I have a project, which needs to be in Pantone, but I have never printed anything in Pantone before. I figured out how to use Pantone via internet searches, but I am worried that what I have might not print right.

I have a pattern with a lot of subtle textures, shades, and many layers. I selected the shape in each layer and brushed over each with a Pantone colour, which was set to 'colour' instead of normal. A lot of my layers are semi-transparent, which I am thinking might be a problem.

If I make a colour with a mishmash of different Pantone layers, will it work?

Also, I have used different effects on the layers; some normal, multiply, or screen. Will this print ok?


  • We are going totally blind now. I have no idea on what your image has on it. So it is better if you post an image on what you want and what you have.
    – Rafael
    Jul 6, 2016 at 21:12

3 Answers 3


No, that is not how printing with Pantone colors works.

You can't simply select a Pantone color and use it as you would any other color as there is no way for the printer to know that it should be printed using a different ink, it will be separated to CMYK inks the same as everything else.

If you open the Channels panel in Photoshop you will see channels for CMYK or RGB etc depending on the color mode of your document. In the case of CMYK printing each channel is printed with its own ink. Pantone colors are printed with their own ink too so they need their own channel. You can read more about setting up spot color channels in Photoshop here:

Since you have to work in a separate channel for your spot color you can't use blending modes and effects like you could normally. You are essentially working with an alpha mask, not with layers. The whole point of using Pantone colors is to get an accurate color by printing with a specific color ink. If you want to change that color using blending modes or effects—don't use a spot color.

For example you can see in this document, the image is split over the C,M,Y and K channels and the "PANTONE 1375C" text is on its own spot channel:

enter image description here


A bad news

If you did not used separated channels for each ink, you need to do it again.

If you are using layers you have no real pantone information, you just have a RGB file with colors "simmilar" to a pantone.

My workflow

I never send the Multichannel, but a composition on a PDF file. The way I prepare is puting a grayscale image, but converted into a duotone with only one ink (monotone) and I use the Multiply mode and a opacity at 100% (No aditional transparency) it simulates it quite well.

The diference is that i am using bitmaps with real pantone color on each object, and I can play arround with them as if they were layers, because they are separated objects.

I do this in Corel Draw, but I asume the mode in ilustrator could work well.

Then, when I prepare the pdf file, I export it preserving the internal ink modes.

As a multichanel file is tricky is better to make a simulation of the printed plates. All must overprint, if you want the colors to combine.

Some tips

  • I have never sent more than 2 colors overprinting eachother, it could be messy not only because of the adition of inks, but also because the screen angles. I gess 3 will still do fine.

  • If you have more than 3 pantones... Would it not be safer to have a CMYK print?

  • Inks in real life reacts a bit different than the simulation, because the simulation renders a perfectly transparent ink, which does not happen in real life, so you need to test the order of the print. I send the lighter one first and after that a clear shadowy area on the top of that.

  • If the inks does not overlap or overprint, you can send more inks, but beware that they could be possible being printed in a one head machine, which mistreats the paper more. You could have registry mistakes in several passes.

I hope you are talking on Offset commercial print.

  • If it is digital forget about all the post.

  • If it is silk print... forget about all the post. Thoose inks normally do not overprint.

A way to change your psd file to real pantone "layers"

On a vector based program.

As I mentioned this process I do in Corel Draw, look for similar steps in Ilustrator or Indesign.

Read carefully the method I use on a vector based program. I am using bitmaps, not only vectors, so this will work with your file.

  1. Convert a copy of your image to grayscale. Keep the layers separated. There is a chance you will have a problem here.

If your layer is yellow, for example, when you convert it to grayscale you will get a light gray. When you asign a pantone yellow you will have it screened, this is, for example just 20% of the yellow ink, instead a 100%.

If you used masks, change the color of the main layer to black.

  1. Import this multylayer file into your Vector based program (embeded, not linked)

  2. Ungroup the file and re-asign a monotone pantone on each pice.

  3. Use Multiply mode with 0% transparency.

  4. In the case of InDesign there is a chance you need to work your photoshop layers as separated files.

On Photoshop

Copy each mask you used on each layer and paste it into a new file as a new channel. You probably need to "invert" each one (negative).

One aditional note

You probably need to adjust the levels again. For example if you have a yellow object when your turn it into grayscale it will be light gray.

When you asign a yellow pantone you will have not a pure yellow but for example a 30% of that yellow, so will be a lot lighter.

If that is the case you need to adjust the levels again so yhat light yellow is pure black, then you can asign the yellow at 100%.

This could cause bandages on gradients, so be carefull. It is better if you start your project right from start.

  • 1
    You don't have to work in multichannel mode. You only do that to work directly with all channels. You can work in CMYK as normal with layers etc and add spot channels on top.
    – Cai
    Jun 29, 2016 at 17:44
  • Hum. True. But it is a multychannel file at the end. I tested that inclusive on an grayscale file... That is funny. My grayscale image was not grayscale.
    – Rafael
    Jun 29, 2016 at 18:08
  • Yes of course. My point is that you can work with layers and regular CMYK/RGB images and effects etc. as well as spot colors. What you're describing is a workflow working exclusively with spot colors.
    – Cai
    Jun 29, 2016 at 18:15
  • I edited a bit the post accordingly.
    – Rafael
    Jun 29, 2016 at 18:20
  • Correct me if I am wrong. If I use a CMYK with pantones, the aditional channel do not overprint on the top of the others, but replaces them. Can this be managed inside Photoshop?
    – Rafael
    Jun 29, 2016 at 18:24

To best see how it will print merge (flatten) all layers in the manner and order to preserve the look you want to achieve and then change it to grayscale. Printing in pantone (I understand you will use one colour?) will use only one channel.

  • No, there are a number of different pantone colors
    – user22262
    Jun 29, 2016 at 15:46
  • For example: I have a layer that I made pantone, and I set it to screen so that it would be lighter. It looks like a completely different colour now, so would it still work? Maybe I don't really understand the whole printing process with pantone
    – user22262
    Jun 29, 2016 at 16:17
  • Umm that won't do. To get that effect in print the pantone you use should be transparent. Like CMY paints are. I think TCX are the letters that indicate transparent Pantone. Pantone will print as opaque paint so it will cover anything that is under it. What you can do is to try to put P at the bottom and then paint with CMY over it. Jun 30, 2016 at 7:26

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