I have to design a printed poster (cmyk) for a trade show. It will be in Adobe Illustrator. The copy is all white and the logos in it are too (well, one logo is all white with some 'less opaque' 50% white transparent elements). The logos and all copy will be laid over a blue background, and in some places, over a photograph.

As this is white over a darker background, do I need to knockout the logos/copy? Or does the printer typically do that automatically? Is there something I need to do differently with the 50% transparent white areas of the logo? I'm not too familiar with how to knock stuff out on my own, and to be honest, I'm not sure if I need to! Do I?? I don't have access to the printer for questions as this is outsourced.

Please advise. Thank you so much.

  • In CMYK printing anything that is white is just an area of bare white paper with no ink. There is no white ink invovled in the process.
    – Billy Kerr
    Mar 7, 2018 at 15:00

1 Answer 1


Knock outs refer to removing ink on one plate so that the ink from another plate can be printed straight on the stock (paper). This is done to prevent the build up of color due to multiple inks being printed in the same location.

The only reason white would ever be printed in offset printing is if you are printing on a colored stock. i.e. you have blue stock and want to print white letters on it. So, a white ink is mandatory. If you aren't printing white.... there's nothing to knock out.

When discussing print design... and artwork which will be printed on a white (or near white) stock... White is not printed in offset printing. Therefore anything you create in Illustrator which is white will be seen as "stock" or "invisible" when the plates are made. Simply setting the fill color of an object to white removes all ink from that area of the design. You could essentially look at white as an inherent knockout of all plates. There's no need to specifically set white to knockout. No ink = nothing to knockout.

(In Illustrator, you do want to check that white objects are not set to overprint via the Attributes Panel. White filled objects set to overprint can create undesired results.)

As always, if you are unsure of how things will appear, you can always use the Separations Preview in Illustrator to toggle color plates on and off to see how they interact with one another. Just be certain to turn off separations preview before saving anything for the web.

  • Thank you!!! This is a great explanation. A follow up question: For the object that is 50% white against blue (a semi transparent white object), do I need to do any specific set up for the printer? Or is it best to just leave that alone too?
    – efrozit
    Mar 7, 2018 at 16:15
  • @efrozit just leave it alone. That 50% white will ultimately mean anything under it will be screened back. 100% blue with a 50% white object on top of it really means 50% blue there. Still no knockout. Really, you don't need to worry about knocking out white 99.9999999% of the time, and when you do need to worry about it, you'll most likely be told specifically.
    – Scott
    Mar 7, 2018 at 18:06

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