I was given a PDF map to recolour in Illustrator. I've added some Pantone colours to my colour library. When I assign those colours to a shape in the map, the colour is washed out.

The opacity is 100% and I am not using a tint.

The document colour mode is CMYK.

Help appreciated.

  • 1
    Are the colors spot colors or CMYK colors?
    – Scott
    Jul 28 '20 at 18:35
  • They were spot colours @Scott.
    – Insight
    Jul 30 '20 at 1:09
  • Then it is most like due to the LAB color definition Illustrator uses. I hate it. But it will cause Pantone colors to appear less saturated Adobe forums on the matter
    – Scott
    Jul 30 '20 at 3:44

Make sure that you are using the "Coated" PMS library and not the "Uncoated". And if the map will be printing in CMYK anyways, consider using Global colors instead of PMS. A Global color will behave like a PMS in your artwork and design, but converts to the set CMYK when you output either to a printer or as a PDF to send to the printer.

See this Adobe Blog Post: Global Colors


The "washed-out" effect is common with CMYK documents. For one, pure black in CMYK appears faded in comparison to RGB.

Change the color mode to RGB and try reapplying the colors. That should help.

  • The map is going to be printed so needs to stay in CMYK.
    – Insight
    Jul 30 '20 at 1:10

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