After reading the answers to my previous questions, How does a monitor display the CMYK color? Is it actually showing the true CMYK color? I'm very much convinced that I need to profile my monitor if I'm choosing colors based upon what my monitor shows as CMYK. Even that wouldn't be ideal. The best way would be is to have the print of color chart from the printer I'm about to print.

I cannot buy those pantom color books. It would be cheaper for me if I could print the required part of color chart from that printer.

So, is there any freely available CMYK color chart that I can order for print?

EDIT: Actually, I found few.



My main concern is can I trust these? They are pdf's I guess pdfs support CMYK profiles. If some one says, these are ok. Then I'll go a head and print these. If I'll get any other better suggestions. I'll stick with them.

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    Is the final product going to be printed by yourself on your own computer, or are you going to have these printed at a printer on a printing press? If the former, you don't need anything specific. Just pick some colors on screen, print, and then tweak your screen to match what you printed. For the latter, you want to get this directly from your commercial printer.
    – DA01
    Feb 23, 2012 at 8:36
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    I'm not going to print it directly on my printer. I'll have to print it from the press.
    – claws
    Feb 23, 2012 at 8:53
  • In that case, I'd talk to your printer. They should have something for you.
    – DA01
    Feb 23, 2012 at 8:56

3 Answers 3


Your first link, http://customtattoos.net/cmyk.pdf is a CMYK guide. The squares of colour are all CMYK in a logical order, so when printed on press (the author looks to be fine with it being used freely for any purpose) it'll make a decent guide to what you can expect. You could also make your own of course in Illustrator or Indesign, it would be a bit tedious though (and even more tedious in Photoshop).

The second link (which may well be copyrighted material) isn't quite the same thing. It is a Pantone (PMS) "bridge guide". The squares are CMYK, but they are intended to show the closest matches achievable in CMYK to each PMS colour. This can be useful if you need to convert or match PMS "spot" colour based artwork to CMYK.

One answer to the cost of running the job is to have it printed as a run-on (extra pages at the end of a live job), or parts of it in the margins. As Alan mentions, you should have a copy on both coated and uncoated paper.

Is this more hassle and cost than buying a CMYK guide off the shelf? Possibly not.


The Catch 22 here is that anything soft, like a PDF, will show you a color on your screen, but you've no way of knowing whether what you print from it will accurately show what "real" CMYK off a press will look like. To make things worse, the appearance of printed on uncoated paper is different from the exact same ink (or combinations of inks) printed on coated stock.

If your budget won't stretch to a set of Pantone swatch books, you might still find a local printer who has an older one they're no longer using (Pantone recommend tossing after a year, to ensure that fading hasn't affected the accuracy of the swatches). They'd still be close enough for all but the most critical work. There's also Galaxy Gauge, whose products are inexpensive and include standard sheets with different CMYK percentages laid out in a grid for easy comparison. They also make graphic rulers and other tools that tend to be harder to find these days.

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    I think you misunderstood me. I don't want to just pick colors from that pdf. I want to print that pdf from press and then pick colors from the printed copy based on how it looks on paper. So, I need color chart to order for printing.
    – claws
    Feb 23, 2012 at 9:02
  • I think you misunderstood, Alan. You getting a one-off, full-color, job printed on a press using inks (not wax or toner form a laser printer or digital press) would be the only way to be accurate. The cost of such a project would be dramatically greater than investing in a Pantone Swatch Book as Alan suggested. Visit www.pantone.com and purchase a color guide.
    – Scott
    Feb 23, 2012 at 9:28
  • He's intending to have it printed on press. And one answer to the cost is to have it printed as a run-on for a live job, or part sof it in the margins. I'll add to my answer.
    – e100
    Feb 23, 2012 at 9:38
  • @e100 That could get him in the ballpark. It would very much depend on how the press was set up for the "main" job that was running at the time. Feb 23, 2012 at 9:59

You can ask your printer for a chart; these charts are commonly used for calibrating all the equipment and for screen calibration as well. They contain the most reliable recipe of colors and are printed from their proofing equipment or provided by their proofing system manufacturer. Only problem, they don't have the color recipe written on them!

Proofing printers vs Press:

You mentioned "having the chart printed from press" but be careful to not get a digital print, it's worthless if you want to use it for offset as the colors are much brighter. You'll probably get a proof printed on an Iris or large size Stylus instead, the same system printers use for their own proofing.

You could always have them printed in the margin of other printed jobs but most printers already fill all the space they can on the sheets and there isn't much room left usually; sometimes barely enough for the registrations and the color bar.

The other issue with this is that even if it's on press, presses are partly calibrated manually too at the beginning and during each job, even if they have "network" profiles. So in terms of being "universally" correct with colors, the proofing system is even more accurate than the result on presses, and in fact the press operators rely on the proofs for their own calibration. Some stock/papers are also more yellow than others!

The only problem with anything you'll get printed is that it needs to be kept away from light because there will be a color change in the paper and the pigments over time.

Iris Proofing system Epson Stylus Proofing system

ColorKey 3M:

If you can afford it, you can get a "color key" version from the printer. It's a set of 4 clear polyester sheets, one for each CYMK color. That's a traditional way of proofing but still very reliable for most offset printing.

Not all printers can provide them and they're also very expensive; they need to prepared manually.

Example of 3M colorkey proofing system

Pantones Process Charts:

At this point, you might just prefer to buy a Pantones chart. There's also Pantones Process charts that show both Pantones in CMYK and Pantones. In all cases, the CMYK recipes are written below each color and that gives you already a good start even if you need to adjust the color slightly.

As a trick, if you cannot afford to buy these charts, you can find a ISO printer; due to the high requirements of quality and consistency of the ISO9000 system, these printers often need to replace their Pantones charts every year or so. If you're lucky, you could get a set of "non-ISO" charts at lower cost.

Example of process Pantones color chart

Source pictures: Colorkey - theswca.com, Pantones - modassicmarketing.com, Iris - oldtowneditions.com, Epson Stylis: jakethejeep.files.wordpress.com

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