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Pantone Color Libraries Are Leaving the Adobe Apps


With a cryptic statement buried in an update to its online help files, Adobe has announced that color swatches from Pantone, a company renowned for its de-facto-standard color matching systems, will be removed from a number of Creative Suite professional design products, leaving a huge swath of its user base confused about the consequences of that decision.

In an email interview, Pantone Vice President and General Manager Elley Cheng told CreativePro that the future of Pantone colors in Adobe products lies in add-on software, Pantone Connect, which will let the color systems company sell complete and up-to-date color data directly to its own users.

“We envision [Pantone Connect] to be Pantone’s flagship digital platform,” Cheng said.

In addition to Pantone’s basic spot color matching system, Pantone+ Solid, the affected color libraries include process color systems and libraries for metallic inks and pastel and neon colors. Those swatches include versions of data for colors destined to be printed on coated and uncoated papers.

New color swatch dialog box from InDesign with swatch PANTONE 339C selected from Color Mode PANTONE+ Solid Coated, from list of options

Pantone color swatches have been included in Adobe software—like InDesign, as pictured here—based on a licensing agreement that expired eight years ago and has been extended incrementally.

In late November, those looking at Adobe’s online documentation about color swatches found an alert that, with measured vagueness, warned of the impending changes to Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, Adobe Color, and Adobe Capture.

In March, the color definitions “will be removed from future software updates,” the message read. “To minimize the impact of this change, we are working on an alternative solution for the affected products. Stay tuned for updates.”

For printers and industry insiders, the decision will certainly disrupt workflows and habits of quality assurance. And some consumers are balking at the prospect of paying a new subscription fee on top of the recurring charges to license Adobe software.

On top of the usual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription plans, Pantone Connect will cost $7.99 per month or $35.99 for a full year for the first year and $59.99 annually thereafter.

“This is a very disappointing example of two major suppliers to our sector not thinking of the needs of their clients,” printing and prepress business consultant Paul Sherfield wrote in a blog post. “While recognizing [that] Adobe [has] been slow over the past years in updating areas such as these color books and ICC profiles to the latest specifications and standards, most were using the Pantone color books within Adobe CC in a seamless workflow.”

A Spot Color by Any Other Name

Over the past 50 years, Pantone has morphed from a specialty printer and ink manufacturer to a dominating force in the field of color, with a division that “forecasts global color trends and advises companies on color in brand identity and product development, for the application and integration of color as a strategic asset,” according to its website.

Nothing will prevent a user of the affected software from creating a brand-new color swatch as a spot color, selecting a color using RGB sliders to match the printed Pantone chip. For many graphic designers, doing just that and naming it by a number from a color guide will create files that can be imaged to printing plates uneventfully.

But according to Cheng, the value of Pantone colors lies in their “underlying colorimetric properties”—objective numeric definitions of the color within the spectrum visible to the human eye.

Unlike colors expressed as RGB or CMYK—which will vary depending on the monitor or the printer, respectively—these spectral color definitions using the L*a*b* color model are absolute, and Cheng describes the proprietary information as “the essential DNA of each Pantone color.”

With the help of color profiles, these numbers can be used to create consistent color throughout a production process, and given the right equipment and workflows, that data can be used with devices like spectrophotometers to measure color accuracy with more scientific precision than that exasperatingly picky art director on a press check.

Left hand holding device on top of a press sheet with color swatches.

A spectrophotometer can measure how much light is absorbed by color. By comparing it to Pantone’s proprietary spectral color data, the device can measure the accuracy of a spot color on press.

“The value of Pantone’s spectral data is indispensable for more advanced color work, including design realization, production, and advanced color conversions,” Cheng said. “While this is typically out of the design realm, knowing that Pantone Connect links directly to this vast color store help designers work with confidence in the authenticity of their color selections.”

From Color Library to Pantone Connect

According to Dun & Bradstreet, the company employs 140 people in Carlstadt, N.J., with Cheng describing a “a small family business culture” behind the intellectual property.

The private company is a subsidiary of X-Rite, which, in turn, is owned by Danaher Corporation, a multinational entity.

