Wolff
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 20:10

if you wanna have a rich black: Keep the k at 100% and give some value to the CMY. for example: C:35 M:35 Y:35 K:100 that would prevent your black to come out dull!

  • 2
    This has nothing to do with the question. Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 13:18

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