I am designing something with a lot of color, but it's made as a background for a ticket, so it has to be lighter.

However, when I lighten the colors, a lot of them turn into pastel colors and that's not the desired effect of my client.

I tried explaining that any color will get a pastel-look if you make it transparent on white (or add a transparent, white layer), but just to make sure I'm correct in this, I would like to hear what you think. Is there some way to blend down a color without washing it down?

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3 Answers 3


Presumably the colours have to be light enough for black text/copy to be overlaid and still be readable? Use lighter colours, or tints that are still strong (not less than 75%) that black will be readable on: Yellow, cyan, lime green, lilac. Red and purple are traditionally too strong for black, and orange will always be a matter of compromise. And remember, colours will reproduce darker in print that they will appear onscreen so if you have a colour desktop print, do some output tests or use a Pantone/CMYK swatch chart so you know what the final colour should be.


Out-of-the-box solution: try and fill the shapes with a (line) pattern in their respective colours, preferably one that's less than 50% in 'cover'. You might even be able to make some nice interactions on the parts where the shapes overlap, depending on the pattern(s) you choose!

Check the panel options in Illustrator's Swatches palette and find some pre-made patterns at Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > ....

[edit]This is an example of what I mean, using a line pattern. For this, I made the line pattern manually and used the shapes as clipping masks, but you can also use the pattern functions in Illustrator to make your own pattern swatch.

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I was lazy and used few thick lines, but with more time you could make the lines thinner and use more of them to create nice effects. Don't make 'em too thin, especially when printing in CMYK, as misregistration may then cause problems.

  • I've finally gotten to try it with a pattern. Although it seems to work in a digital file, printing it makes them pastel-colored anyway. Of course an official printing press will do it prettier, but in the end, it'll just look lighter. I think the only way to get lighter, non-pastel colors is by using really bright colors to begin with. Could that work?
    – Rvervuurt
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 14:27
  • Yes, you'd be stuck using colours like in your example and at 100% tint. I guess you could get away with patterns with ~2pt lines, though, those would yield quite some colour. I'll try it myself and will post an example later!
    – Vincent
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 14:34

If you want to use your original colors (not lighter ones like Shaqui suggested), then i guess the "pastel look" is the only way to accomplish what you need. In other words: YES you are right and you can tell your client, that there is no other way.

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