Right now, I'm trying to create a radial gradient for a client who uses Pantone 282 and Pantone 5415 (Navy Blue and a sort of Slate Blue). The problem is, I'm getting this ugly-as-sin gray taking up a large portion of the transition space.

Blue Gradient with Grays

Why? And how can I fix that?

I have read a couple of articles from Google searches, but they always seem to terminate in a black stop and the solution is to "add richness to the black". These are going to be print pieces used in a variety of media and I would like to stick with the Pantone or at very least CMYK values when working.

I'm looking for a smoother blue-to-blue transition, like this (I achieved this by playing around and setting both stop colours to LAB):

Correct Gradient, but done with LAB colours


1 Answer 1


Pantone to Pantone gradients are really never smooth on screen. The translation to RGB for display doesn't tend to allow for smooth transitions between spot colors. L*A*B is smooth because it's spectrum is not as rigid as spot colors.

Create two separate gradients, one which goes from Pantone A 100%-0% and the other which is Pantone B from 0%-100%.

Stack these two gradient on top of each other and set the top object to overprint in the Attributes Panel.

Then turn on Overprint Preview in the View menu.

This will do a better job of displaying the pantone gradients as they would appear off press. It's not 100% smooth on screen due the translation to RGB for monitors. However, it's better than trying to create a pantone to pantone gradient.

This same technique works better in Adobe Illustrator as well.

  • Is this just an onscreen solution? In other words, if I work with the original gradient (Pantone to Pantone) will it print properly, just look "off" onscreen? Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 18:53
  • 1
    No. Pantone inks don't mix in plates. They are solid plates. It's not like being able to reduce the percentage Cyan slowly while increasing the percentage of Magenta but both colors contain some percentage of C and M. With Pantone to Pantone gradients, at some point, there's going to be a hard color shift on press where the "other" color stops. You're better off overprinting the Pantones to accurately achieve the gradients on press. This way ink on top of ink creates the blend between colors.
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 18:56
  • I should clarify, you can reduce the percentage of Pantone 1 while increasing the percentage of pantone 2 on plates. The difference is really knockouts if you don't overprint. Overprinting simply removes the "knockout" factor and allows the two inks to be more smooth when printed.
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 20:42
  • Could bad registration ever affect the outcome of the gradient if you were to knockout instead of overprint? Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 22:17
  • @armadadrive Bad registration will pretty much always effect everything. There's no getting around bad registration. But yes, knockouts with bad registration are generally way more noticeable.
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 22:41

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