Monthly Archives: June 2009

Design Quick Tip: Rich Black

Did you know there is more than one shade of Black in the print industry? To get a strong, dark black when printing in full color, also called 4-color process, you have to create a Rich Black.

All colors printed in 4-color process use a percentage of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black inks to create every hue in the printable spectrum. But the question is, what’s the best way to make a Rich Black. Let’s see if you can answer this question correctly:

To create Black in a CMYK format I would:

A. Use 100% Black

B. Use 50% of each CMYK

C. Use 100% of each CMYK

D. Use 100% Black, and graduated % of each CMY

You might assume that to get a good solid black all you need to do is select 100% Black. That will give you standard black, not rich black. The answer is D. What you want is a percentage of each ink, as well as 100% Black. This layering of inks is what creates a dark, intense, Rich Black.

So how do you know the best percentage to use? Some industries use a special formula, so if this is something you face on a regular basis, i.e. lots of print ads with large areas of black, then ask your printer for their formula for Rich Black. Otherwise try this:

Cyan 60%, Magenta 40%, Yellow 30%, Black 100%

Final notes: Only use rich black on large solid areas of black. Fine lines like type should be set in standard black. And never spec rich black when you’re printing in grayscale only. You could be charged for full-color.

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Posted by on June 9, 2009 in Design, Quick Tips


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Are you marketing like a three-year-old?

Something mysterious seems to happen when a child turns three. Their communication skills are developing quickly, which meets their desire for independence, and a new mindset is born. From now on, all you hear is, “I can do it myself!” But the truth is, sometimes they can’t.

There’s nothing wrong with a little freedom, the sense of accomplishment and pure willpower to tackle projects large and small with the do-it-yourself commitment of a three-year-old. But if you want to avoid the temper tantrums, frustration and…well…less-than-perfect results that go along with it, you may want to consider one thing. Sometimes we all need a little help.

So how do you know when to say ‘uncle’? There’s no one answer for that. But I’ve put together a few tips to help sort out the D.I.Y. projects from the C.F.H. (Call For Help) jobs. 

Starting a New Venture – When launching a new product it’s easy to feel that you alone have the information to get the job done right. You’ve figured it all out in your mind and now you have to take on the world all by yourself. Don’t get caught in this ego trap. It’s vital to begin communicating your ideas with other people. Your product won’t sell any other way. Sometimes we just need to know when to get out of our own way.

Try this test. Describe your product in sixty seconds so a complete stranger could understand it. It’s called an elevator pitch. If you found that challenging, imagine communicating those same concepts in one word, or an image alone? That’s what graphic designers try to do when they approach your brand identity. Which leads up to my next tip.

Branding is not for Beginners – Not every business or product needs a complex and dynamic brand. Just the ones that want to build brand loyalty. Creating brand identity involves research, knowledge of type, imagery and color. To put it simply, it’s harder than it looks. In my opinion it’s that brilliant simplicity that’s actually the sign of a good brand. Take a look at these logos and see what I mean.

Beyond General Expertise – If you have the D.I.Y. mentality then you’re probably pretty comfortable tackling a variety of tasks from creating an ad to blogging to promoting events. But we all have limits. I needed to redesign the website for my primary business,, and I knew there were limitations to my capabilities so I hired help. (HTML is not my friend.) When it comes to legal issues, like patents and trademarks, it helps to consult a professional. Other business specialities such as accounting, you could handle, but do you want to? I figure, in cases of taxation or representation I prefer to defer to the experts.

More Eyes and Ears – If you’re self-employed you know that one of the disadvantages of working alone is…well…working alone. Sometimes you just need a sounding board for new ideas, or an extra pair of eyes for proof-reading. This is the perfect time to ask for help, because it’s usually offered openly and won’t cost a dime. Friends and family, former co-workers and industry mentors are great people to call upon. Next time you get stuck, don’t twiddle your thumbs, Twitter your friends!


I started this blog for the D.I.Y marketing mavericks out there. And there will be plenty of opportunities for you to get in the design groove and strut your stuff. But when you’re channeling that inner three-year-old remember one thing. You didn’t choose to grow up, but you can decide when to bring on a consultant, get some advice or hire a professional. So, are you marketing like a three-year-old, or can you act your age?


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