Pantone colors now cost extra in Photoshop

It’s very likely you don’t give a great deal of thought to where the digital colors you use originally came from. Nor, probably, have you wondered who might “own” a particular color, when you picked it when creating something in Photoshop. But a lot of people are about to give this a huge amount of their attention, as their collection of PSD files gets filled with unwanted black, due to a licensing change between Adobe and Pantone.

As of now, widely used Adobe apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign will no longer support Pantone-owned colors for free, and those wishing for those colors to appear in their saved files will need to pay for a separate license. And this is real life.

Last year’s announcement that Adobe would be removing the Pantone “color books” from its software brought consternation in the design world. One industry standard being removed from another was obviously going to create issues, but at the time Adobe said it would be “working on an alternative solution,” while rumors spread that the companies had had a falling out.

However, this month, people are noticing the effects, reporting issues with creations using Pantone’s spot colors. And the solution? It’s an Adobe plug-in to “minimize workflow disruption and to provide the updated libraries to the Adobe Creative Cloud users.” Which, of course, costs $15 a month. It’s Netflix, but for coloring in!

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Oh man, I spent over a decade working in the print industry. This completely breaks their workflows. PMS color specification for corporate logos is a huge fucking deal.

Yeah, because it’s so important to have corporate logos be consistent.

if you are printing out the packaging and marketing materials for them, trust me. They care.

Even many years later I know Blistex Blue is PMS 280c Reflex Blue

I wasn’t being facetious. I know what a big deal it is.

Someone referred to this as ransomware for the print industry, and they aren’t far off.

I’m thankful that we don’t use spot colours much any more but I know for a fact there will be plenty of them hanging around in our Adobe working files that get converted to process when exported for print. If they’re replaced with black that’s going to be a pain in the arse. I hope the Pantone name is retained in the swatches pane at the very least if so, this should be useful:

I have a bunch of colour books at work but not the spot to process values so will have to find that somewhere.

Isn’t a color a triplet of 8-bit numbers? How do you copyright that?

In this case, the issue isn’t so much the copyright of the colors (although that does happen) it’s the way Pantone codes their colors so that a given user can 100% ensure the output of a project will maintain that specific color grade across platforms. As an example, imagine if IKEA printed their yellow-on-blue logo onto different materials but used RGB or CMYK values. Because they didn’t use Pantone, their logo on wood would look different than their logo on metal or cloth, or even the angle you’re looking at it unless the guy doing the work adjusted the project manually for each situation. More importantly, the color values can be slightly off between programs so if I send a file to you, your colors may not perfectly match if you’re using a different app.

Ah, well that’s fascinating, thanks! There is nothing about pretty much anything to do with modern commerce and technology that is as simple as it appears.

P&R dystopia convergence

So what Pantone wants is professionals to use another color standard now.

Got it.

It’s past time for government contracts, and LAWS to be rewritten to include alternative color specifications at least. Corporations will adapt as it becomes in their financial interest to do so.

How does $15 a month compare to the cost of a Creative Suite (or whatever it’s called) licence these days?

The hilarious thing is that even this isn’t 100% because you’re relying on the printer to get the mixing right (at least this is my understanding). We had a client that used a very particular grey and we did their brochures for years. One day the client comes in with a bunch of them and lays them out on the table. They’re all different greys. Uh oh. Thankfully we used the same printer each time so we took it up with them. Now I can’t remember whether they accepted fault or not but we ended up parting ways with them. Their production pipeline obviously had some inconsistencies and oversights.

I dunno. Pantone is pretty embedded in the industry and has been for many years. Seems like if there was going to be some sort of open source color matching system it woulda happened by now.

I bought the Pantone Season Pass during the last sale, so I should be good for a while.

Yeah, everyone else has to level up using those horrible beiges and light yellows, ugh.

Well, I guess what I am saying is that there probably will be now.