If my document only uses pantone colors does this mean it is ready for 4 color printing?

  • Not necessarily. There are a lot more variables which you have not shared. What application? how are the spot colors set up? – Scott Nov 20 '14 at 19:48
  • @Scott Application: Indesign. I used all pantone coated colors and one spot color. The printer said "it was built as 4 color process + spot colors, needs to be converted to 4 color process" – LaLa Lori Nov 20 '14 at 20:00
  • 1
    Pantone colors are spot colors. They are the same thing. – Scott Nov 20 '14 at 20:05
  • @Scott Would I need to go to the ink manager when I export to pdf and choose all "spot to process"? Thank you for your help. – LaLa Lori Nov 20 '14 at 20:09

"4 color" means "CMYK only." Any Pantone solid spot colors are automatically not 4 color, because each will require its own printing plate on press.

If you check your Separations Preview (Shift-F6 or Window > Output > Separations Preview) you'll see that there are CMYK plus spot colors. Each of these requires its own printing plate.

Separations preview with spot colors

Use InDesign's Ink Manager to make your document CMYK.

  • Choose Ink Manager from the Swatches panel flyout menu. Notice the "Spot" icons beside each of the Pantone colors.

Ink Manager dialog

  • Check the "All Spots to Process" box.

Spots to SMYK

Notice the change in the icon by each of the spot colors, indicating that they are now being built using CMYK process colors.

Your Separations Preview now shows that only CMY and K plates will be created from the document:

Separations CMYK Only

Create your PDF from this document, and your printer will be happy.


the tragedy of the Pantone spot colors being printed on a 4 color process printer is that every printer will print thase colors slightly differently. The inks are different, the white point and absorbancy of the meterial is different, the print profiles for the RIP's are different and the RIP programs are different..getting your local printer to match the pantones means more than just converting the files and sending him a file. Let him know the specific Pantones that your trying to match. you may want a printed proof before running the job. A good printer will adjust your colors to match..don't rely on the "color books" in Illustrator or Photoshop. remember that the process printer uses a mix of magenta and yellow to make orange or red...I is not like buying a can of PMS 300c red ink and simple printing it. (that would be too easy) :)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.