I am in the print field and relatively new to Adobe Photoshop.

I have a lot of situations where I would like to have CMYK over a transparent background.

We place .psd files into illustrator for packaging graphics. Example (Crest toothpaste carton). What I am trying to achieve is a trap of CMYK in an image to a vector or other raster element in an illustrator file.

The only way I have been able to achieve this is to use 2 separate images.

  • A CMYK image set to darken or overprint in illustrator
  • And an all white transparent image underneath set to knock out the background.

I know I can achieve this in one image using spot colors but have not been able to remove the knockout attribute associated with CMYK in a psd.

Does any one have a way to let CMYK in a .psd be transparent in some areas and opaque in other areas?

  • Not really sure I understand. If you place a CMYK Illustrator object on top of a CMYK Placed Photoshop image in Illustrator, upon output, the inks are the same. If the vector object contains C and the Photoshop file contains C, they get combined. You shouldn't need to knock out anything manually. Or, perhaps I just am not "getting" your question. In addition, you can set objects in Illustrator to knockout themselves, no need for some random white object.
    – Scott
    Oct 19, 2014 at 15:29
  • An example would be a CMYK transparent image placed on a spot color background in Illustrator. I still need to trap the cmyk into the spot color but am unable to remove the white knockout supporting cmyk in the .psd file. Or the example of being able to paint a spot color in photoshop directly over the transparent background, but when painting with a cmyk color it always has a supporting knockout white under the cmyk color. Oct 20, 2014 at 16:44
  • ahhh.. mixing CMYK and spot, you left that out of the question, or I didn't pick up on it ;) You're not getting results LIKE THESE? and you need to manually trap?
    – Scott
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:51
  • Transparency in the CMYk file is all set up on Photoshop... if you leave an area transparent in Photoshop, it should be transparent in Illustrator.
    – Scott
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:58

1 Answer 1


If you're in the print field and have access to a RIP, you should be able to get this done through the RIP, and even use these files back.

The transparency effect you're looking for is the "multiply" blending mode in Photoshop, and below it you would add a white duplicate of your image a bit smaller to imitate a fake trapping. The problem is Photoshop will not keep that blending mode and apply it in Illustrator (to my knowledge.) You will always get a knockout effect.

The trapping in Illustrator and even InDesign is very limited; they usually only trap their own elements, not the imported ones unless you use overprint. It a very complex operation to trap a rasterized image with a vector without a RIP.

The only way I could see this work is by making 2 shapes in Photoshop as described above but import them separately in Illustrator, and use the colored one as multiply. I saved my 2 images as transparent tiff.

From the way you explained it, that's what you're already doing but I don't understand why it doesn't work for your CMYK though.

Photoshop Fake Trapping

Result (2 Photoshop import files + multiply blend on top. Blue is in Illustrator):

Trapping in Illustrator

But you'll still be stuck with 2 issues:

  1. it's not a very precise trapping, because it needs to be done at 100% of the size of your image or be calculated.
  2. your rasterized images in Photoshop won't be trapped...! The trapping in Photoshop flatten the layers so you will need to do this manually too! (Notice the 2 rectangles are trapped with each others, and the background in the image below. But not in the image above.)

Trapping Photoshop and Illustrator

I don't think using the transparency in the way you want to do will work for a quality job; the only transparency you can get it not a transparency like a film but a non-100% color! That means your trapping would have an edge of 90-99% over a 100% color. It would look weird once printed and quite annoying to prepare in Photoshop since only the edges will have a non-100% fill. I saw Acrobat Pro has a feature in the Preflight to flatten that kind of transparency with the background; maybe it could work then... depending on the kind of artwork you did in Photoshop.

You can't do exactly what you want with the basic features of Illustrator unless you do some "hacking" and use thin overprint strokes over your Photoshop artworks, and that too is quite annoying to prepare and not very precise; your outline will need to be something like 0.2pts aligned perfectly in the center of the 2 edges that are touching, between the Illustration background and the Photoshop imported file! And this will only give a "ok" result if the Illustrator background has only one color (no gradient.)

So that leaves you with 1 option:

Buy a plug-in for InDesign (suggested) or Illustrator and this will transform your computer in a mini RIP.

You can have a look at i-Trap and the Prinergy from Kodak. There's probably others and some have trials that you can test. I personally haven't tried them and don't know if you'll need other tools.


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