I'm working on a report in InDesign that's going to be printed. The brand's guidelines has an off-white (0,0,0,4) as one of their main colours and a greyish black as another one of their colours (0,0,0,90).

I've designed one page which has their black (0,0,0,90) background with white body copy on top. Am I right in thinking I'd be better off using a proper white (the [paper] swatch) instead of their off-white (0,0,0,4) to avoid registration issues?

Thanks so much!

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    How is it going to be printed? Offset litho, inkjet…? Offset might have problems running such a light grey & a heavy dark grey off the same plate. If you ran a light grey off one plate as a total cover, you might be able to run the 90% straight over it in a single pass. The other issue might just be trying to get 4% grey at all. it might need a special; then to avoid tack issues you may have to do it in two passes - then you need to know how much tack the ink has over a solid dry ink. I think you need to ask your print shop. [Inkjet, of course, has no registration or ink distribution issues.]
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 12, 2023 at 15:32
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    Thank you @Tetsujin You're right, I need to get more info from the printer! But you've raised some really useful points, thanks.
    – WeRo
    Jun 12, 2023 at 15:50
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    Misregistration is not an issue as you’ll be printing both colors from the same plate. Offset should have no trouble combining 5% and 90%. It will be legible and true to the brand guidelines. But depending on text size vs screen ruling, some screening artifact might become apparent. Jun 12, 2023 at 17:42
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    @KrisVanBael - ermmm… really? It depends on what you're trying to lay down. I've exaggerated a bit here to make it clearer, but this is what you get trying to run those colours off a single plate with offset. No matter how you trap the docks, you'll get something akin to this. i.stack.imgur.com/HJ3lD.png
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 12, 2023 at 17:50
  • Hey @Tetsujin, not sure what to make of the image. Can you double check the link? Imgur seems to be buggy recently. Jun 12, 2023 at 21:03

1 Answer 1


Registration is not a problem when you have only one channel.

Registration is an issue when you have thin elements like text with a color of two channels, like C50-K50.

So, the answer to your specific question is no. There would be no registration problems.

But every project is different and you could face different problems depending on the print method.

If it is printed in offset on one ink, let's say black only, you will have screened text.

Here is an example of screened text (The effect is a bit different on the example, but it is the overall idea).


One curious thing is that 4% ink is oddly specific. In the "old days" you specifically avoided screening of more than 95% and less than 5%, because ink absorption and dot gain in the 95% and the 4% dots could look inconsistent in the print.

On really light colors you could use spot ink, where you put a tiny bit of black ink with a transparent white base, and you can print it as 100%.

You need to define a lot of things. Is the print going to be full color? Offset printed (Do you really need 1000 copies of it)? Do you have a budget to use spot inks? Do you know how to handle overprints? How big are the backgrounds? Which other colors are you using near them? How precise is the offset machine? How big is it?<(Yes, this matters) How old is it? What is the real color of the paper?

Is it going to be printed in the office for a meeting? Then simply make some tests in the office printer.

  • Wow, thank you for such an in depth response! Definitely think I need to clear a few things up with the printer first. But thanks for raising some interesting points here!
    – WeRo
    Jun 12, 2023 at 20:20
  • Your visual comparison has little to do with the question. That is vector text versus pixelated text, where the anti-aliased pixels shows halftoning. Halftoned vector text would look significantly better. Jun 12, 2023 at 20:48
  • Screening also occurs when the percentage of ink is not 100%.
    – Rafael
    Jun 13, 2023 at 3:40
  • Indeed (working in prepress for 25 years) but then the edges remain sharp. Jun 13, 2023 at 5:53
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    it may not be a perfect depiction of the issue, but enough. I see this on the more cheap business cards where they go 4-color process: any colored text is "fuzzy" because of the overlapping screens: it has no sharp edge like when you use one ink @ 100%.
    – Yorik
    Jun 13, 2023 at 15:14

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