This might be an error but i've got a feeling its something to do with preparing artwork for printing.

I've received some packaging artwork from my client that i need to edit, it's made by a different graphic designer. It has two main layers, one called "artwork" which has the basic artwork on it, here is a selected area of it: enter image description here

And then you have the second layer below it which is called "White underneath", and its a duplicate of the artwork but in red. Here is the same area on that layer: enter image description here

I have not seen this before but i assume this is somehow related to making the colours print right? perhaps the red areas are meant to be printed white, perhaps to enhance the colours that will be printed over it? Am i in the ballpark here?

If that's the case then what is this technique called? When is it necessary to do?

Any help appreciated, seriously scratching my head over here.

  • 1
    Is the red actually a spot color, rather than CMYK (or (shudder) RGB)? Drawing a spot color in some recognizable 'other' color is a good trick. I suppose you would not be able to see this one if it were colored white.
    – Jongware
    Oct 6, 2015 at 21:37
  • Hmm, more of a digital designer myself, so a bit uncertain. It seems to be a basic CMYK red, C0 M100 Y100 K0. Selected from the basic swatches panel. Does that help? Oct 6, 2015 at 21:41
  • In case of doubt, ask your designer. ...So it's not a spot color? Then (possibly!) it would need 'manual' separation, e.g., when placed into InDesign. But surely you know more about the intended use of this artwork? Is it to be printed on colored or transparent material? Did the designer have any reason to think so?
    – Jongware
    Oct 6, 2015 at 21:45
  • 1
    If the cardboard is not white then you would need white backing to make rest of the colors work right. Its a "spot color"
    – joojaa
    Oct 7, 2015 at 4:02
  • 2
    It's often done in printing to print a "base" as white and then the real color on top of it. The previous designer simply created a white base to make sure the colors will not appear semi-transparent. This is often seen when printing on t-shirts, vinyl, metal or metallic plastic. The designer used red simply because it's easier to see where that white ink will be; the printer will still use a white ink base, not red. For your own design on paper, I doubt you need that red base: UNLESS you know the logo should be purple and not blue/black. Then ask the client if designer cannot be reach.
    – go-junta
    Oct 7, 2015 at 4:21

1 Answer 1


In printing, ink isn't always 100% opaque and some material on which the ink is applied will not absorb the ink much. The result might make the printed area look a bit transparent. It can happen when printing on clothes, vinyls, or metallic textures.

To make the printed area very opaque, the printer will apply an undercoating, like a base of white color, and the colored inks will be applied over that white area.

The red spot color you have in this file is probably a white base. Even if the color used in the layout is red, the ink used will be white or whatever the client wants as base. Sometimes metallic inks are also used for this because they are a bit more opaque than standard offset inks.

If the layer wasn't named "white underneath", another alternative could be that the layer was used for a spot/selective varnish.

If you plan to make a layout that will be printed on a paper stock, you can ignore that extra layer/spot color on your layout and use only the other elements.

You should in fact make sure that red spot color and layer is removed from your final print-ready file to not confuse the printer!

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