As a made up example, say I have a client who really wants a pastel blue paper but a color print on top of the paper.

She knows there's going to be discoloration, but still wants me to go ahead and design something for her.

What methods can I use either in the software I use (photoshop, indesign or illustrator), or when initially planning out the design can I implement where as I can get an accurate representation of how the final piece will look once printed?

Another example: If the paper the customer chooses for printing is off white (or almost ivory) how could I adjust the current color scheme of a design to print more accurately than if I was printing on brilliant white paper?

  • 2
    Great question! I think I've wondered about this myself in the past.
    – Dom
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 22:40
  • prime example of a question I'd like I could upvote twice. Or thrice.
    – Vincent
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 12:27

4 Answers 4


Overprint preview in Illustrator somewhat works.

In Illustrator, you can draw a rectangle which matches your stock color. Place it on a layer below all other layers and lock it.

Use the Attributes Panel in Illustrator to set subsequent objects to overprint.


Then in the View menu, choose Overprint Preview.


Unfortunately, this same method doesn't really work for InDesign and Photoshop has no overprint options.

Also be aware, using overprinting in this way may not be the proper set up to actually print a file. You have to basically set everything to overprint using this method, but in actual production it may not be wise to have everything overprinting.

To be frank, it is somewhat of a guessing game until you see a print sample. This is what press checks and chromakeys are for. I use the above to get an idea of how colors may shift. However, it's not something I'd 100% rely on for every piece. There's no substitution for a color proof from the printer.


Get a sample of the paper and print in color on it. It's the only way either of you will see anything close to what it really looks like.

You could try creating a layer in Photoshop which is the color of your paper, and putting your colored photo on top of it with a certain amount of transparency (ETA or blend mode, as Dominic suggests), but those are guesswork.

  • I was hoping for some workflow method that would let me avoid making uncesessary prints lol Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 23:51
  • 2
    I was thinking (haven't got the software to actually try it with) that perhaps one of the blend modes could work specifically for this. I would try blend modes rather than transparency.
    – Dom
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 0:13
  • @OghmaOsiris Sometimes the prints are necessary. There are times when nothing but an actual comp will do. I'd say this is one of them. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 1:16
  • @Dominic That's a good point; I will edit to add that. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 14:44
  • 1
    I bumped into this issue a lot while designing wedding invitations (often on coloured/metallic papers) I tended to take a photo of the paper and use it as a rough guide for the background layer with some transparency on other layers (obviously this layer wasn't printed) this was more effective as a guide for coloured paper rather than metallics. But like Lauren said, printing is the only real way knowing as far as I've figured. - Great question, nice answer.
    – Jenna
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 17:58

When i use a new type of paper, I get a print profile for it. The papers are normally near white but I can see no reason why a profile can not be produced for a coloured paper.

I use perma jet, they do it free for their own papers, but would charge a fee for others.

You download two files and print them on a A4 sheet, using the settings of ink and such like you will use on the final print. You then post it to them and they scan it, before sending it by e-mail to you. Once you have it, you load it in the profiles file and it is ready for you to use whenever required. This then suits the paper and your printer every time.


Match the colored paper with cmyk colour samples and create a layer matching the colour values in Ps (if this is what you are using). Set the layout to show cmyk colours and gamut warnings and design to your hearts content.

Just make sure you are not designing in cmyk mode, be sure to design in RGB until you have to print. :)

I am only talking about Ps, not in ai or Id. And I am not talking about elements either. Just to clarify, I would choose ai for making most print design, as I am aware that Ps is not a design tool. Though designing for print can be done, with the proper settings.

As far as I know and what I've always been told is that when designing, be that for what ever the product, work in RGB. You can always convert to cmyk when your work is done, and this way you have all the features available. When using blending modes and creating effects that will be out of the cmyk colour spectre, turn on gamut warning and show it in Cmyk color mode. This way you have an indication of what's possible and what's not. This will also be a good indication for your problem, that's the only thing I'm saying.

Anyways this could be done in ai, or even indesign too, I just wanted to help you out with an alternative way.

  • 2
    Why would I ever design in RGB for a print piece?? Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 18:16
  • Because designing in Cmyk from the beginning will limit your features in Ps. You will not be able to use basic functions, as these options are only available in RGB mode. Therefor you must always design in RGB (adobe 1998 preferably for print) and then convert to cmyk just before printing (fogra39 is most common in Europe, but this depends on your printer calibration).
    – endose
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 19:47
  • 3
    @endose ...what are you talking about? That doesn't make any sense. First of all, I don't even know what "basic functions" are only available in RGB. Secondly, if the function doesn't work in CMYK, then you shouldn't be doing it anyway because you can't reproduce it in print. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 20:22
  • 1
    I was going to say something similar @laurenipsum he might be using photoshop elements which has restrictions on RGB and cmyk usage. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 20:23
  • 3
    I think it's just miscommunication... Photoshop is not a design tool. It's an image manipulation tool. If you are doing considerable image manipulation, then yes, you may need RGB mode for filters. However, if you are using Photoshop as a photo retouch tool in support of a design tool (such as InDesign or QuarkXpress) then you should color correct and retouch your photos in CMYK mode to ensure color is accurate.
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 20:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.