I am exporting a PDF for printing using the 'Press Quality' PDF Preset within InDesign, but when I view the PDF in acrobat, the black text looks much lighter than it did in InDesign. Why is there this discrepancy between InDesign and Acrobat and which one is an accurate representation of my text? Thanks

4 Answers 4


You also need to make sure that you have the Preference in indesign under Appearance Of Blacks set to display all blacks accurately. Otherwise it will display 100K black as 100 100 100 100 black or rgb 0 0 0.

While acrobat and indesign may not show exactly the same on screen this is the most likely reason for a serious discrepancy in black.


Never trust any pdf viewer to correctly display a print-ready pdf. They all suck at it in varying degrees, colour representation being a common problem.

You can also run into other artefacts like hairlines and crappy anti-aliasing. Don't ever judge a print-ready pdf by an on-screen preview.

It is true though, that the black in, K in CMYK, is not a great black. It is more like a dark grey. In small(ish) type, this is not a problem as the difference is hard to see. For larger areas of black like huge display text or a black area, it is noticeable and I'd advise you to use a rich black--100%K with some of the other inks added in. Try not to increase the cumulative ink percentage beyond the limit, which is ~270% for regular jobs.


Use a rich black (K with CMY components). Regular black (100K) will print black, but in a CMYK .pdf on a computer screen it may appear to be a very dark grey.

Ideally you'd wouldn't use a multi-ink colour for type because it could shift and become illegible. It's not a hard and fast rule, of course, but it's important to keep in mind.

  • But it is the discrepancy between the black that is showing in InDesign and the grey I am seeing in acrobat that I am unsure about. Why is the colour different between the two softwares and which one is accurate? Nov 3, 2015 at 16:38
  • Acrobat is showing you CMYK black in an RGB colour space. It is "accurate" in that it is showing you the correct colour for a computer monitor. If you print it out, the text will indeed be black (assuming the colour you're using is 0/0/0/100). InDesign is showing you a representation of printed output, so it replaced CMYK black with RGB black for preview purposes.
    – AMontpetit
    Nov 3, 2015 at 16:41

There is a setting in your Adobe InDesign to show blacks accurately. It's possible this setting is set to showing your black in rich blacks by default.

You should use the "display all blacks accurately" and the "output all blacks accurately".

indesign display black accurately

There's also difference in how both software will display the blacks and that depends on a lot of factors including the one mentioned above. But the numbers don't lie and you can trust them more than what you see on the screen. Since you probably output a PDF as a final print-ready file, it's that PDF you need to make sure has the right black.

If you are certain your Indesign file was prepared properly, you already know that file is alright. Your focus should be on the file your printer will use, the PDF.

To verify your black, you can always open the Output Preview window in Adobe Acrobat Pro and verify each separation of colors, including the values for your black. You can do this by opening that window and putting your cursor over the area you want to verify.

You can also check/uncheck each separations to see your overprint or see if the black is truly k100 or a mix of black by unchecking the black separation.

verify ink preview in acrobat pro

You also need to make sure all overprint settings box is checked in your Acrobat preferences.

overprint preview acrobat

It's normal a black that is 100% K only will look a bit lighter than a rich black on screen, even dark gray. But once printed it will still be black.

To know if you should use a normal 100% black or a rich black or overprint trick, you can have a look a these links:

What kind of black should I use when designing for CMYK print?

InDesign – Overprinting white at a Guangzhou printshop

How to achieve contrast in a black-on-black design

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