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How to change default black to rich black in InDesign – and why you should

By 11th November 2014October 1st, 20185 Comments

Cat was about to send the artwork for the ‘trend’ loyalty card to the printers, when she remembered a story she’d read on the extremely informative InDesign Secrets. It concerned a full page advert in a glossy magazine, of an ostensibly naked runner with a black stripe obscuring his genitals. Well, that was the inference – he was supposed to be buck nakkid. However, because the designer had used solid 100% black ink, the black stripe wasn’t completely opaque, which meant that readers could see that he was really wearing running shorts. Kinda spoilt the illusion of nudity – but at least it wasn’t obscene. You win some, you lose some.

Anyway, back to the ‘trend’ loyalty card. Cat’s design has a watermark of various doodles which she thought might appeal to the target audience – Da Yoot. Her design also includes some black stripes (created using paragraph styles) which, if printed in 100% black would not fully obscure the doodles – image below exaggerated for effect, but you get the drift. Why, thought The Cat, I’ll just change the default black to ‘rich black’. Job done.

Changing swatches that have already been applied to objects and text in InDesign is easy peasy – open the swatch and move the sliders. Or you can create a new swatch and delete the one you want to swap it for. A dialogue box will appear and give you the chance to select your new swatch, which will mean anything coloured in the old swatch will recolour to the new one.

However, this is not so easy with black. You can’t change default black using the sliders. You can’t delete it either. So what to do? ‘Find/change’ is your go-to tool for the job.

Open the ‘Find/change’ dialogue box (Ctrl+F or Edit>Find/change…). Click on the ‘Object’ tab. Then click on the little magnifying glass icon thingy, which has the helpful tool tip ‘Specify attributes to find’.

When you click on the magnifying glass you get the ‘Change object format options’ dialogue.

As you can see, pretty much everything is up for grabs here – not just the swatches, but effects and other object attributes.

In the ‘Find object format’ bit, select default black. In the ‘Change object format’ bit select your rich black swatch (you made one, right? Cat used C15, M15, Y15, K95 as her printer specified that her rich black shouldn’t be more than 140% saturation. You may have your own preferred mix.) Click ‘OK’ and all instances of default black will be rich black.

Now you can truly hide all sorts of gubbins behind black redacting stripes in your print jobs.


  • William says:

    Why is this not working for me? I am using a document with date merge. But I also exported a merged document and it doesn’t work in any of these files

    • Pinkeye says:

      Hi William, I’m sorry but I don’t know why this doesn’t work for you. I shouldn’t think your document merge will have any effect on the swatches palette in InDesign. I hope you find a solution. All the best, Cat

      • William says:

        Hi Pinkeye, thanks for answering. Unfortunately I did not find a solution and I searched and tried everything. It works perfectly for new documents but I just can’t figure out why it doesn’t work with this one. I suspect it’s because of the merged data, it’s the only thing different about it. Anyways, I gave up and sent the files as is and simply asked the production team to used their premixed black instead when printing.

        Thanks anyways,

        • Pinkeye says:

          What a mystery! I’m glad you found a workaround. If you find another answer – or the reason it does it – please let us know! Or you could try asking InDesign Secrets; it’s the font of all ID knowledge. Cat

  • chhavi says:

    This is a lifesaver! Thank you so much for sharing.

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