I'm a screen graphics guy trying to transition into print media for some projects, and I've done a ton of research on CMYK Black versus "rich" or "dense" black, and it all makes sense to me. I have a CMYK project, using the U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2 color profile, and I'm designing everything and it looks good. I went with 75, 67, 67, 89 for my Rich Black for this project and everything looks exactly how I want it. Until I save the file.

Whether I save to PDF or JPG, embed the color profile or not, the black goes to being just a regular 100K Black and I have no idea why. When I simply re-import the saved file into Photoshop it looks great, but any image viewer I use (that isn't made by Adobe) to look at the image it comes through as gray.

So what color is my image really? Acrobat shows active color as well. So is there any way I can be 100% certain what colors are represented in my saved image so that when printed they will be similar to what I see? Any help would be appreciated! I'll attach a couple of screenshots to show what I'm talking about. Oddly enough, screenshots always render accurately. Who knows, I'm probably missing something small.

This is one, image on the left inside of Photoshop, image on the right in preview. Just a solid layer of color, then saved as JPG with embedded profile.

Here's example number 2. Image on the left with rich black, image two with the less desirable gray.

4 Answers 4


I would bet the problem is with your (non Adobe) image viewer. If the eyedropper in Photoshop (in CMYK mode) says it is a Rich Black, then it will go to press as a Rich Black. The Color Profile options are just for adjusting your screen - it's superficial. If you want hard proof, print your file with COLOR SEPARATIONS enabled - that will print each of the C, M, Y, and K channels. Ultimately - talk to the printing company that you are using. Let them tell you what to Build your black as. Every printing company prefers a different Rich Black because their printing machines can only handle so much density before destroying the paper and/or slowing the presses drying time.

  • The paper flooding is an issue. Rich black isn't so bad in and of itself, but the design above might make a press operator cry. Remember also that your pages might have to live next to something completely different on the sheet and that can cause issues when they have to make adjustments to your color for the sake of salvaging the color on the thing next to it.
    – Yorik
    Dec 8, 2016 at 15:14

I often give the same advice to these kind of questions: The only way to know what a computer image will look like when printed is to compare the absolute CMYK values in the file (using something like PitStop or Acrobat's preflight tools) with a printed reference piece, such as a swatchbook or color key sample that is printed on the same type of press with the same paper stock and the same ink.

Never, never go by what you see on the screen, unless you're willing to wind up with a big variation in hue, intensity, saturation, and other problems.

You must discuss with the printer the following: What dot gain should you anticipate? What is the maximum ink coverage allowed? What is the press tolerance (registration accuracy) -- this tells you how to handle trapping. What is the smallest point size type that you recommend for reversing out of a solid color (white on black)? What about with screened colors? What is the smallest line width you would recommend for two or three-plate objects? What specifications should I use for the digital file I deliver (file format, color mode, trapping, bleeds, orientation, font embedding, vector smoothing, screen frequency (if not handled by the output RIP)?

This may be a lot more than you thought you needed to know, but believe me, it's better to ask for too much information rather than too little. And if someone at the printer can't answer these questions, they either are a low-quality printer or they only work with very experienced production professionals who already know the answers.

  • Oh man, I wish I knew what most of that was. But the swatchbook and sample material makes a lot of sense. I'll do some more research on what you suggested to discuss with the printer. All stuff I need to learn. Thanks so much for the help and advice! I appreciate it! Dec 9, 2016 at 2:57
  • Glad I was some help! Can you give me an upvote?
    – user8356
    Dec 12, 2016 at 15:18
  • I did. I don't have the rep to have public upvotes Dec 13, 2016 at 18:05

Try View>Proof Setup>Working CMYK


JPG files are RGB, not CMYK, so my guess is that your image is getting converted to RGB when you save it to JPG. I'm not entirely sure what the issue with the PDF, but I'm guessing something similar.

  • 1
    Hmm. I thought JPG could be saved as CMYK. I've also tried PDF and TIFF and gotten the same results, though. Dec 8, 2016 at 3:57
  • 3
    JPEGs can be RGB or CMYK (among other things) so this answer is not correct or helpful.
    – Westside
    Dec 8, 2016 at 7:12
  • 1
    @Chris That's what downvotes are for ;)
    – Vincent
    Dec 8, 2016 at 9:23
  • 1
    Hi Edward, welcome to GDSE hand thanks for your answer. I'm sorry that I have to agree with Cameron and Chris that your are incorrect, but that doesn't mean you aren't welcome! :D If you have any questions about the site, have a look at the help center and feel free to join us in Graphic Design Chat once your reputation allows you to (20). Keep contributing and enjoy the site!
    – Vincent
    Dec 8, 2016 at 9:25

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