I have white objects (texts, shapes) on a dark background shape on an Adobe Illustrator document. The document will primarily be presented on-screen as a PDF, and this color scheme is fine for that.

However, some people may want to print the document. I want the document to print as black objects on no background. The background I've configured - put the background shape on a separate layer with printing turned off in the layer options.

But is there a way to set the white objects to look white on screen but print in black?

Thank you!

  • 1
    There's a duplicate around here of this very same question. I can't seem to find it at the moment.. but essentially no, it's not possible.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 13:24
  • @Scott I'll take your word for it, Mr. 140K! Thanks for confirming. Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 14:24

3 Answers 3


If the PDF is created properly, this is pretty simple to do using Acrobat.

  1. Create a copy of your reversed (white on black) layer.
  2. Put the copy below the reversed layer and set it to be black on a white background.
  3. Save as a PDF, making sure to retain illustrator editing and create Acrobat layers as shown.
  4. Open the PDF in Acrobat
  5. Open the layer options.
  6. Right-click the the top (reversed) layer and select Properties
  7. Set the layer to be always visible
  8. Set the layer to never print

Now when you open the document, you will see the reversed art, but only the positive art will print.

enter image description here

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enter image description here


Yea, you can use this one weird trick! You can purposefully duplicate your white objects and color them black, put them behind your original white objects and then set overprint on those original white objects. Now an exported PDF will show your white object. Yet when you print it, depending on your printer settings, etc, the overprinted white should disappear! You can view the Overprint Preview in Illustrator to see the printable representation.

enter image description here Adding the overprint on white is usually a mistake, but in your case it can be a feature!

enter image description here This is what the exported PDF would look like in preview and Acrobat Reader

enter image description here Turn on Overprint Preview in Illustrator to see how it should print. (You may need to work with your printer settings to ensure overprint is honored)

  • 1
    It's all about using "that one weird trick" invented by a single mum - printing companies hate her! ^_^
    – Silly-V
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 14:35
  • I wouldnt rely on this trick. Its a bit fragile.
    – joojaa
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 14:37
  • I think we see who represents "Big Print" here, lol! But yea, in terms of quick & dirty it could be advantageous - for everything else and not to add confusion, that Acrobat answer appears to be best.
    – Silly-V
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 14:40

As Scott commented, setting a color to print as another color is not possible in Illustrator. So here's what I ended up doing:

  1. Created a swatch named "White Spot" and setting it to Grayscale, value 0% (so it's white).
  2. Assigned "White Spot" to all elements I wanted to appear white. Put my background shape on a separate layer.

Then I had to create 2 separate PDFs, one for screen presentation and then one for printing:

The screen PDF I saved as-is.

For the print PDF, I set the background shape's layer options to not print. Then I edited the White Spot swatch to have a Greyscale value of 100% (so black).

Hope this helps someone!

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