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I am trying to create a colour swatch for a brand based on the branding guideline supplied by the original designer from around 2014.

In their branding guideline they have supplied the following colours (written out as supplied by them):

PMS Proc Blue - c100m10y0k0

PMS 369 - c60m0y100k0

black (no CMYK supplied)

white (no CMYK supplied)

File exported as .png directly from Illustrator:

brand-guideline-export

So I loaded these values into Adobe Illustrator and this is what I got:

c100m10y0k0 - #00a1e4 - r0g161b228 (PMS Proc Blue based on CMYK values supplied)

c77m29y0k0 - #0094d8 - r0g148b216 (PMS Proc Blue from the filled shape in the file sent by designer - opened in Illustrator)

c60m0y100k0 - #72bf44 - r114g191b68 (PMS 369 based on CMYK values supplied)

c58m7y100k0 - #7ab51d - r122g181b29 (PMS 369 from the filled shape in the file sent by designer - opened in Illustrator)

c73m70y62k78 - #1a171b - r26g23b27 (black from the file sent by designer - opened in Illustrator)

c0m0y0k100 - #231f20 - r35g31b32 (black based on default "print" swatch library CMYK values in Illustrator)

c0m0y0k0 - #ffffff - r255g255b255 (white based on default "print" swatch library CMYK values in Illustrator and the filled shape in the file sent by designer - opened in Illustrator)

Then I loaded them into color.adobe.com and this is what I got:

c100m10y0k0 - #00E5FF - r0g229b255 (PMS Proc Blue based on CMYK values supplied)

c60m0y100k0 - #66FF00 - r102g255b0 (PMS 369 based on CMYK values supplied)

c0m0y0k100 - #000000 - r35g31b32 (black based on default "print" swatch library CMYK values in Illustrator)

c0m0y0k0 - #ffffff - r255g255b255 (white based on default "print" swatch library CMYK values in Illustrator)

So I decided to check the Pantone website (using Find a Pantone Color | Quick Online Color Tool and searching by the CMYK values provided), and this is what I got:

c100m12y0k2 - #008DCE - r0g141b206 (PANTONE 2394 CP) (Blue)

c100m13y1k2 - #008BCC - r0g139b204 (Alternative 1 - PANTONE Process Blue CP. So at least I found one close to the name supplied with the CMYK, but still not bang on)

c59m0y100k0 - #6DAC4F - r109g172b79 (PANTONE 3501 UP) (Green)

c0m0y0k100 - #544F4B - r84g79b75 (PANTONE P 179-16 U) (Black)

c0m2y0k0 - #FCF6F5 - r252g246b245 (PANTONE P 75-1 U) (White)

Now I'm really confused as to what the actual colour values are!

I'd be happy to use the values provided from the Pantone site (however I'm not sure about what values I should use for the black and white. I found this question on blacks which I'm thinking is what I need.), but when I put those values in Illustrator and color.adobe.com, they still don't match each other. All 3 sources output different values.

Can anyone advise me on what would be best practice here? I've never come across this issue before. I'm a web designer by trade so I've always worked off the hex values, but I want them to be correct to the design... I'm going to be designing for web and print design.

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colours that are different between applications

They are not "different between applications"... colors are different between situations.

"Best" practices

Leave the values as Pantone... and leave someone else deal with the problem! This is sort of a Joke, Irony but also the truth... Let me explain.

A Pantone conversion, as other posts commented, depends on the color space. But somethings not mentioned is that also depends on the color profile... and of the method of approximation (method of squeezing a 3D shape into another 3D shape)

So this is a changing subject.

A more specific issue is that Pantone has some strange practices of "redefining" the conversions. For some of us that are using the system across some years, it is a bit more obvious. Some years ago you could download a PDF from the official site, with some conversion values. This values changed in some of them. Now are not distributed anymore, but they have software that will "keep the latest updates"... DO NOT USE IT (because there is a big chance no one else on your workflow will; so stay with the installed ones by your design software)

Now: the "real" best practices long version

1. If you are on a closed workflow.

Keep the values as Pantone. Although most people use the "Subscription" plan, that potentially updates all applications and libraries at the same time some can use different versions with different conversion values. The same if some other users are using similar programs that handle conversion libraries, Corel Draw or Quark Xpress for example.

If a provider knows their stuff, they will also prefer to handle specifically a Pantone>CMYK conversion themselves.

If a provider does not, also send the Pantone, and let the machine do the Hocus pocus stuff machine does.

2. Define your color space and color profile (Fogra? Gracol? Swop? Japan?). Calibrate your printers, talk to any supplier, ask which color profile they are using. This is normally for commercial print, where you actually need to know what CMYK values you are sending. But in the end, the point (1) still applies, let your working software and workflow do the conversion.

3. For an "open" workflow. You need to expand the Color policies to the web design department, to some PowerPoint presentations, etc. Use the values the Pantone website provides. But only for the RGB values.

In my limited experience (yes I have done some tests) as Pantone is an American company they are using the SWOPv2 specification, which uses Adobe1998 Color space, and SWOP v2 for the CMYK conversion. But as mentioned on point 1 and 2, if you need CMYK print let the software and workflow do the CMYK conversion.