By multiple accounts, for eight years, Pantone has incrementally extended the terms of an expired license for Adobe to include the color libraries in its software products, which contractually precluded change in the color data or additions to the swatch libraries.

“Pantone was unable to actively update the library to correct any changes to the color data or to update it with new colors,” Cheng told CreativePro. “We had to find a way to address user problems regarding these outdated libraries.”

Marketing color access by subscription to Pantone Connect might be the future for Adobe users, but Cheng said that Pantone continues to license up-to-date Pantone color data to Serif (for its Affinity suite of applications), to Quark, and to Corel, as well as to “Pantone’s many other software partners.”

For her part, Cheng dismissed conjectures of acrimony between Pantone and Adobe, calling Adobe “a trusted partner throughout the development process” of Pantone Connect.

At present, the software comes as a web service and an Extension for Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, which effectively puts a mobile version of the website into a panel in the respective applications. Pantone Connect promises to capture the color data not only for the Pantone libraries on the chopping block but also for a range of 15,000 “brand, print, fashion, and packaging colors” in more than 12 color systems. Pantone also offers mobile apps for iOS and Google Play.

A free version of the service lets users download color swatches based on sRGB approximations of the colors.

CreativePro was able to access the Extension on the latest versions of InDesign and Illustrator. Users of Photoshop on the Mac M1 processor will find that the Extension won’t load at all, as Adobe has changed the file format for add-on software. Users wishing to access Pantone Connect and other Extensions will need to run the Intel version of Photoshop under Rosetta 2 or downgrade to version 22.2.0 via the Creative Cloud app.

The shift is not without other complications.

Pantone Connect panel from InDesign

The Pantone Connect panel in InDesign

Introduced to the Adobe Creative Cloud Exchange in 2019, the Extension is encumbered with dozens of withering, furious one-star reviews, most posted since the Adobe announcement from recent users raging at the prospect of a new subscription and complaining of performance and user interface issues in the add-on.

The software replaces a previous product, Pantone Color Manager, which offered free digital access with the purchase of physical swatch books. That product has been discontinued, along with the free access—another source of consumer rancor.

Though some users found the software perfectly acceptable, two reviews capture the recent zeitgeist.

One user, Paul Nylander, posted in December: “As every reviewer has pointed out, the plug-in is nearly useless without buying the additional subscription. Let me be clear in a way that apparently Pantone cannot: THE FREE VERSION DOES NOT LET YOU USE PANTONE COLORS IN ADOBE SOFTWARE. This, as with nearly every feature other than color lookup, is only available with a ‘premium’ subscription.”

Another reviewer, Julie Napolitano, described it as “buggy and complete garbage.”

Cheng described the Pantone Connect plug-in as “still in its early development phase” and thanked early adopters and Adobe for continuing participation in improving its quality.

Legacy Documents Will Be Fine

One thing is clear: Existing documents—both native application documents and PDFs generated for publication or distribution—will be unaffected by any changes, with essential color information (though it might be from data that Pantone says is long outdated) remaining embedded in the documents that are created with current tools. And Cheng points out that subscribers to Pantone Connect can expect minimal disruption in their workflows.

Users on professional online forums say it’s fair game for designers to back up color data files and to be poised to restore them to the proper folders should future releases remove the digital assets.

All color libraries for the programs—not just from Pantone, but from other vendors like Trumatch and Toyo—are saved as Adobe Color Book (ACB) files in a folder of varying names within the Presets folder in each respective application. While users hardly ever find themselves accessing such configuration files, these digital resources are within easy reach.

File list of Color Books folder from Photoshop: PANTONE solid coated, etc.

The legacy data in Adobe software is stored with other color definitions from other vendors within the Preset folder for respective applications.  

Cheng describes such measures from Pantone’s vantage point as “neither legal nor ethical.”

“I won’t speak to exactly how impermissible use is detected and discouraged, but I will speak to how hard and passionately the Pantone team has worked on all the Pantone colors and products,” she said.

Retired Adobe software trainer and longtime CreativePro contributor Claudia McCue has also suggested creating original Illustrator documents with desired swatches from Pantone libraries and saving them as custom Adobe Swatch Exchange (ASE) files—a method that stays within the lines of normal use of the software, even if it is inconsistent with Cheng’s appeal.

