I'm not a graphic designer and I need some help regarding Pantone colors. Although I work in the design field my main job over the years is 3d modeling for architecture and industrial design, so printing and GD isn't my thing. I just wanted to make a cool b-card for me and my services.

I picked two colors from the Pantone C range that I wanted to use. I read about color modes, and although I already have the basics I need some help. When I decided to print what I got I took my file which was made in Inkscape (I don't want to buy Ai just for 1 b-card) to the print shop for a test print on coated paper. The guy there uses Ai and just dropped the SVG file in Illustrator. His workflow was in CMYK and of course the colors changed.

When I made the vector file I used the HEX color values since it's that's what Inkscape works in.

My question is since this little project uses just two colors is it appropriate to open the SVG in the Ai with CMYK workflow and just edit the values as shown in the official page.


2 Answers 2


I assume you are printing digitally.

Pantone colors are a range of physical inks. They can't be achieved on ordinary digital printers just by selecting the right color in your software.

Many Pantone colors can't be reproduced with CMYK colors or in RGB. That's one of the reasons why they exist. They can even be fluorescent or metallic. To see how a Pantone color actually looks you need to have access to a physical color book with samples.

Although there are many new technologies, most printing devices are still using the four CMYK inks. They physically have four separate containers of ink. In order to truly print Pantone colors, the printer should be able to also use Pantone inks, which must be loaded into the printer.

The CMYK numbers on Pantone's page should be seen as a suggestion to the closest matching CMYK color. In reality it is more complex, since there are many different CMYK profiles for different devices in different regions. Converting from Pantone to CMYK in Adobe's applications might give you another result. There is no correct value.

Now to your case. You say you worked with HEX colors, so your document is probably in RGB. When you say that "the colors changed", do you mean that you saw it change from "good" to "bad" in Illustrator at the print shop or that the physical print differs from what you see on your screen at home? Or maybe you have a physical color book you compare with?

I haven't seen your files or your print, so it's hard to be any more precise. The guy at the print shop should be able to give some advice on how to achieve the colors you want.

  • It appears the "guy" in the print shop did not convert anything, the RGB/hex values that came with the SVG just got automatically converted to CMYK - the resulting values weren't very close to what they should be. Today we just added the CMYK values as shown on the official color pages and the result was very good. Mar 2, 2018 at 8:20
  • 1
    Well, you shouldn't be sending SVG files to a print shop.. they are web images.
    – Scott
    Apr 1, 2018 at 8:08

Unfortunately, Inkscape doesn't support the CMYK color model that is necessary for outputting a file to print. Please see this SO answer which suggests using Scribus for outputting to print.

If you intend to display graphics on screen, use the RGB color model because those are the three pixels that screens have.

If you'd like to produce colors in print, use the CMYK color model because those are the four inks that most printers have.

Keep in mind that a color on screen will never look the same as a color in print because the colors are produced differently. Colors between devices and printers can also vary which is one reason for standardized systems like PMS. The Pantone Matching System is another color model which uses the Pantone base inks to produce a set of standardized colors. Colors can be converted between these different models, but each model can produce colors that the other can't so conversions are only approximate.

If you're aiming for a specific color in print, the best thing to do is print a sheet with many variations of the target color to find the right mix of CMYK to get what you want. Set your design software to CMYK color mode and, ideally, use the same printer and inks that you'll use for your final output. You may be surprised how different some colors can look on screen versus on paper, so be sure to try a wide variety of values. Sometimes you won't be able to reproduce a color in print that you're seeing on screen, e.g. RGB Blue (#0000ff). And that will become your next design challenge.

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