Best practices

  1. For commercial print, leave the Pantone values as long as you can. Let the software you are using do the conversion, once the profiles are defined.

  2. For web design, leave the Pantone values as future reference, and use the RGB values of the official Pantone website.


For the specific Black. You need to define, again if it will be rich black (Artificially generated), spot ink, pure K channel, or the resulting of r0g0b0 after a CMYK conversion considering point 2 on the previous explanation)

  • The color profile just defines the colorspace and conversion intent. So if one describes that object needs to have a color space and conversion intent one has described color profiles. (but not entirely becuse a profile is not technically enough you need atleast 2 profiles, source document profile and current device profile to do a profile to profile conversion. In practice one may need 3 profiles though) – joojaa Mar 8 at 15:48
  • also i fail to see how a conversion to AdobeRGB would be a good choice for the web which is assumed to be sRGB. it would create very wrong results. But then this hardly matters at all +1 anyway. Standard practice seems to be far from best, more like poking head in sand. – joojaa Mar 8 at 15:54
  • I am not saying you should use adobeRGB for web. I am saying that some tests I made make me think Panone is using SWOPv2, which uses adobe1998. – Rafael Mar 8 at 16:55
  • Thank you so much for your answer. This really helped! – dpDesignz Mar 8 at 21:03
  • I will run some tests again on the values about RGB conversion and see how different are the results using sRGB and Adobe1998. I will update if anything needs to be updated. :o) – Rafael Mar 8 at 23:53
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TL:DR

Color does not really work this way. They are all right and all wrong. These are only numbers, not colors, they are meaningful only on one device worldwide and if you want to share that info you need to know what device and how it's calibrated.

The real answer

The first thing to realize is that there is no such thing as RGB color. You need to have additional information paired with the RGB values to produce color. So RGB values become color only when paired with the information of what space you are using. So saying values in sRGB, AdobeRGB or ProPhoto RGB without knowing this, we have no idea whether or not they in fact are the same color.

The same thing applies to CMYK color; there's no such thing. It too needs to be paired with the colorspace you are using. In either case when converting from CMYK to RGB there's no one right solution, there are several ones. It all depends on what the conversion's aim is. Standard defines 4 different ways called conversion intents. So your supposed to be able to make 4 different color conversions at all times even when you do have all color info pinpointed.

Now the conversion is only meaningful if we know what the space the end user is seeing. Since you design for web you would assume sRGB with the knowledge that nobody actually sees the color as they should. SO it is relatively meaningless what the color is since the users view is totally random. I mean when did you last calibrate/profile your view? (if its more than say 2 weeks ago then you cant know what the color really is either)

With this in mind it's not really all that surprising that you get several answers. It would be more surprising if you'd get the same answer all the time.

PS: There's pretty much only one hard subject in graphic design and it's this one. And it's really really hard, most engineers would consider it too complex to waste one's time on.

  • Thank you so much for your answer. This really helped! – dpDesignz Mar 8 at 21:02
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The actual appearance of CMYK colors depend on the used print process. In software the result depends on the used color profiles. Spot colors such as Pantones are defined in Pantone color reference book and they are not dependent on computer color systems, they must be considered as paint mixtures which are numbered.

If one wants to select colors for his forthcoming printing, I let him choose from Pantone book to be sure he really gets what he said and I also will be able to show "You wanted this and you got it". There are actually several books for different printing materials. Colors on computer screens and presented as CMYK numbers are far too vague when one wants to specify exact colors.

Pantone is a serious business which is intended to make money. For this reason there's no freely available accurate conversions between Pantones and other color systems. You can easily find something like this (a part of a long list):

enter image description here

Even Pantone has one. Do not expect them to carry the truth. At least not before you see in which light the Pantone chips are watched, what is the used RGB standard and what is the used CMYK color profile. And your display, of course. must be color calibrated.

Adobe obviously has included plausible conversions to its graphic software and it's ok as long as the wanted Pantone is possible to be displayed is RGB and fits to the color space of the used CMYK profile. Adobe surely has paid a hefty sum to Pantone to get the needed data or a secret data exchange is done to benefit both parties. Do not expect to get the same data for free from elsewhere.

The procedure:

Rely on Adobe's software. For web set your document color mode=sRGB and to see it right (as right as your monitor with its current calibration status can output) be sure your View > Proof colors is set to display sRGB. Input colors as Pantones except for black use RGB=00,00,00 and for white use RGB=255,255,255. Convert Pantones to RGB in Colors panel.

For printing your color mode and proof colors must be as the printer tells to get Pantone to CMYK conversion right. The colors should still be inputted as Pantones. In theory you can print with spot colors instead of CMYK but that costs real money. In CMYK the white (=white paper) is 0,0,0,0 but the deepest possible black formula should be asked from the printer, if it's wanted. As an acceptable replacement, I guess, you can use text black ie. k=100% C=M=Y=0.

You should inform your boss that the previous designer made a little lousy work (=no color profiles given) and you must assume the Pantones are the right guess. Also negotiate, if the black can be text black (=100% k) and the white=paper white or is something finer expected.

  • Thank you so much for your answer. This really helped! – dpDesignz Mar 8 at 21:03

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