Feb 14

100% Black is not the blackest black! There are different blacks.  You need to understand them if you want to get the best out of your printer. Here’s how to choose which ‘black’ to use and why!

In most Apple Applications (Pages etc)  you can click on the little coloured circle in the toolbar to bring up the Apple colour picker. To get black  is simple –  you just set the colour to black. If you go to the RGB colour picker you’ll see it’s 0,0,0 which means no Red, no Green, no Blue. Black looks like this on the apple colour picker:

Black in the RGB colour picker

RGB is the colour picker for a display where colours are mixed from Red Green and Blue.

CMYK is the color picker for a printer which uses a mix of Cyan Magenta Yellow and Black inks. (K stand for black!)

Try this. Select ‘Black’ in the RGB colour picker as above (0,0,0). Now change ‘RGB Sliders’ to ‘CMYK Sliders’.  You will notice something interesting…

Black on a colour printer uses all the inks!


You might think that black you would just use 100% black ink, but this is not the case.  The Apple black uses lots of cyan, magenta  and yellow as well as black. This is because on a page the blackest black you can get is not 100% black. A mixture of CMYK looks blacker than 100% black. There are arguments about which is the exactly the blackest black, and it’s not 100,100,100,100!  Some say it 75,68,67,9o, others say 40,0,0,100. Apple goes with 74,71,64,87.

What has all this got to do with me?

Commercial Printing: the richest black

If you are sending something to be printed by a commercial printer, for example a business card, then you want the blackest black, so don’t select 100% black for your text colour. For the darkest black possible select the default black from the Apple colour picker and it will give you the blacker CMYK mix.

If however you are printing lots of black text you probably want something different…

Saving Toner: 100% black

If you are printing text on your own printer then you probably don’t want Apple black because Apple black uses 74% Cyan, 71% Magenta, 64% Yellow and 90% Black – that’s a lot of ink!   You probably want to use plain 100% black.

To use 100% black for your black text you need to select your text and then go into the Apple colour picker and choose 100% black like this:

Using 100% black and 0% CMY for text will save you lots of toner!

This will use just black toner as if you had a black and white printer and it will save your colour toner.

Now if you are just printing a b/w text document, you can choose ‘Greyscale’ mode in your print settings to make sure it is only using black ink. But if your document has some colour in it, which means you can’t use greyscale mode, then be sure that the black is 100% black.

To make 100% black the default black in new pages documents, see this post.

To save you always having to move the sliders to get 100% black you can select 100% black and then make your own ‘black’ colour swatch by dragging from the black square to the color swatch area down the bottom of the colour picker.



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5 Responses to “How to save toner when printing black on a colour printer.”

  1. Bryson says:

    WOW! I’ve just discovered a whole new world that I never knew about… and it’ll save me money! Another really helpful post. Thanks Wayne.

  2. DeWayne says:

    I believe 100% black usually is adequate depending on paper quality, also I believe usually the cheapest tonor-color to purchase is black.

  3. Tony says:

    Good post, we will be referring our customers to it.

  4. Ed says:

    Useful info, but you need to correct a sentence: the K in CMYK stands for Key, because it’s the key color in offset printing. CMY alone lacks depth, and can’t produce black although in theory it should (being the polar opposite of RGB).

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