I see that Pantone troubles are quite common here, but I swear the more I read about it, more confused I am. :) Every time I have to prepare files or create a brand book these doubts come to mind.

If Pantone colours are supposed to be the same why there is a distinct difference on screen between colour bridge coated and solid coated books? enter image description here As you can see in the image, some colours (black 7, 171) are quite different. If they are the same shouldn't they be equal on screen?

Another question is if we should "trust" the RGB values on the Pantone site/guide. For example, the RGB values on the Pantone site for the colour 326 are different for CP and C, and consequently, they look different on screen: enter image description here

I know that what we see on the screen depends on monitors and calibration. What I want to know is if the Pantone values are like a "safe" compromise value that Pantone come up with or if it's better if we use the values the program gives us when changing from Pantone to RGB. For example, if I were to choose the 326CP, the program gives me RGB 0 171 170.

Any help with this would be really appreciated. Cheers!

  • 1
    When was your monitor last calibrated?
    – joojaa
    Nov 9, 2018 at 13:31
  • oh man, I'm certainly giving the wrong answer, but I have to say never :)
    – hugraphic
    Nov 9, 2018 at 13:38
  • Well in that case you ought to get random results.
    – joojaa
    Nov 9, 2018 at 13:42
  • 1
    No, no... no. The RGB values should be consistent as a value, given the correct color profile, regardless of your monitor, or even if your monitor is turned off. More info on my answer.
    – Rafael
    Nov 9, 2018 at 16:08
  • @Rafael no thats not true. Systems may interpret mediums differently. They are ONLY consistent if they have same conversion intent. So in fact standard allows for 4 different ways to do it, and then have 2different ways of handling black and white point for a total of 12 valid combinations.
    – joojaa
    Nov 9, 2018 at 20:11

3 Answers 3


It all comes down to simulation and managing expectations. PANTONE solid inks like C (coated) and U (uncoated) are only different in the finish of the paper. The ink is exactly the same, but PANTONE's LAB formula for the on-screen color is designed to represent how that ink will look on the designated paper stock. Uncoated stocks tend to soak up more ink, so the finished product will appear more dull or desaturated.

Bridge formulas are different in that they are not trying to simulate a solid ink, but rather the CMYK representations of a solid ink. However, like the solid formulas, the ideas is the same: the on-screen values should represent as accurately as possible PANTONE's own on-paper CMYK representation of that solid ink.

  • Hi Bruce. Thanks for the answer. I understand the C and U differences, but my question is about the difference on screen between bridge coated and solid coated. If both are coated the color on screen should look the same, right?
    – hugraphic
    Nov 9, 2018 at 13:22
  • Not at all. Bridge is a CMYK formula that is intended to simulate a solid ink as closely as possible. PANTONE are aware that these bridge formulas can't be perfect, so their formulas for the onscreen colors are designed to accurately represent the imperfections between the CMYK formula and the solid ink, even when on the same paper. Bridge is for full-color process printing. It is never going to have the exact same color as a single-purpose solid ink.
    – 13ruce
    Nov 9, 2018 at 14:31

I have mentioned before. Pantone system is faulty, not perfect, and a lot of times misleading, but it is what we have.

It has evolved because things around have been evolving. Inks, the manufacturing of inks, digital information, ways to measure color, printing methods, printing costs, etc.

The first guides were for spot inks, direct links. In a time where 2 color print was common, where the color selection was not a precise science. The main guide is then the formula guide.

But as now CMYK printing process is now so precise and can be controlled in a good enough accurate way, we need a CMYK based system.

Color Bridge emulates the original Pantone colors to the CMYK workflow, (which is just a way to maintain some hegemony on the choice of colors) In this field, we have different not that well-standardized or well-known alternatives. For example, some "Color Atlas" that are organized in a more logical approach; values of the CMYK inks in an incremental 3dimensional way.

