I'm currently putting together a CD cover, and haven't been working that much with printing, so CMYK tends to confuse me a bit.

I'm going to place a logo inside a frame in InDesign. I added the exact same background color to the logo in Photoshop, as the background color of my InDesign document. Still the background in InDesign is slightly darker when I export the PDF as I look at it on screen (if I look at it from different angles).

Any ideas? I use the following black for both: C: 75% M: 68% Y: 67% K: 90%

85% zoom to the left. 'Actual size' to the right.

You can also see that when I'm watching two version of my PDF (with transparent PSD placed in InDesign), it gets a white line around the cut area if I zoom it in or out. If I look at it in 'actual size', it looks normal.

  • You should understand that RGB and CMYK are different space colours. Where CMYK is more limited or poor in brightness in comparison. If you need to print your design, be sure you have all in CMYK and use Rich black (obtained from the CMYK inks and not only the black or Key).
    – Aradnix
    Aug 24, 2014 at 20:44
  • @Aradnix As I wrote, both the Photoshop file and InDesign main project file both is in CMYK mode with same values for black.
    – janlindso
    Aug 24, 2014 at 20:49

3 Answers 3


a better workflow

Instead of going to the trouble of adding a rich black to the logo, make it transparent where it should be black and save in a transparency-supporting file format eg. PSD.

use acrobat to review

Instead of relying in the InDesign preview, output to PDF and open the Output Preview window (Tools > Print Production > ...). There you will be able to eye dropper the exact CMYK value of any point in your art. It's the definitive way to know what you're outputting.

  • Thanks for the advices. So far it looks ok when I export with PSD, but the transparent parts, looks a bit strange if I don't show the PDF in 'actual size' ie. zooms in or out. It has a strange pixelated border around the image. I guess that's on screen only as well, and how PDF with transparent images are handled on screen?
    – janlindso
    Aug 25, 2014 at 20:07
  • Hard to say what the problem might be without seeing it. But I can think of a couple of suggestions: 1. Are you exporting your PDF using the 'Print Quality' preset? 2. Could it be there's some cleanup required to get your logo up to scratch. In other words, do you think you've erased all the black from the logo. 3. Add some screenshots to the bottom of your original question so we can see it.
    – MG_
    Aug 25, 2014 at 21:54
  • Always using [High Quality Print]. Might be that it need some clean up, but it looks OK in actual size. Added a screenshot in my question so you can see.
    – janlindso
    Aug 31, 2014 at 9:44
  • @janlindso Ah I see. When you said “logo” I thought traditional logo, but the skull is very photorealistic. (You can disregard my answer above.) So if I was doing this job, I would position the skull in InDesign as you have been doing, and once I was happy with the placement, I would take the skull into the same document as your background black, in Photoshop. Save yourself a PSD in case you need to reposition, and save a flat TIF for importing into InDesign. Don't try to match blacks between apps, if only for your own sanity. And this way you won't see that white edge around the skull.
    – MG_
    Sep 1, 2014 at 11:01

One trick is to simply make the background of this logo in Photoshop a lot bigger and use the same black recipe for it!

Then you won't need to use another black in Indesign and you'll make sure the same color is applied and will be printed.

Here are more details on rich black and what to verify when working with black background as your design uses.

Additionally, you can verify your color recipes properly by using Adobe Acrobat Pro "Output Preview" and see where the problem is by checking each separation of colors.

How to verify CMYK process color offset color separation Acrobat PDF


That CMYK code for black is known as True black and is not that black on screen, but different appearances could be caused by the different colour profiles in PS or ID, and of course .pdf export settings, even though you used CMYK.

Also, about looking different from different angles.... Is your monitor properly calibrated? Does your monitor have that wide View angle? etc. Don`t worry if that black is not that dark on your screen, on paper it would be.

  • You mean Rich black, right? I have the same color profile in all programs.
    – janlindso
    Aug 24, 2014 at 23:16
  • @janlindso Keep in mind the words of Daniel. It's not a Photoshop or to the screen who should pay atention, but the printed paper if the design is for printing. There are many factors that influence the color. Since monitor calibration, through the color profile of the software to the type of role, dot gain and the light in which you look.
    – Aradnix
    Aug 25, 2014 at 1:39
  • @Aradnix So, if I understand you correctly, a pdf with different shades of black in the same document might have only one shade of black on print?
    – janlindso
    Aug 25, 2014 at 5:54
  • @janlindso Not necessarily, it depends on the colors or inks have been used in these blocks, black may be the same or different. However, if you design for print, you must use CMYK, and decisions regarding color you must take them from printing tests you do, regardless of what you see on the screen.
    – Aradnix
    Aug 25, 2014 at 5:55

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