I'm working on a project where I want to add a gradient over the bottom of a picture so it fades to the background. However, when I save the file to PDF, the gradient gets a grey color, not the black I selected. When I save as PNG, it doesn't change the color.

Should I change something in my settings somewhere? I've tried different PDF-viewers, but every viewer shows the same weird grey color.

Also, while we're at it, why does the gradient desaturate the image?


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1 Answer 1


You most probably used a 'poor' black as the black in the gradient: 100% black ink, but no C, M or Y.

The K ink is not black by any means: it's dark grey at best, and doesn't stand scrutiny when printed on a large area. To get a good, saturated black, you'd better use a 'rich' black: 100%K with some percentages of other inks added. You can influence the 'character' of the black with these colours: the added colours shine through the black, giving a very cold black with 100%C, 100%K, or a warm and red black with 60%C 40%M 100%K. Be sure not to exceed the maximum ink percentage of ~280%.

To use a 'rich' black in a work, it's best to make it a swatch, so you use the same black all the time. Makes it easier to include it in a gradient, too.

Do not use a rich black for text. Alignment between printing plates is always imperfect, yielding colour sheens at the borders of the letterforms, severely hindering legibility. to say nothing of sharpness.

  • 1
    Wow, yes, that's apparently it! I made a CMYK (60,60,60,100) and it got pitch black in the PDF. Perfect! I was already experimenting with editing the PDF in Photoshop and then importing it in Illustrator, but a 100% Illustrator-solution is way better.
    – Rvervuurt
    Nov 4, 2014 at 13:10
  • It also fixed the desaturation! Awesome!
    – Rvervuurt
    Nov 4, 2014 at 13:12
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    be very careful with a colour as 'wet' as 60/60/60/100 wehn actually printing. That's a lot of ink on your paper, and it might blotch. If you want a neutral 'rich' black, I'd try 40/40/40/100 or something the like.
    – Vincent
    Nov 4, 2014 at 13:25
  • It's going to be printed on fabric, will that make a difference? It's not the final files yet, so will play with the blackness if necessary.
    – Rvervuurt
    Nov 4, 2014 at 13:29
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    I'd ask your printer about the correct colour profiles and maximum ink percentages, if I were you. They might even have a .pdf preset for you to download.
    – Vincent
    Nov 4, 2014 at 13:32

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