Looking for a reliable CMYK uncoated colour guide book. Pantone is a little expensive (especially for design graduates), in my opinion. Is there an alternative with ICC profile and stock details specified?

3 Answers 3


I thought the same thing when I first started. Pantone really controls the market on their colors. Personally, I got my full set used from eBay for $30. They do recommend getting a new set annually, claiming the printed colors can fade on the samples, but unless you're a pro print shop, going with a used set every couple of years should suffice.

  • Hi Paul. Yeah, Pantone really do control the market. I'm looking at some sets but I find their annual updates a little confusing... The colour labeling hasn't changed surely over the years? How old a book can I get? I see there are older ones for about 80 euro, but I feel like I'm missing out!
    – johnp
    Oct 10, 2015 at 20:23
  • The age of the set doesn't matter as much as the condition. Mine were 9 years old when I got them, but they're still in brand new condition in the original zippered case. But if you're patient shopping for used, bigger companies and firms often sell their previous year's set when they get a new one. Also check with local print shops to see if you can aquire a set when they update, and print shops usually update often.
    – paulmz
    Oct 10, 2015 at 20:32
  • Thanks, I'll have a look for more used sets then. I know a local printer that may help.
    – johnp
    Oct 10, 2015 at 20:35
  • @paulmz The age matters for perfect color control because the stock on which it was printed on becomes yellowish with time and the ink can also slightly change colors depending how you store your chart! That's why you will get some cheap Pantones books online; somepeople need to update theirs every 2-3 years for this reason and for accuracy. But for everyday graphic design and get an idea of the Pantones, an old color chart is alright. Tip: It's a good idea to not expose your chart too much to the sunlight or leave it opened; use the package to store it or put it in a box when you don't use it
    – go-junta
    Oct 10, 2015 at 21:15
  • 1
    @go-meek Yes, I agree completely, especially about the "everyday graphic design". There's no need for a new Pantone set annually if you take care of it. Honestly, my set is always in it's case and trust its accuracy well enough. But each designer should definitely decide this for themselves.
    – paulmz
    Oct 10, 2015 at 21:21

Here you are mixing 2 diferent points:

CMYK uncoated colour guide book vs. Pantone

Is a CMYK color reference search for a cmyk color atlas, cmyk color index book https://www.google.com.mx/search?q=cmyk+color+atlas+color+index

But remember a cmyk prind depends on the standard you are using, are you using european inks? Japaneese ones?

A Pantone guide is expensive becouse each color patch is printed separatedly, so you have a guide that has 2,000 diferent paches.

  • If your main goal is to see how a cmyk value looks when printed you can buy a color atlas.

  • If you need how a defined Pantone color looks, go for a guide.

  • If you need to see how a Pantone color looks when printed in a cmyk process, use the Bridge guide.

For a specific printer

Lets say a home printer, a digital printer on a shop there is near your home you can make your own set of patches, and send them to print. This will be the most acurate color reference there is for that particular printer.

  • Hey Rafael, thanks for your answer. Just to clarify, if each printer uses a different standard, as you say, do you know what Pantone base their CMYK conversions on? I know Pantone have their own indexing system. I'm based in Europe, by the way.
    – johnp
    Oct 10, 2015 at 21:06
  • Printer, as printer workshop: In an ideal life, they need to standarize their workflow and provide you with a color profile. In a good world, they work with a predefined standard, like a Swop2 and Gracol in US, Fogra, Eurocoated, in Europe. If you select a diferent profile, each Pantone swach in Ilustrator for example will be converted to diferent CMYK values. Here is an answer to a similar topic: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/61003/…
    – Rafael
    Oct 10, 2015 at 21:42
  • I was aware of ICC profiles worked but it all makes much more sense to me now, thanks!
    – johnp
    Oct 10, 2015 at 22:34

Not Pantone, nor Uncoated, but here is an inexpensive alternative for UV Coated/Non-UV coated on standard 16pt card stock that provides CMYK printed examples of the default Adobe Illustrator Print Color Swatches for $25

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Amazon: Shades Color Swatches Coated & Uncoated CMYK Process System Guide

Ebay: Shades Color Swatches Coated & Uncoated CMYK Process System Guide

  • I saw this product and was tempted to get it but...turns out there's only 54 total colors in this...which is rather limiting. I'd love it if they came out with more robust system even if it cost more.
    – DA01
    Feb 18, 2021 at 4:38

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