InDesign displays [registration], 100% of each ink colour, as a swatch in the swatches palette. It's impossible to remove the swatch.

Why is this? I have never had the need to actually use [registration] in my works, as far as I know it's only ever used to create printer's marks, and that's done by InDesign when exporting a .pdf.

Lots of beginners are confused by the two instances of black in the palette, possibly ruining their work when using the incorrect one. So why is [registration] still there?

  • 5
    It's quite common to create your own registration marks depending on what you're putting together. For example, you may be imposing your own set of business cards or the like and would want to create your own registration marks for the printer.
    – DA01
    Oct 21, 2014 at 13:54
  • @DA01 I'd upvote that if it were an answer... :)
    – Vincent
    Oct 21, 2014 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


Regarding all Adobe software... primarily Illustrator as well as InDesign....

The Registration swatch is only to be used in two instances:

  1. When you are manually drawing printer marks, i.e. trim, bleed, targets, die lines.
  2. When you are working on a CMYK document and want black on a mask, such as an Opacity mask in Illustrator.

These are the only two cases to use the Registration swatch.

Registration is a color created by using 100% Cyan, 100% Magenta, 100% Yellow and 100% Black - totaling 400% of ink. Almost every commercial print provider will not accept a file where that 400% color build is used within the artwork. It's impossible to maintain on a press because it is too much ink and any stock (or paper) will not absorb that much ink and prints will run, drip, and smear.

Never use the Registration swatch for general artwork coloring. Not ever.

Regarding it's general use in InDesign and masks....

In addition to creating your own printer marks or page info, the Registration swatch can be very handy in creating masks.

Often a mask consisting of only K will not completely mask a CMYK object. So, using Registration for the mask "black" tends to be more complete.

It's not very easy to see in InDesign specifically, but "feather" effects utilize the "Registration" Swatch:

enter image description here

You can't change that swatch, because it's designed to hide all colors via the registration swatch. The other feather options don't even show you the color because it's not necessary. However, they also use "Registration" to mask everything.

Manually, use of the Registration swatch is more easily seen in Illustrator with Opacity Masks. Same theory, just more automated in InDesign.

  • There are other cases where registration black is required. It’s not uncommon in my experience that printers ask for areas that should be blocked, embossed or lacquered to be defined in registration black, for example. But these all that in common that you should still only use registration if your printer asks you to. Mar 24, 2021 at 7:49
  • Fair point @JanusBahsJacquet -- In my experience varnishes are indicated with a spot color, not registration. But I suppose it depends upon the provider.
    – Scott
    Mar 24, 2021 at 9:22
  • I never knew opacity masks before. I always used clipping masks.
    – Vikas
    Apr 2, 2021 at 9:48

You're right that it's a little superfluous, especially because InDesign will add any printer marks during export. Registration black is really for adding any custom printer marks or page info.

Because registration black will use 100% CMYK for each value, that's 400% ink coverage and should obviously be used in small quantities.

Hope that helps?

  • 1
    InDesign can only add registration marks around rectangular pages. At my office we had to design a multicolored box wrapper once; we did this in ID, drawn our own registration and cut lines.
    – Jongware
    Oct 21, 2014 at 20:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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