Still oh-so-Many Questions

CreativePro asked Adobe a series of questions about the implications of its announcement: what an alternative solution would look like, what resources would be involved in crafting one, the stability of its relationship with other color matching systems integrated in its software, and the legal and ethical implications of restoring existing backed-up color swatch data from Pantone after March.

Through its media relations company, the company responded to the range of questions with a single statement.

“In the coming months, Pantone Color Libraries may no longer be available through software updates for some of our apps,” Adobe wrote on Dec. 21. “To minimize the impact of this change, we are working on an alternative solution. Stay tuned for updates.”

Jeff Potter, a creative professional with close to 40 years of experience in all aspects of publishing, works as one of your editors at CreativePro Network. Separately, he also is the proud editor and designer of The Commons, a nonprofit community newspaper in Brattleboro, Vermont.
  • Anne-Marie Concepcion says:

    Excellent article, Jeff. To me the most head-scratching part is why Affinity and Quark and Corel get to offer their users built-in and up-to-date Pantone libraries but not Adobe.

    • Jean-Claude Tremblay says:

      Good question! $$$ Probably

    • Jeff Potter says:

      Thanks, Anne-Marie! This is a nagging question for me, too; I should add that a spokesperson from Affinity was warm and friendly but could not comment. I would be glad to append more information to this post or work on a follow-up.

      So many reasonable questions remain for so many users who want to feel confident that this software is stable, reliable, and supported—it represents a long-term investment in user time and productivity. In that context, the radio silence from Adobe is perplexing to me. This shouldn’t be Watergate.

      Speaking of deep background, I’m indebted to some sources who have helped me contextualize this story, even if I didn’t physically meet in a parking garage after putting a flag in a flowerpot. If anyone else has information that could be helpful, I’m at [email protected]. Discretion assured if necessary.

    • Paul Sherfield says:

      Yes, it is interesting that the Affinity apps can offer the v2 Pantone colour books in their apps at a one off cost of less then 100 dollars for each app.

    • david cardillo says:

      This has been a near constant consternation in our company for nearly a decade — trying to make the newest colors available in the Adobe apps. (They’re up to V4 now.)

      Adobe says, “won’t be updated in future releases.” They haven’t updated them since 2012!

  • Paul Sherfield says:

    Hmmm! “neither legal nor ethical.” I guess Pantone should be looking at themselves as most users which have paid for the old v2 Pantone colour books many times over when using CS and now CC.

    As as for the Lab and spectral comments from Pantone re the special “proprietary information as “the essential DNA of each Pantone color.”?

    CIE Lab is a colorimetic value based on one set of defined measurement conditions. D50, D65 etc. Spectral measurement covers a range of measurement conditions and should result in a non-proprietary .cxf file

  • Paul Rosenberg says:

    I always assumed that Adobe pays Pantone for including the libraries in its applications, and that our cost for licensing their software includes that service, like all the other components bundled in the various Adobe packages.

    I’ll be shocked if Adobe reduces the cost of a CC subscription to compensate for the loss of a vital component of its core offerings. I suspect that instead, this will be their version of shrinkflation, like getting a 7 oz carton of ice cream for the same price as the old 8 oz carton.

    This is really unfortunate, but Pantone has established itself as THE color standard and now they get to leverage that dominance and increase our bottom line annual cost for a full Creative Cloud subscription by 10%.

    It would be interesting to see creatives move toward custom colors with defined Lab values rather than defaulting to the convenience of a matching system. Any print manager is going to get drawdowns anyway, right? The savings for a studio would be huge if they moved to a roll-your-own system… a return to the Wild Wild West.

  • Laura Coyle says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful article Jeff! This sheds light on some things – but I wish Pantone and Adobe would both be more forthcoming.

    The last time I tried working with the Pantone Connect extension several months ago, it was barely useable (no library file download, just tediously searching and adding swatches one at a time). Pantone Connect puts another interface between the user and the swatches panel in Illustrator, so it takes more time to use. When you buy a book, you should be able to get the accompanying swatch library file without having to install an extension (one that doesn’t even work in PS on newer Macs).

