A client needs to produce a large logo for their front office and the production company requires us to convert the CMYK 40,48,77,17 to RAL or Pantone. I have never been faced with such a request and not sure how to approach this correctly? The logo is black text + an icon in this single CMYK code (flat color). thanks

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  • are you sure it would be printed on plexiglass? If so, I don't think there is any need for converting, since it's a digital printing process. (RAL is a color reference for industrial painting, so I think it's irrelevant here). Maybe you could get in touch with the printer directly?
    – Vinny
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 7:20
  • Not sure what they are printing on honestly. It could be wood, metal, anything. They have not mentioned this. Will i just be able to somehow give them a RAL equivalent for that CMYK code?
    – Lucian
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 7:25
  • I have removed the word plexi from the question and waiting for the printer to confirm the actual material to be used for this.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 7:36
  • 1
    If it has to be RAL (or Pantone), I think the best way will always to buy a formula guide...
    – Vinny
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 7:42
  • 2
    Besides, it looks like a gold color converted to CMYK. Maybe they would like a Metallic color. I would ask the client about it before buying the wrong formula guide :-/
    – Vinny
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 7:59

4 Answers 4


Conversion is Futile, as the Borg would say.

For this type of situation, and to save ANY doubt, you need a set of Pantone colour charts.

Your client picks a colour, and the final sign is delivered in that exact colour - its why they exist.

Bonus: they look cool on your shelf.

enter image description here

  • Buying one of these for infrequent use doesn't make sense. I never needed one in the last ~10 or so years, so a bit pricey to resolve this single issue. Most of the times i will just avoid using Pantone completely. I was kind of hoping somebody with access to one could jump in and help with this.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 15:15

Hum. If you have not defined a color profile you can not know for sure.

Find out what is the color profile they normally use on that color patch. Probably one for a coated paper. Swop2? Fogra 27? Gracol something?

Then fill a square with the CMYK values and take a measure of it on, let's say Illustrator using for example Pantone+ Solid Coated library.

It gives around P 874 C with SWOP2

But to tell you the truth I do not like the way Illustrator handles this libraries because I do not know if I tweaked the library or not. I am so dumb handling Illustrator but this is a poorly UX on the program.

Corel has a more direct approach. If I assign the same values gives P 872 C.

So, in reality, you need to grab a physical color guide and refine your decision.

  • 1
    I prefer using Photoshop to Illustrator for this process myself, but do the same thing you mentioned above all the time. Sample the color with the eyedropper tool (if necessary to load the color), double click on the swatch so that the color picker is activated and then choose color libraries. To get the best results, you at least need to know if the final substrate will be coated or uncoated.
    – magerber
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 15:41
  • Your 874C pick is very close though, each number was within a couple of points of percentile of correct. Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 2:10

Short answer: Map over into that new system - one appropriate for the production process - and get the customer to sign off on it. This may result in small change to the color.

Long answer: You're dealing with two very different taxonomies of color.

The measurement system allows you to peg numbers and codes to any color that is within gamut of the system.

  • CMYK (in ink) as in your example, defined as mixing of four theoretical inks.
  • RGB (in light), #8F6F4D.
  • HSB (in light), 31, 46, 56.
  • Munsell (in any surface, not light) and CIELAB: 6.25YR/4.5/3.6. Defined as measured values of reflectivity for hue, saturation and lightness.

The named color system defines only certain colors, and those selections are curated toward a given purpose:

  • Hardware store paint chips: burnt maize, uh, right. This is curated for the more muted colors found in architectural coatings. Defined as a formula of the 8-12 pigments found in hardware store color mixing machines.
  • Pantone: 874 C. Curated for paper documents, particularly offset printing using Pantone licensed inks. Defined in terms of Pantone's 19 ink formulations, and Pantone would like to simplify that down to 12 or 14.
  • RAL: number here. Trying to cover colors overall, but few choices.
  • Munsell when using "round" values out of the swatch book: 5YR/5/4.

You cannot map any arbitrary measurement system color (CMYK) into a named color system color (Pantone). There may not be a color there, so now you're scrambling to find the nearest. Conversely, every Pantone color has a Munsell and CIE number. (and XRite owns both Pantone and Munsell and could probably tell you.)

The entire point of swatch books is to herd the client into color choices which are manufacturable**, and eliminate finger-pointing and fighting when a color comes out not as the client expected. Just compare the "faulty" production to the swatch book and the designer is off the hook. (either the printer goofed or the client is blind).

Color matching is a hard problem. Don't treat it lightly.

** in that medium. That's why different swatch systems exist for different media. If a Pantone color exists for it, a printer can print it. Hardware store paint chips can all be made in an architectural paint. For strong colors you may need to go marine/aircraft/autopaint.

Also, for colors defined in terms of pigments, such as Pantone and hardware store paints (or any old Dupont Duco code), when the pigment is discontinued, the color dies and you start over. As a historic preservationist who has the Dupont code for the paint, this drives me bonkers.


You can use the free online CMYK to Pantone conversion tool. For your CMYK color the closest Pantone equivalents are:

  • 1265 C
  • 4495 C
  • 7560 C
  • 7749 C
  • 7755 C
  • 7756 C
  • 7761 C
  • Thanks for posting the link. I have actually used this website before, but had never bookmarked it--and your answer reminded me about it.
    – magerber
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 15:35

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