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The problems when printing black-and-white photos on CMYK printing presses

Remember a few slides ago when I warned you never to use rich black at reduced opacity? Because instead of the grey you expect, you’ll get some kind of tinted nightmare. Well, that’s also what would happen if you had a black-and-white photo and converted it directly to CMYK. The outcome would be unpredictable, but predictably awful.

You’d think you were printing this ...


... but instead you might get this ...


... or this ...


... or heaven knows what else.

So that’s why print shops tell us to convert our black-and-white photos to Grayscale mode. They want our photos to print in black ink only, to prevent these issues. Good thinking, right?

But there are two problems:

  • It’s tricky to ensure that Grayscale files stay Grayscale. The Adobe programs make it dangerously easy to re-convert them by accident, and dangerously easy not to notice. I’ll talk more about this in a few minutes.
  • Printing with black ink only, as we’ve discussed, gives weak results! And if you have a black-ink-only photo on a page surrounded by full-colour photos, it looks terribly bland, and frankly unprofessional.

Solution >>

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