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Transparency in Print Artwork Guide

Transparency in Print Artwork Guide

Read Time: 2 Minutes


01 Apr 2019

Transparency issues in print can mean that the layers in your artwork block each other and therefore won’t show properly when printed. In this guide, we’ll talk more about what transparency is, how it works, why it can cause issues and how to fix them!


What is Transparency in Print and Design?

Transparency refers to any images or text that are transparent, and can be partially or fully see-through. This is often used in graphic design to fade images into one another or lessening the opaqueness of an image so that text shows through, adding drop shadows, as well as other various effects.

different ways transparency can be used in design


How Does Transparency Work?

When you create a PDF document, you’ll have lots of layers with different objects on them. These layers overlap to create your finished design – and this is where transparency comes in handy. 

If your top layer has no transparency, it will block objects on the lower layers of your document when it’s printed so you can’t see them properly. That’s why it’s essential to set transparency up correctly before you send your artwork to print.

examples of transparency issues in print


How to Avoid Transparency Problems

The easiest way to make sure your artwork will look awesome when it’s printed is to ‘flatten’ the layers. That way, our commercial printing presses can read all the layers correctly.

To flatten, or ‘condense’, all your image layers down into one layer, there are a few really easy options: 

1.    Save your artwork file as a JPEG or PNG file
2.    If you’re using Adobe Photoshop, there’s a ‘Flatten Image’ command under the Layer menu (or in the layer palette on newer versions)

How to save artwork to fix transparency issues


Extra tip: Once you’ve flattened artwork, it can’t be edited or amended in the future. Keep a copy of the original design file (select ‘Save as’) just in case you want to edit it in the future.


Checking Your Proof for Transparency Issues

When you upload your artwork to the website, we’ll send back a proof for you to approve. Our online tool will automatically flatten transparency in your artwork file before you receive this proof – so make sure you double-check how it looks before sending your design off to print.

If we can’t flatten the transparency for you, you’ll see a warning. If you do get this warning, it’s especially important that you check your proof before approving your artwork for print just in case the flattening process has affected your design.


If you’d like more help with this, you can get in touch with our team and we’ll be happy to help! Send your questions over to us at to speak to a friendly artwork support adviser.

Amy Fairhurst

About the Author

I’m Amy, one of the Personal Artworkers at instantprint. I love using my design knowledge to give customers the confidence they need to create incredible looking print every time.