In that regard, the main difference is that the Coated formula guide is a more "absolute" guide. It gives you the spot color, the original color. The Bridge system is therefore not the original color, but an aproximation.

We need to understand a couple of things about CMYK color values.

  1. There is not only one way to produce the same CMYK color. There is, for example, a Chromatic and an achromatic path. Mainly, using CMY colors or using K for those values where the CMY inks neutralize themselves.

  2. Any CMYK value MUST be within a defined CMYK color profile, this is where Pantone guides excel for the lack of clarity.

In my humble tests, for example, the color transformations from a numeric Pantone to CMYK values used on Pantone.com site are using Swop v2 color profile.

This is important. If you live in Europe you would probably be using some Eurocoated or Fogra profile. Japan profile if the case. Even if you are in the U.S. you could use some Gracol profiles. I am used to the SWOP v2 profile. It is old but it still remains a consistent one, especially for the max TAC (Total Area Coverage fo 300%) ink.

In the RGB values, the SWOP standard uses Adobe1998 profile, so that is the one I think the site uses.

My recommendation is that you define your colors as:

Door Number 1

  • Pantone C, or formula guide as the main color definition.

  • RGB according to the website (mentioning that it is according to the website and on a specific date)

  • CMYK values given by the website (also mentioning that)

  • CMYK values given by the Bridge guide as a backup (also mention that)

Door number 2

  • Pantone C, or formula guide as the main color definition.

  • CMYK values according to your current color configuration of your Illustrator or Photoshop (Corel, Affinity or whatever program you are using) but you must specify this profiles software version and ICC profiles and libraries versions...

  • RGB values exporting the CMYK swatches to RGB with the profiles embedded.

As you can see, door number 2 is more relative, so go with door number 1.

I only would use door number 2, if we are working in a closed environment. If you are the only one using and managing the conversions or it is a small team. But as an identity manual, no. We need more "universal" configurations and values.


If you have the case where you want to choose a color only by watching your screen, then you need to have your screen calibrated with specialized hardware. If you are not, the color calibration of your monitor is not an indispensable issue here.

  • Hi Rafael. Thanks for the comprehensive answer. That makes quite of sense. I guess I'm going with door number 1 :)
    – hugraphic
    Nov 9, 2018 at 16:48

Depends on program. Adobe does the conversion for Lab colors to your RGB which may or may not be the same RGB that panatone uses. I would trust adobes program more since it knows more about your monitor than panatone bridge does.

Anyway seems to me that the bridge coated is not simulating the blackpoint of a montor vs the black on paper. So in fact the other is doing blackpoint compensation and the other is not.

However, please consider that what you see is a approximation. Color conversion is more about what to do when color can not be reproduced. and how to handle cases where black/white is differently colored. In this case both probbly simulate the same thing but have a different interpretation of how to handle black. If your application is any good you can change this interpretation to something else.

  • It does not only depends on the program, but mainly on the installed color profiles, and the library versions.
    – Rafael
    Nov 9, 2018 at 16:33
  • Adobe's programs do not know anything about your monitor. The monitor's values are given by the operating system. Adobe's program can't even know if you have a monitor conected to your computer. The color conversions and resulting values are calculated by the color profiles, and some other variables as the conversion "style", but the monitor is not a variable there.
    – Rafael
    Nov 9, 2018 at 16:36
  • But in a practial workflow, yes, you should trust more your own configuration of the profiles, because they are ones that you are actually using.
    – Rafael
    Nov 9, 2018 at 16:38
  • @Rafael No adobe knows no more about your monitor than yoir local system can tell you.. Thats true. But atleast it has that info.
    – joojaa
    Nov 9, 2018 at 19:49
  • But also people seem to think profiles allways work the same way. But its perfectly valid to convert values to devices max range. Its perfectly ok to keep white, white or instead make white gray to emulate paper. Or black keep as black, or emulate the black as on the paper. These are still same simulation. Simulating different aspect for different purpose.
    – joojaa
    Nov 9, 2018 at 19:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.