There’s black ink, rich black, and Vantablack

Now that we’ve set the mood, let’s talk about black ink

What is black, anyway? black ink and color modelsConceptually, “black” isn’t a color, it’s the absence (or near absence) of light waves reaching your eyeball. This happens by either shutting off pixels in a display, or creating a surface that doesn’t reflect ambient light. There’s a color model for each.

RGB Pixels, or Additive Color: The red, green, and blue primaries in this model match the receptors on your own retina, so you might say RGB is your eyeball’s native language. To render “Black” the definition is RGB 0,0,0; and this gives you a blank screen on smartphones, monitors, and projectors.

Since printing relies on reflection, not projection, we can’t directly print in RGB. A translation is needed, and as with two fundamentally different languages it’s never perfect. “Black” in RGB often translates to a printing color that doesn’t include 100% of black ink (CMYK 75,67,67,90). This unpredictability is just one of many reasons to select CMYK for your print document color space, and color definitions, unless there’s just no choice.

CMYK ink and toner, or Subtractive Color: The language of almost all color printing, CMYK is the reciprocal of RGB. In the diagram you can see that the primaries of one model are the secondaries of the other. In theory 100% Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow would equal black, but they don’t so our print-shop founding fathers added black ink as a fourth color and we’ve lived happily ever after.

For clear, sharp type we want 100% black and nothing else so that the edges of the letter forms won’t be compromised by other colors peeking out. But is 100% black always black enough? What if your layout has a gigantic solid black background, and we’re worried about the possibility it’ll show pinholes, grayness, or we’ll have to run so much ink that adjoining graphics will start to plug?

Rich Black is a color swatch that can be created to alleviate the problems of a large, 100% black solid. In your layout program simply build a color swatch in CMYK with these numbers, CMYK = 30, 30, 30, 100. Use that swatch if you want to create large areas of solid black, and we’ll easily lay down a dependable impression with real depth and uniformity. To travel from the sublime to the absurd, however, follow me one step further.

Vantablack the other black ink

Image Credit: Surrey NanoSystems

Vantablack, from Surrey NanoSystems, is the extreme end of subtractive color, and has been employed effectively by cartoon roadrunners since the 1960’s. It’s carbon fiber nanostructure absorbs (does not reflect) in excess of 99.9% of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light. Objects sprayed with an aerosol version of the product appear two-dimensional, which is a clue to the degree we depend on variances in reflected light to orient what we’re seeing.

So far we can’t print this stuff, and assume most uses are super hush-hush, but if you want to be at the cutting edge of dark-black technology there’s a watch available made using Vantablack that only costs $95,000.

For those of us who aren’t that rich, there’s always rich black.



As artists, there is no other local printer that we would trust to reproduce our work. Gandy Printers’ quality and attention to detail, plus fabulous customer service, is unmatched!

- Moco & Maize, MANDEM

Gandy Printers has helped us design and print new flyers, maps, brochures, banners, and more. In addition to delivering our orders, they go above and beyond to make sure we are getting what we need. They are fast, reliable, and affordable, as well as a pleasure to work with.

- Sarah

I needed 1500 cards done for an event in Concord, NC. I was not able to get any response from printers in town so I looked for another avenue. Not only did I need these cards printed but I also needed them designed and shipped in less than a week. I had a wonderful experience with the team at Gandy Printing and would highly recommend them!!!

- Colleen M. Rett, Poppies Floral Design

Bernie and his crew never fail to deliver on the promise of quality products delivered on time. Their expert recommendations before the job enters the workflow are much appreciated and assist in avoiding problems later on.

- Mary Liz Tippin-Moody

Bernie and his team at Gandy Printers have delivered great results for me time after time, and I would strongly recommend him to anyone for quality and cost-effective printing. The first thing that brought me to Gandy Printers was their prices, because they are very competitive. After I sent them a few jobs I quickly realized that their customer service is what sets them apart. They’ve completed high-pressure direct mail projects for me on ridiculously short deadlines, and never dropped the ball once. I’ve sent them everything from business cards, to letterhead, to fliers, to high-volume postcard runs, and they’ve never once let me down.

- John Fleming

Gandy Printers provided our organization an outstanding level of customer service and support. Both management and staff were attentive to our needs and schedule and provided detailed and timely estimates for every project. Their printing services and materials were of the finest quality and were key to our organization’s successful marketing of two large fundraisers. Thank you Bernie and staff, your commitment to quality, integrity and performance have made us raving fans.

- Martha Rodriguez, Literacy Volunteers of Leon County


Monday – Thursday 8am – 5:30pm
Friday 8am – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday Closed



Contact Us. Anytime!

Have a question about your next printing project or need to get a quote? Contact us and we will get back with you as soon as possible.