A "lighter" shade of black...
I've been working like "mad" to finish the Hellraiser, the progress of which I simply post as individual albums at my Hobby Stuff page on Facebook. I simply don't want to "waste" so much time individually processing step-by-step photos since I also have the "day job" to worry about.
A lighter shade of black. At first glance, the phrase seems innocent enough, but, there's really no such thing. I came across this tidbit when two FB friends tagged me on a post that I didn't get to see because it was already gone when I decided to check it out. Those two people won't really tag me unnecessarily (well, most of the time), so I asked one of them who was online at the time what it was about.
It was a question someone posted. Is there a lighter shade of black? I suppose I got tagged because those people regard me as knowledgeable in the subject, because it is within my line of actual work.
First, let me make something clear; technically, black, and white, aren't really "colors," they are the absence and presence of colors and light. On printed material, white is the absence of color and black is the presence of ALL colors (we do have black ink, paint, and pigment as they also occur naturally, just so you won't have to mix some yourself). Also, for the purpose of this post, I'll be discussing black and white with regards to pigments, ink and paint, since that was what the question is all about.
But we don't really bother about such little things in this modern age where every frakkin' color with different names is available. Check the nifty kewl infographic below which I made just for this post.
The normal human eye, as said, is able to detect 255 shades of a color, but most of us won't really bother too much whether a shade of green is just 1 shade lighter or darker than the other. These shades, though, are used to enhance certain color combinations as gradients when one color "disappears" as another "appears." The example above is actually a gradient of white and black as well.
So, there is no such thing as a lighter black. Anything visibly lighter than black is already considered gray. In paints and inks, black is black. Flat black seems/looks lighter than gloss black, not because it IS lighter, but because of how light hits and how it "reflects" light (technically, black is black because it absorbs ALL light wavelengths, white reflects all in turn). But yes, you can use flat black as a "light" black, but, making it glossy will just get you back to square one.
In printing, there are brands of black that look gray, mainly because they were made with cheaper or heavily diluted pigments and are often used for low-budget projects (the <best> example for those black inks are newpapers). Even some of the more expensive black do tend to be somewhat "light" especially on certain papers (the paper stock's ability to absorb moisture affect how <deep> a color can look). We do have a trick of making sure the black on prints look as "black as it can be" by mixing a certain amount of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow on areas where deep black is needed. This black is called "rich" black (see the graphic below. There is also the process of overprinting black text over a full color background, making the text look deeper and avoiding that white "halo" around the text when misalignment (most often) occurs.
Here's where it gets trickier; there is also no such thing as "shades of gray" (so that book title is actually incorrect, but, we can leave that to creative license, and we don't bother arguing about the conventions anymore because it's an exercise in futility). Gray is a result of mixing white pigment with black, so, 50%gray is actually a shade of black. As one gets closer to black, even 99% black is still gray. We can call it "dark gray," but not "light black" (though honestly, no one can really detect 99% tone of a color that easily unless one is actually trained to do so). Conventionally, gray is simulated in offset printing, not by mixing white ink with black, but rather using screen tones, or often referred to as "half tones" on white paper (white ink is rather rare, and hardly used since most paper mediums are on the light side, printer with darker inks to produce images on print). Those are the patterns of small dots you see on (offset) printed material, so small you can hardly detect them in <normal> reading distances, but, when you look at it up close or with a magnifying class, you'll be able to see them. The combination of those black dots on white paper (or substrate, as the case may be) create the illusion of gray. Lighter grays (or lighter shades of black) are simulated by smaller dots, and those dots become larger and closer together as the grays become darker. When the dots overlap completely, we have black.
Shades of black are also used to produce shades of other colors, so red becomes dark red or, maroon, or blood red. Of course, these colors as inks also come as <solid> colors, if you are familiar with the Pantone© Color System, but are seldom used unless a single specific color is needed economy-wise, thus using only one instead of combining two or more process colors. Pantone inks are used when an specific color is not reproducible with combining CMYK values.