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If I buy the Pantone license, will my CMYK colors be more accurate on-screen?

Explorer ,
Jan 23, 2024 Jan 23, 2024

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Hi--I'm asking this because I have all sorts of CMYK swatch books, including the latest ones. What I do is look in the CMYK swatch book to see the color I want, and plug those numbers into the CMYK swatch window. On screen it doesn't always really look all that similar. This is a big problem since clients want to see on-screen what they will get ... An example: when I plug in the numbers for P-112-5U, (a sky blue) which in theory should look ok with black type on it, on-screen it's darker and so I've changed the type to white, but ... well you can see the problem. If it prints out looking like the swatch, the white won't be contrasty enough, and if it prints out like it looks on-screen the black type won't be contrasty enough.

 

I have also tried downloading and installing the Pantone Plus .acb file and using that. If I plug in just the values the color is a bit more vivid, but not a lot. Which makes me realize I just don't really understand how it all works. Either I don't have something set up right or that this is what you get when you pay Pantone for a license. Any help with this would be so very greatly appreciated!

 

I am using a Macbookpro with Design and Print display setting.

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How to , Print , Publish online

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Community Expert ,
Jan 23, 2024 Jan 23, 2024

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No.

 

Spot colors are entirely dependent on the correct ink being used on the press. All representations of them in an app, whether it's a "pretty mix" you cobbled up, a CMYK equivalent of a standard color chip or an integral color defintion from a library,  are just approximations. Having a color library to pick from is a great convenience, and having a standardized color system to pick from and tag separations and flag colors for review and other designers is a pro asset, but... they're all just made up, to one degree or another.

 

If you don't work with Pantone colors very often, and looking up the screen mix equivalent isn't any great interruption to your workflow, you probably don't need the subscription. Just be sure to name your swatches with the color designation so that there's no confusion anywhere down the line.

 

If you work for one of the major gloss magazine houses or a design firm with international brands, the speed, convenience and 'assurance' of the library will be well worth it. But it still won't improve the screen depiction of the colors.

 

Put another way, color libraries don't bring anything secret, magical or proprietary to the game — just easy standardization and user convenience, easily replicated with a little designer effort.

 

As for the larger question of screen colors vs. print colors... if you aren't working with device color profiles and a calibrated screen, you're always going to have to use some judgment and follow some reproduction tech rules to get desired results. It's a whole sub-industry in itself.

 

 


╟ Word & InDesign to Kindle & EPUB: a Guide to Pro Results (Amazon) ╢

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Explorer ,
Jan 23, 2024 Jan 23, 2024

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Thank you for the clarification, I'm glad to hear that! I guess by spot colors you mean solid colors? I always thought spot color meant it was a special ink and not CMYK, sort of by definition (i.e. it would have its own printing plate). As for the screen -- I am using the display called Design and Print (P3-D50) and it seems to work pretty well for photo images.

 

It used to be so easy to calibrate the screen, using a Color Monkey. Apparently you can calibrate the screen still, but it has gotten so complicated it makes my head spin. And, even then, who knows what the client sees.... anyway, this is such a relief. Thanks again.

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Community Expert ,
Jan 23, 2024 Jan 23, 2024

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I jumbled the terms a little there, but Pantone (with a few fringe exceptions) is all about spot colors, which have to be represented by a specific ink color mix on the press, or simulated using CMYK (which only works well for a subset of the overall color range), or simulated onscreen using RGB. While you might work with a CMYK color to represent a specific shade, it's only a 'spot color,' technically, if you're going to output that color by itself to its own plate and ink. Otherwise, it's just a CMYK (or RGB) mix, usually called a 'custom color.'

 

Getting colors consistent across displays, especially when most are low-end/office grade displays and printers, is a big headache. Anyone who's done design very long has had a customer scream about getting the colors wrong because the PDF you sent wasn't a perfect color match from their Epson multicopier. 😛


╟ Word & InDesign to Kindle & EPUB: a Guide to Pro Results (Amazon) ╢

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Community Expert ,
Jan 23, 2024 Jan 23, 2024

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Hi @alisonl0shi , You can still use .acb files in the latest version of InDesign, but you have to install them in the correct folder yourself, which you may have already done. The InDesign .acb libraries are installed in this folder: ⁨Applications⁩ ▸ ⁨Adobe InDesign 2024⁩ ▸ ⁨Presets⁩ ▸ ⁨Swatch Libraries⁩.

 

It’s important to note the PANTONE+ Solid libraries are defined as Spot colors with Lab definitions. The Solid ink libraries are not process CMYK colors—they can be converted to CMYK simulations of the solid ink color, but the conversion values are entirely dependent of your document’s color management settings. There is no CMYK equivalent of a solid ink Pantone color that would be accurate for all press conditions—the conversions have to be color managed. More here:

 

https://community.adobe.com/t5/indesign-discussions/branding-color-guide/td-p/10818696

 

 

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