Convert CMYK swatches to Pantone numbers in Illustrator

Posted on Jul 24, 2009 in adobe, tutorial | 38 Comments

Converting colors between color systems is a never ending story for designers. Much of the converting can be done by the method described in a previous article on this site. There is one conversion not possible there, one that most designers are not aware of how to do easily: How to find what Pantone color best matches their CMYK matches.

There are a few ways to do this. This time I want to show you a little known secret inside Illustrator which beats everything else in speed and accuracy.

In Illustrator, pick a few colors to work with. Usually I make a copy to be able to compare the Pantone to the original colors I have.

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convertpan04 Select all the objects and click on the New Color Group button.

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I am using the default settings here. Convert Process to Global does not need to be checked but is clever to do whenever you are making Color Groups. But notice the white triangle that is added to the swatches, which means that the colors are now Global.

convertpan07 This results in a new Color Group, where the selected colors are grouped together inside the Swatches panel.

convertpan09 Select the Color Group inside the Swatches panel. When you do that you get a new option besides the New Color Group icon, called Edit or Apply Color Group. Click on this icon.

Now we get a new window called Recolor ArtWork. Our color group is selected in this window. As you can see, the first color of the Color Group is selected and we see its value.

The highlighted button on this picture is the tool we need. This button takes all the Color Group and limits its colors to a specified swatch library – like Pantone! So, let’s find the Pantone Swatch Library.

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Click and hold this button. A huge selection of swatch libraries open. The Pantone Swatch Libraries are under Color Books and as an example choose: Pantone solid coated and let go.

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Now watch the difference we have here:

Over the button we just released it says: PANTONE solid coated and in the upper left corner you see that a dot has been added to the white triangle, meaning that we now have changed the Color Group to spot colors, which Pantone colors are.

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Before you click OK be sure that Recolor Art is checked. Now you can click the OK button and Yes in the dialog box you get, verifying that you want to change the Color Group.

Now you can verify that everything has gone according to plan. Take a look at this last picture:

The top color row are the original colors and below is the same, now converted to Pantone. A quite good match.

You also see in the Swatches panel the Color Group is still there but now with that spot color dot in it and the Color panel confirms that you have a Pantone.

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Learn it all. Learn it fast. Learn it now.

38 Comments

  1. Twitted by sigurarm
    24.07.2009

    [...] This post was Twitted by sigurarm [...]

  2. Joseph
    24.07.2009

    That is an awesome secret. There have been so many times that I’ve needed to match up cmyk colors from a file to Pantone colors.

    Thank you for the tip!

  3. Dennis Dunbar
    27.07.2009

    In order to get the proper values you must know what the destination space is and use that as the basis for your conversion. There are many, many definitions of CMYK in use worldwide and without knowing which one your end printer will be using you are simply shooting in the dark.

    Where is this covered in your article?

    • Sigurdur Armannsson
      28.07.2009

      @Dennis: This article is just about how to turn CMYK or RGB for that matter, colors you have in your file to Pantone, or any other Color Book colors. This is a task every designer has to do every now and then and probably would do more often if they knew how easy it is using this filtering method.

      The samples here show, I think pretty much that I have my color management in good order. But to take all the color management issues into account was beyond the article. I assume that professional designers have their colors in good order and would get fine results.

      However Dennis, talking about color management, destination color space and all that: Is there anywhere to be found a simple guide for designers how to color manage their computer and their files, without having to read 5×500 pages of tech book jargon?

  4. Katherine Lawton
    31.07.2009

    Thank you!!!! :)

    Very helpful & straight forward!

    Katherine Lawton

    Interior Designer

    DA Stark Interiors

  5. droppixel
    03.08.2009

    This is great, wish I knew about this a while back. I just went through a good period of time when I was having to match up swatches to CMYK…

  6. Purple-er
    07.08.2009

    Wow, thanks,

    This is a huge time saver ^_^

  7. CMYK - Pantone / Illustrator tutorial | VENTOSA kreatív stúdió
    14.08.2009

    [...] lehet beállítani a CMYK színeket, hogy a legjobb hasonlóságot mutassanak a Pantone színekhez: http://font.is/?p=1293 Könyvjelzők közé ezt az [...]

  8. Vectips Monthly Roundup: July 2009 « Why Limit Media
    26.08.2009

    [...] Con­vert CMYK swatches to Pan­tone num­bers in Illustrator [...]

  9. Från CMYK till PMS i Illustrator | Real Blogg
    31.08.2009

    [...] Länk till guiden hittar du här [...]

  10. TonyV125
    16.09.2009

    Sigurdur,

    Very well done. I was not aware of your site until now. Can’t wait to explore the rest of it.

    Thank you

  11. Lisa
    28.09.2009

    Bloody amazing.

  12. Pravin
    12.10.2009

    this is awesome secret….thanks for this secret

  13. Chris
    21.10.2009

    How cool is this! Many thanks!

  14. lee2d2
    18.11.2009

    this is one of the best secrets ever

  15. Dusan
    10.02.2010

    You just saved my day! I’ve been having problems with this conversion for a long time. Cheers

  16. Adam
    14.02.2010

    You’ve given me the gift of time. Awesome tip.

  17. Rafeek
    25.03.2010

    Awesome!!!

  18. maggie
    07.04.2010

    you are the best! Thank you so much for this post, you have saved my working day…

  19. Sarah Zee
    14.04.2010

    This article saved my life! Super easy to follow too

  20. Edwar
    09.08.2010

    Images not found

  21. admin
    11.08.2010

    Thanks Edwar. I am still having minor problems with the new server here. It seems to change randomly some picture paths to the one I used as a temporary.
    But the pictures are fixed for now at least.

  22. DConstance
    21.09.2010

    Excellent tutorial and infoshare. Thanks so much!

  23. mmmughal
    30.09.2010

    thnx for such a help full tips…
    regards

  24. Chris Pecora
    07.10.2010

    Thanks for the tip!

  25. Alma Horn
    25.10.2010

    This is one of the most helpful hints I ever came across. Thank you soo much.

  26. Josefin
    28.10.2010

    wow thank you! :)

  27. Breona
    16.11.2010

    Thank you! This is a huge help to me.

  28. THANKYOU!!
    18.11.2010

    Just had to grab the PMS from some illustrations for a costume design.
    I had no idea. You showed me the way. At first glance I was like “this looks technical”…it wasnt.

    Cheers
    Paul

  29. Randy
    07.12.2010

    How cool! What an easy way to get you to a starting point for selecting colour from known cmyk mixes… love it, thanks.

  30. khairuddin
    03.02.2011

    really appreciated it. :)

  31. mval
    12.02.2011

    awesome, awesome, …….thank´s….

  32. Usman Asif Awan
    21.02.2011

    Great i like it

    Thanks

  33. KarolinaP
    28.03.2011

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! I have been looking for this information for years.

  34. Jeremy
    07.04.2011

    Thanks for the tip. Very helpful.

  35. winny
    15.04.2011

    awesome!!!!!!!1

  36. TJ
    09.05.2011

    Beautiful! Thank you.

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