Print 100% black in Illustrator

The problem: Black text come out gray and blurry

I like my black to be nicely 100% black and sharp. Somehow though, black text in Illustrator didn’t print pure black, but some kind of rasterized, dark grey. I tried all kinds of settings in the Illustrator Print window. Meanwhile, everything else I printed, like some invoice.pdf’s from the web or the occasional e-mail, came out my printer crisp and sharp.

Example of pitch black text versus muddy gray fonts.
Sharp black text or muddy gray fonts?

I know my Samsung CLX-3185FW color laser multifunctional is not a top-of-the-line laser printer, but at least it should print my ‘serious’ Illustrator documents as good as other documents. So I converted my document to CMYK. In Illustrator, RGB black doesn’t become 0/0/0/100% when you turn a color to CMYK, but 91/78/61/97%. This gives a much deeper black.

Per default, Illustrator and Photoshop show a deep shade of gray (instead of black) on the screen and on print if you use 100% K, as in 0/0/0/100% CMYK. You can change this in the Illustrator > Preferences > Appearance of Black menu.

Illustrator lets you set the preferences of the appearance of black on the screen and on print.However, this didn’t have much influence on my prints either.

Svart optimalisering

I even mailed the Samsung help desk. Their CLX-3185 FW laserprinter driver has a svart optimalisering option. I use the Dutch localization. Optimalisering means: optimization, but svart is not Dutch, it’s Swedish. The manual doesn’t even mention this option, let alone explain what it does.  They people at Samsung didn’t know what svart optimalisation meant either. They promised they would sort it out for me, but never did, even though I contacted them a few times more. They left me in the dark   😛

I’m almost certain that svart optimization is an option that tries to limit the use of toner, especially the CMY toners when printing (blac)K, in order to save some money. However, this option is does not apply, since it can only be found in the ‘Setup’ menu, which is completely ignored by Illustrator. You can use it from other applications, that use the default printer window though.

The solution: Preserve RGB numbers

Finally, I’ve seem to found the secret recipe for printing sharp, 100% black text from my laser printer:

  1. Use a CMYK rich black or just plain RGB 000 black.
  2. Tick the option preserve RGB numbers in the printer driver before printing (better yet, safe this preset via the small disk icon).
  3. Set Illustrator Preferences / Appearance of Black / Printing to: Output All Blacks accurately. (Which is the opposite from what I expected)
  4. Print!

Tick the Preserve RGB Numbers option in the illustrator Print window.That’s all. My conclusion is, that the printer now uses just black and colored toners, layered. I would have liked to have a simpler option, something link ‘printing in just 100% pure black’ but the Illustrator driver doesn’t let me. It’s Color Handling option is stuck on Let Illustrator determine colors. In other applications you can use the svart optimization option from the Samsung driver but Illustrator insists on screening text and this can lead to unsharp, gray texts.

Please leave any comments and idea’s you may have or mail me.

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