I have an old Freehand file and it has a rectangle with the Pantone 187 CVC. I use 2 different ways to update with multiple versions of Illustrator:

  • I export the Freehand file as an .eps file and open it with Illustrator CS6. I select the rectangle, I go to the swatches panel and effectively see it is 187 CVC. I double click the icon of the Pantone color and it gives me spot color C:0; M:90,98; Y:72,16; K:23,53.

  • I export the Freehand file as an Illustrator 7 file. I open the Illustrator 7 file with Illustrator CS6. I select the rectangle, I go to the swatches panel and it is a Pantone 187 CVC but it has a very different aspect compared to the other file from the original .eps. So I double click the icon in the swatches panel and it gives me spot color: C:27,11; M:100; Y:81,03; K:27,24 (If I go to an Illustrator CS4 or CS5 and I open the Freehand It gives me the same color situations).

How is it possible that the same Pantone in the same versions of Illustrator (CS6) gives different CMYK values and clear screen differences?

What process of conversion can I trust?

1 Answer 1


What process of conversion can I trust?


If you want accurate Pantone to process conversion, look at a Pantone Color Guide.

Each release of software generally results in new digital Pantone color books with different color breakouts. This in addition to varying monitor calibration and application color profiles can cause shifts in colors. Your exported .eps may have been tagged with a color profile and Illustrator read and converted that upon opening the EPS. The AI7 file probably was not tagged, and therefore AI created color breaks based upon it's default color settings.

The only truly accurate way to convert a Pantone Color to a Processes Color is to refer to a printed Pantone color guide.

  • Scott: I have had occasions where I am given a designed PDF and had to "imitate the brand." I usually pull up one of the "preflight" tools and get the CMYK values direct from the PDF. Presumably this will differ from the (correct branded) Pantone swatch I may pick, but it ought to match what has been already printed. Any thoughts on this?
    – horatio
    Oct 22, 2013 at 18:26
  • If it's from a PDF, there's been some color profile applied. Whether or not the processes breakout is accurate would depend upon that. If I know the Pantone #, I always refer to printed color guides in favor of digital means. You can always get "close" digitally, but often close is not enough. I like to be able to say, "Here... Pantone 199 breaks out to 0C 100M 65Y 0K according to Pantone's 2013 Color Bridge Guide." One "close" color and a picky client can be costly if a rerun is required.
    – Scott
    Oct 22, 2013 at 18:35
  • While I expect in some scenarios that colors are converted, aren't profiles meant to be used such that the color values are fixed and the software opening the document calculates an display/output value from the fixed value using {magic} in the profile information?
    – horatio
    Oct 22, 2013 at 20:59
  • That all depends upon the software settings.
    – Scott
    Oct 22, 2013 at 21:14

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