I am getting a product label printed and the printer is asking that the text in the PSD file to be identified as PMS colors. I renamed the title of the layers to the specific color (e.g. Pantone 116) but I guess that is not enough. Below is the message sent by the printer.

"The text is still being called out as 4 color process (4CP). We cannot hold this small text in registration on press and the text needs to be identified as individual PMS colors."

Can someone help me out by listing the steps I need to take to identify each text layer as individual PMS colors?

1 Answer 1


In order to break out spot colors, you must use the Channels Panel. There is no other way if you need proper separations. This is often one reason Photoshop is simply a poor tool to use if you need Pantone colored-text, especially small text.

Rather than write a lengthy tutorial on spot colors here are a few links to follow (I'm not specifically endorsing any of them, they are just Google Search results which fit the topic):





Basically, what you need to do is create a new Spot Color Channel via the Channels Panel. When you do so you can define the color. Then whatever appears on that channel will separate to that spot color plate. The Spot Channels are black and white only (like a layer mask). Black will print the color, white will not.

Note that spot channels do not use layers. You need to construct everything in the channels. The first link above is probably the best for a walk through of the general procedure. You don't really need a DCS2.0 file as the link states at the end. You can save a .psd or .pdf or .dcs2 all three formats will retain the spot channels. *Do not save as any other format or you'll lose the spot channels you construct.

You'll also want to have a CMYK file. Leave the C. M, Y, and K channels there in the Channel Panel. Do not remove them. If you have no CMYK color, then simply make certain the CMY and K channels are 100% white with no black or grey on them. But leave the actual channels in the file.

  • Thank you. Just curious, is it typical for printers to ask of this from designers? I've never had to go to this length for PMS colors, but then again I don't work much in print.
    – Desi
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 21:05
  • If the file is to be printed with spot colors and all you delivered was a flat Photoshop file, then yes it would be typical. More so if you've created subtle color transitions within the image. Typically spot color jobs aren't created solely in Photoshop.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 21:08
  • Ok, thank you for the explanation. It just seemed like something the printer could work out since the psd was layered with each layer being renamed to its Pantone color. I don't work in print, though, so maybe I'm making it really hard on him or something.
    – Desi
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 21:11
  • As you can tell by looking at the links I posted, the procedure to break out spots can take quite a while depending upon the artwork. And in almost every case, the artwork will need to change to match the correct set up. It's not the printer's job to do this. They don't bid projects factoring in design time. And they generally don't ever want to alter artwork they receive. I would not trust ANY printer to do this for my files.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 21:12
  • Is this process easier using Illustrator?
    – Desi
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 21:15

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