I'm trying to find a way to match CMYK color to the closest PANTONE solid color. In Illustrator I use the "Recolor Artwork" dialog, in Photoshop the color dialog. But, if I convert (C=0, M=100, Y=100, K=0) to Pantone I get (185 C) in Illustrator and (485 C) in Photoshop

The thing is the results are not the same (it seems they're more accurate in Photoshop): why is that? how to be sure? is there a better way?



It seems that the conversion PANTONE <> CMYK relies on the color profile of the document. The thing is: even if I select the same color profile in Photoshop and Illustrator, the results are not necessarily the same.

The example of the red given earlier is a good one: using the 'Coated FOGRA27' color profile if both softs, I get the earlier result. But if I set the profile to 'Uncoated FOGRA29' just in Illustrator the results match... weird, isn't it?

  • 1
    You mean you're doing it by eye?
    – e100
    Aug 4, 2011 at 9:03
  • No I mean if I convert (C=0, M=29, Y=82, K=0) to pantone I get (241 C) in Illustrator and (7420 C) in Photoshop [[ the figures are made up, I don't have the softs at the moment to check the right ones ]]
    – gregseth
    Aug 4, 2011 at 12:50

2 Answers 2


This is one of those bizarre problems, the answer to which is important, but fairly non-obvious.

Your best CMYK<>Pantone match is obtained not from the application, but using the Pantone Color Bridge book (not the software version in your applications). Truly. But I know we all like to do it in software, so here are the gotchas for AI and ID:

In Illustrator, the default Spot Color display is "Use CMYK values from manufacturer's process books." You'd think that would be cool, but it's not. In the Swatches panel flyout menu, select "Spot Colors" and change this to "Use LAB values specified by manufacturer." The color appearance on screen will be noticeably different, but will give you a much better match.

In InDesign, it's similar, but in a different place: From the Swatches panel flyout, select "Ink Manager" and turn on the "Use Standard Lab Values for Spots" checkbox.

Many a designer has been driven to drink or looking for bridges to jump off because their spot colors in PS, ID and AI all looked different. So I offer this in the spirit of preserving good peace of mind among colleagues everywhere... :-)

  • Thanks, I'll try that when I'll be on the right computer.
    – gregseth
    Aug 5, 2011 at 11:06
  • 2
    Don't neglect looking at actual Pantone swatch books. On-screen comparison can get you in the ballpark IF you have a calibrated display, but if you need a real "closest match" you should go to your local print shop and look at the real thing. Aug 5, 2011 at 15:16

Photoshop and Illustrator, despite both being from Adobe, are completely different applications. Variations are inevitable in most any situation. As to why they are different is a question only Adobe can (and will probably never) answer.

Your best best in this case is to use the conversion you like more, verify all colors with Pantone swatch books, and custom color swatches and styles to ensure alignment of colors across files and applications.

  • 1
    Ok, but even if the rendering engine is different from a soft of the CS to another, only the visual result should differ, not the actual matching color, shouldn't it?
    – gregseth
    Aug 4, 2011 at 12:55
  • @gregseth: I have updated my answer per your comment to e100. Aug 4, 2011 at 13:34
  • @gregseth Yes, how rendered on screen is separate then the actual numerical values (exception probably being RGB/RGB obviously).
    – user179700
    Aug 5, 2011 at 3:42

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