    I really hope Adobe and Pantone figure this out!

  • Kevin Stohlmeyer says:

    Excellent article Jeff!

    No matter how Pantone spins this, it comes off as a money grab – nothing more. Why else would they discontinue offering the service free to physical book subscribers?

    I would agree with Laura the Connect extension is painful at best.

    What is even more perplexing is the fact that Pantone considers the extension to be “in an early development phase” but is still moving forward with the split.

    Until they have something flushed out they should not ask users to pay to be beta testers, and expect work arounds including adding back in the backed up previous books.

    It will be a spiral if there isn’t an influx of new subscriptions to the extension. No subscriptions = no capital for improvements and the cycle continues.

  • David Richter says:

    Really not much to add, just… sick of Adobe. Everyone needs to tell them to shove it. I bought the Affinity suite like a year ago as backup, but haven’t had the motivation to learn/use it… looks like it’s about time.

    • Dov Isaacs says:

      You may be “sick of Adobe” for any number of reasons, but this issue is not really one that can be blamed on Adobe, but rather an evolving Pantone business model in which they wish direct access to anyone using their color swatches.

      • David Richter says:

        Based on the very first comment here, this isn’t going to be an issue for Affinity, Quark, or Corel users. And there are plenty of reasons to be sick of Adobe these days, this is just another thing added to the list. Adobe products are bloatware these days… a workflow from a decade ago requires more processing power today to do something that was a breeze 10 years ago. There is no reason for that. Now I’m just waiting for the individual tools to start requiring a subscription.

  • JoAnne Pope says:

    Great article Jeff! Apparently I’ve been under a rock the past month or so, because I had no idea this was brewing.

    The situation is a mashup of so many things:

    a) Studios who pull their content from existing streamers in order to form their own because $$$

    b) Carriage disputes (their ‘no acrimony’ claim earned a side eye from me)

    c) That time Google killed Google Play Music and expected users to pay more for YouTube Music, a far inferior product. [No, I’m not salty about that. Not at all.]

  • Kent Cabreira says:

    Scenario #1 — Adobe removes Pantone, as described. Adobe retains the current pricing structure (shrinkflation, as described by a previous commenter). Pantone sells their own plug-in kit, most likely in subscription form (similar to Adobe, Microsoft, etc.), at an unreasonable price.

    Result: Cost increases for everyone. Both Adobe and Pantone make more money.

    Scenario #2 — Adobe “renegotiates” with Pantone to retain either the previous/current partnership structure—leaving Adobe software and the entire industry workflow intact. As a result of the negotiations, Adobe “must” increase their subscription costs to cover the renegotiated partnership.

    Result: Cost increases for everyone. Both Adobe and Pantone make more money.

    I believe Scenario #2 is most likely to happen, due to both the leverage that both companies hold over the industry and that neither company can sustain the public relations blowback by an entire industry—even though both companies hold near monopolies in their respected fields. Because of these “monopolies,” the industry will literally beg for either the structure to be maintained as is, or have an immediate solution that provides very limited disruption to workflows. The begging by the industry will include promises to pay “whatever Adobe/Pantone wants” to ensure the maintained structure or limited disruption.

    This manufactured “crisis” is only a means to gain both money and control.

    • Paul Nylander says:

      Scenario #3—Adobe tries to come up with their own color system, much as they did for typesetting with Postscript then PDF.

      If Adobe still had the same kind of innovative developers they once did, it might just work. Now… I’m not so sure they could even pull it off.

      In the meantime, I think scenario #1 is most likely, as they passed on the scenario #2 option years ago when they stopped updating the color books.

  • Dov Isaacs says:

    With regards to the statement that these spectral color definitions using the L*a*b* color model are absolute and that Ms. Cheng describes the proprietary information as “the essential DNA of each Pantone color,” it should be noted that there is absolutely nothing proprietary about any L*a*b* color definition. Pantone simply assigns a Pantone name to a particular L*a*b* value and that becomes a “Pantone color.” Yes, the Pantone name is copyrighted, but the actual L*a*b* color value is absolutely not protected either by copyright or patent (something very different than the situation with fonts).

