What is Overprint?

Printing terms and concepts can be quite confusing especially when you’re not a professional in the printing industry. When setting up your files for print, there are a few common terms that are good to know to ensure your file is printed how you expect. One of these is “overprint.”

So, “what is overprint?” Simply put, overprint is when colours are printed directly over each other which causes mixing of colours. This mixing of colours results in a different colour. For example, if yellow ink is set to overprint on top of the cyan print, the overlap would create green.

This can become an issue when only parts of your file are set to overprint and the end result is uneven colours throughout your file.

When objects are not set to overprint, the result is a knockout of the colour underneath. The colour beneath the front layer of the artwork is unprinted leaving only the colour of the front layer. Colour mixing is not possible in this process. This prevents colours from mixing, getting muddy, or over saturated. For example, if the objects are set to be knocked out, printing a magenta ink over a yellow print, only the top layer will be printed, resulting in a magenta.

If you are a graphic artist or graphic designer, here are some important tips in using overprint in your design:

  • In the printing industry, black is often set to overprint on top of other colours. The 100% black is overprinted over other colours, creating a darker black.
  • Objects that are in white should never be set to overprint as there is no regular white ink in printing. When you set a white object to overprint, it won’t appear in the printed result. The only thing that would be printed would be the layer beneath.

When setting up your file for print if you want to check & control if you do/don’t set it to overprint you can do this in the file output attributes.