I am creating print PDFs from InDesign that contain Illustrator files. Most of these Illustrator files have black outlines used. When you create a fresh outline with 100% black, it's not set to overprint. And apparently Indesign doesn't give it the overprint attribute either even if "Overprint Black at 100%" is checked, because it's from an embedded file.

So, the print PDFs, in PDF/x-1a standard, have all the black strokes in knock-out mode when I check through the Output Preview.

Now, the only option left is for me to use the "overprint black" option from Edit Colours of Illustrator for hundreds of illustrations and then save and export fresh Indesign PDFs.

Shouldn't black automatically be set to overprint in these software?

What do the pros do in such situations?

2 Answers 2


Black is a special swatch in InDesign. It can't be deleted and it can be set to Overprint Black at 100%. Sadly, this is not the case in Illustrator, where Black is just the name of a swatch.

Note that only the specific swatch Black can be set to overprint. If you manually make a CMYK(0, 0, 0, 100) swatch, it will knock-out instead.

When the Illustrator files are placed in InDesign the black lines are not recognized as Black, but CMYK(0, 0, 0, 100).

Neither InDesign nor Illustrator should automatically overprint black in my opinion. What if you wanted the opposite? When placing object on top of each other in real life they normally cover each other (unless they are transparent). Setting black to overprint is a special technical "trick" for print.

Now that you've made this mistake, you are probably not going to make it in the future, but what to do now?

I see only two solutions:

  1. Do what you're doing: Open every single file and correct the error. It's tedious, but he upside is that your files are fixed for good.

  2. Use some kind of pdf editing software on the final pdf. I use Enfocus Pitstop Pro at work. It's a plugin for Acrobat Pro which provides all sorts of editing capabilities. Maybe you have access to something similar?

  • +1 for Pitstop It's overall clunky but it's really wonderful for post PDF work to adjust colors and PMS issues. Mar 9, 2018 at 18:38
  • 3. use a script to set the values.
    – joojaa
    Mar 9, 2018 at 19:36
  • Ya know the annoying thing.... InDesign honors blend modes for embedded images. Set something to Multiply in Illustrator (with nothing under it) and InDesign will honor that allow you to place content under the inked image and allow the mode to work. SEE HERE -- but yet they can't make Indesign overprint black regarding linked files. It's annoying. I do agree though, nothing should overprint by default.
    – Scott
    Mar 9, 2018 at 19:40
  • 1
    Fortunately, you can record the overprint black menu item in an action. It appears to be one of those who remembers your dialog input instead of just producing the dialog. So, you can at least somewhat automate the process by batch processing all files and selecting shapes if needed to get the overprint. It it also appears that without any selection the action will stop, so make sure to put down a dummy rectangle filled with black first, then select same fill color.
    – Silly-V
    Mar 9, 2018 at 20:42
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    @LWTBP My point was.. Adobe can make InDesign see and honor blend modes across apps.. I don't know why they can't alter how plates are generated (overprinting) across apps. It seems silly to me that upon output InDesign can't merely realize "okay, that's black, overprint it" - regardless of whether it's a native object or a linked object. I mean black is black upon output.
    – Scott
    Mar 10, 2018 at 7:21

A quick fix would be to set the illustrations to multiply

  • THis doe not actually make any difference in print. ITs still not overprint at print time.
    – joojaa
    Feb 24, 2022 at 12:14

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