    Thus, “PANTONE 7401 CP” (in the Pantone Color Bridge Coated-V4 color definitions) defined with L*a*b* values of 89, 0, and 33 respectively is nothing proprietary at all other than a copyrighted name. There is absolutely nothing illegal or immoral if I create, use, and/or distribute a swatch with the name “Phred-89-0-33” with the same L*a*b* values of 89, 0, and 33. In terms of end-to-end PDF publishing workflow, it doesn’t make one iota of difference whether I identify that particular color as “PANTONE 7401 CP” or “Phred-89-0-33” – whatever renders content tagged with that color will either use a spot color ink with that name (via a separation) for printing or will render the color using the L*a*b* definition via ICC color management and whatever available colorants are available (CMYK plus possibly gamut extending additional colorants for printing) or RGB for screen display!

    With regards to Pantone being “unable to actively update the library to correct any changes to the color data,” the fact that Pantone has made changes to some of the L*a*b* values has actually been a real problem for those who have content with “old” and “new” definitions. The content renders differently and per feedback over the years, very perceptively so. The names and their L*a*b* values should be constant for absolute consistency for both display and print over time. If Pantone wants to adjust the L*a*b* values, they should come out with a new color, in this case, let’s say “PANTONE 7401 Rev 2 CP” to definitively differentiate it from the older “PANTONE 7401 CP” and let the user decide whether to change to the updated definition.

    There are other issues here beyond what has been widely revealed in public. Pantone also supplies spectral color definitions associated with the Pantone color names. Such information is typically used in lieu of the L*a*b* definitions for high end proofing, especially for brand colors, packaging, etc. This spectral information for colors used in a document conceivably would be placed in CXF/X-4 data (an ISO standard) and embedded in a PDF/X-6 file in the Output Intent data. Our understanding is that Pantone is prohibiting such embedding in PDF files of spectral data that it provides.

    I don’t think that anyone questions “how hard and passionately the Pantone team has worked on all the Pantone colors and products” and that over the years Pantone has made significant contributions to the industry, but the fact is that over the last quarter century Pantone has morphed its business from selling inks to selling swatch books to apparently trying to monetize use of the Pantone color names themselves by the design and print community. Part of this strategy has been to publicize “trending colors” to design community along with the Pantone names of these colors. Ironically, Pantone has encouraged free use of the Pantone color names as a means of selling its other products.

    However, now Pantone wishes to change the game. Pantone not only want to get revenue for the definitions, but also to have a direct relationship with the customers using those names and definitions to allow for direct marketing of other services. Note that the Pantone Connect extension (either the crippled “free” version or the subscription version with actual definitions) requires a customer to register with Pantone (including contact information) as part of the acquisition and licensing of the plug-in! And don’t be surprised if going forward, the Pantone Connect or successor products require a “cloud connection” in order to access and use the definitions.

    By the way, don’t assume that these changes will not ultimately affect other publishing software packages from other vendors (in the same way that most other software vendors are transitioning to subscription in lieu of so-call “perpetual licenses”)!

    – Dov

    • David Blatner says:

      Excellent points, Dov! Thank you.

    • david cardillo says:

      You’re almost right, Dov.

      What Pantone owns (but wasn’t made clear in the article, no things to Chang) is the formula for creating the hues in their books based on the base pigments they sell. Because that’s their business — selling inks.

      Because we can define hues spectrally with L*a*b*, but not the physical properties of inks, like metallics and neons.

      Open a Formula Guide and see 7401 is 1.04% Pantone Yellow, 0.36% Pantone Red 032, and 98.6% Pantone Transparent White.

      Yes, you are correct that you can spec *any* color in L*a*b* and give it any name you want. But if you want someone to _print_ that hue on a press, you can pay them to blend a custom ink with pigments at their discretion, or they can break out the Pantone formula to recreate it.

      I say this as someone who specs ink using Pantone as well as ordering custom ink blends to spec.

    • david cardillo says:

      I also agree with you that statements by Chang about the “ethical and legal” implications of using existing library files goes out the window when you’re sending someone a PDF — or an Illustrator AI file or standard TIFF file that have those spot colors defined within the files.

  • Pushing Giants says:

    Let’s hope Pantone gets their Connect app/extension up to snuff because as it currently stands it is absolutely awful when it comes to its interface and ease-of-use.

  • Colin Flashman says:

    Truly an excellent article about this awful situation that software users have been plunged into through no fault of their own.
    As has been pointed out, this decision doesn’t seem to affect users of rival software, whether that is Quark Xpress, Corel Draw, Serif’s Affinity Publisher/Designer/Photo, or even Microsoft Publisher for goodness sake!
    All this decision will do is drive people to:
    * use pirated versions the Pantone libraries, or Creative Cloud in general;
    * use other color libraries such as Trumatch;
    * use to competitor software.
    I see no good coming out of any of this. Adobe and Pantone – work it out.

    • Paul Sherfield says:

      But as Dov alludes to above, is Adobe first on Pantones list for this policy with the others you list to follow?

      Re ‘pirated’ versions of colour books, users of these old versions may consider they have paid for them many times over with CS upgrades and subscriptions to CC?

      • Kevin Stohlmeyer says:

        I’d go one step further with the fact that Pantone used to allow free access with paid swatch book packages until recently. I paid for my access to the v3 downloads when I bought the books.

        There is one more aspect in the article that has not been discussed: The fact that the swatch libraries have not been updated since 2017/18 with the v3 books.

        Even with the extensions on the agreement, Pantone never supplied the aforementioned v4 books for Adobe to include in the software. So even creating a “backup” copy to install in future releases will be outdated. It seems like the relationship soured years ago and this is the culmination of failed negotiations.

        If Adobe users flock to Pantone Connect en masse (doubtful) that could push Pantone to remove in-app access in other providers (Quark, Affinity) to keep a cohesive ecosystem.

        It’s in everyone’s best interest no matter how you feel about the companies to keep add-on dependencies in the main applications not the tail wagging the dog.

  • david cardillo says:

    Here’s something no one’s talking about: Pantone Connect is far from a “solution.”

    You can’t actually add spot channels to art in Photoshop with Pantone Connect!

    Sure, you can _look up_ the Lab definition of the color, and then you can type that in manually to the color picker. But that’s tedious, at best, and prone to error. Pantone Connect doesn’t actually convey the .acb color book files themselves for Photoshop to look up the colors.

    (It may be news to some, but adding a Pantone swatch in Photoshop does *not* create it as a spot color, like in InDesign and Illustrator!)

    Photoshop is the only program with this limitation, where spot channels referenced from a .acb color book file need to have that book file installed for Photoshop (and other programs!) to reference it.

    If you create a spot swatch in InDesign and Illustrator, those programs are fine with those swatches in that document however they were defined when they were created. Put an AI file into an INDD file and the swatches just come in as they were defined.

    Even a TIFF file has the colors encoded into it, as they were defined when they were created. Even picked from .acb files, they retain absolute references so when placed into an INDD file they retain their hues.

    However when opened within PS, without the referenced color books, you’ll get an error and they’ll all be black.

    PSD files with spot colors cannot be placed into INDD files if the requisite libraries are not installed.

    (Bridge, also, will display them as gray without the libraries installed in PS.)

    We have been dealing with this for nearly a decade, as Pantone continually updates its color libraries, and Adobe keeps distributing the original Pantone+ series. The last version of Pantone Color Manager was able to update our CC apps to the latest V4 library files.

  • Michelle Buenzli says:

    My primary reaction is that it seems like if I’ve purchased the Pantone Swatch books, I should have access to whatever solution they land on for the Adobe products without having to pay more!

    • david cardillo says:

      paying for physical books used to give you license for the Pantone Color Manager app, which allowed you to install updated .acb files — and which also _used to_ give you L*a*b* breakdowns, not just sRGB & Hex.

      They’ve discontinued this app. (The app also will no longer update the color books in Adobe CC apps as of the 2022 version.)

      They used to charge $35 for it as a stand-alone app.

      the nearly useless Pantone Connect is $5/month for digital access to something you’ve already paid for physical access to.

  • Stephen Walker says:

    I have physical books that I use to show to clients.
    I feel like the libraries inside Adobe products are part of my paying for those books.

    All I can say is that it is a wonderful chance for some other ink manufacturer to offer their products as an alternative and whip the entire market out from under Pantone’s nose.

  • Paul Nylander says:

    I will add, as an addendum to my comment quoted in the article, that even the free version of Pantone Connect does allow you to transfer L*a*b values to InDesign and Illustrator if you click on the *name* instead of the eyedropper/swatch. Semi-functional, as you can then manually create a spot swatch and name it with the Pantone name.

    The second add is the reminder that it is this name, not the L*a*b values, that tell your printer what ink blend to use. The printer could care less what it looks like to you on your computer.

    Remember that the L*a*b values (or RGB, or CMYK) are really just RGB approximations in the software of what your printing will actually look like.

    Factors such as substrate and ink volume, as well as other ink additives, means actual results will vary. Don’t believe me? Consider neon or metallic swatches—there is no way to actually show those on screen.

  • Claudia McCue says:

    I’ve thought a bit more about the ethical aspect of my proposed method (using ASE) to survive the Pantonepocalypse. I suppose the PANTONE Police could argue that that’s a form of pirating proprietary PANTONE property (extra points for alliteration).

    But here’s a scenario: Let’s say you’re creating a corporate style book, which includes specs for the approved spot colors that all branches of the company must use in all corporate printed materials. Yes, I know those swatches could be stored in and shared from CC libraries, but not everyone uses those (I don’t). The ASE format is easily stored and shared without need for online access.

    Of course, support for ASE could be dropped to thwart this; anybody remember 3D in Photoshop? Adobe Muse? Streamline?

    So, the utterly manual way to deal with the future absence of any formal PANTONE definitions would be to consult your physical PANTONE Bridge book for a color (say, the lovely green, 339), and construct a spot color using the recipe provided in 3-point type underneath the swatch. What’s important is the color *name*, which dictates the generation of a printing plate. Oh, it doesn’t look exactly like the sacred swatchbook? Who cares? What you see on your screen is just a serving suggestion.

    Anyhow, I’ll be going off the grid to avoid the PANTONE Police. Let me know how it all shakes out.

    • Dov Isaacs says:

      I most strongly doubt that support for .ASE or .ACB files will be removed from Adobe applications either in CC libraries or locally. Remember that these applications (and the .ASE and .ACB file formats) support color libraries from vendors other than just Pantone and from what we already know, such support for other vendors’ color libraries is not being changed.

  • David Creamer says:

    RE: Affinity, Quark, and Corel

    I tend to blame Pantone.

    With printing, especially spot color printing, on the decline, Pantone needs income. Guides and inks sales are probably down; I don’t think they have the same monopoly on their fabric, paint, and other color systems. While I like their CMYK-only guides, they don’t tend to get outdated like the solid colors (so don’t need replacement as often) and they are not the only CMYK guides out there.

    I suspect that Pantone’s fee to a software company is based on market share. I would assume that the cost to Affinity would not be the same as Adobe’s. Pantone probably just upped the price to an extent that made Adobe balk.

    Another suspicion of mine is that Pantone wants in on the lucrative subscription market. If it is successful with Adobe software, it will only be a matter of time before subscriptions extend out to other software.

  • Cameron Poulter says:

    Top notch. Late to the ongoing discussion/comments, an odd comment. Back in the day, 4-colour process was expensive, today ’tis cheap as chips and is now the default; Pantone is now more relevant in many areas other that print

  • Brett Stone says:

    I’m curious to know if there are any updates to this soap opera in September 2022. Hearing nothing from either Pantone or Adobe isn’t sitting well with me; maybe I managed to miss it?

    BTW: all of the above conversation seems so pertinent and well described, even if various voices don’t fully agree.

  • Lee Brooklyn says:

    I pay a subscription to Adobe, which includes Pantone so I’m afraid Adobe should take the hit and I should still pay the same. I don’t quote a for a job with a client and then keep adding to it along the process. Pantone, Adobe, Apple are all out for money and the true loyal customers of these brands are being hit in the pocket time and time again! Disgusting!!

  • Hello Jeff!

    I recently put online some information about Pantone as a PDF file. I think it could be useful as well for many creative designers.
    Download link is


    Wilfrid Meffre

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