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Design

Quick Tip: How to Create Pantone Colors in Your Designs

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Creating spot colors to use on your print designs needn’t be a headache. This quick tip will show you how to create Pantone swatches quickly and easily, and how to share your Pantone palettes with other Adobe programs.

pantone logo

1. Why Pantone?

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is an internationally recognized color reproduction system. A Pantone color can be reproduced with exactly the same color output regardless of different manufacturers or different locations. Basically this means that when you use a Pantone color in your designs, printers will be able to reproduce exactly the same color time and again. CMYK colors, by contrast, can have slight variations depending on the software used to generate them and the technique used to print them.

That might sound a bit too specific, but you’ll actually find that Pantone colors are incredibly useful and are widely used across professional design and print businesses. A common example where you might want to opt for a Pantone color is if, say, you’re designing branded items for a company that has a particular brand color. If you don’t want that color to be reproduced slightly differently across business cards, letterheads, signage, etc., a Pantone color will ensure that the brand color will always appear consistent.

Some key things to know about Pantone colors before we get started with creating them:

  1. Pantone colors are spot colors—spot colors are printed on a separate print run to CMYK process colors, so this can increase the costs of printing your design.
  2. Pantone colors are identified by a number in the Pantone Matching System—a couple of additional letters following the number refer to the paper stock that you’ll be printing on. Different Pantone colors are adapted to different paper stocks (e.g. coated, uncoated), as the paper stock can affect the appearance of the printed color.
  3. Fun Fact: Each year Pantone declares a particular color ‘Color of the Year’, based on Pantone’s forecast for consumer color trends for the year ahead. For the first time ever, Pantone announced two colors for the 2016 Color of the Year title, Rose Quartz and Serenity.
pantone rose quartz

Read on to find out how you can create Pantone colors in Adobe software. We’ll be creating the swatches directly in Adobe InDesign, but we’ll also look at how you can share a saved Pantone palette with Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.

2. How to Create Pantone Swatches

Pantone swatches are surprisingly simple to create in Adobe InDesign using the Swatches panel. Let’s explore how...

Step 1

Open up Adobe InDesign, and create a new document for Print. Any page size and number will do, as we’ll just be using the document to create our swatch palette.

Expand the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches)

full list of swatches

Select and delete all of the default CMYK color swatches sitting at the bottom of the list of swatches, using the trash can button at the bottom of the panel.

swatches panel

Step 2

Select New Color Swatch from the panel’s drop-down menu. 

new color swatch

In the New Color Swatch window, change the Color Type from Process to Spot

new spot color

From the range of options in the Color Mode drop-down menu, choose the appropriate Pantone type. Let’s say we are planning to print on coated paper (as opposed to uncoated matte paper). In that case, we would choose PANTONE + Solid Coated.

pantone solid coated

Step 3

You’ll notice that InDesign has now loaded a huge range of Pantone colors into the PANTONE menu below*

*Top Tip: Unless you’ve been given a specific Pantone number to locate by a client or colleague, it’s recommended that you should first refer to a Pantone color book to help identify the color you’d like to use. Even if you’ve calibrated your screen, the colors as you can see them on the computer may appear different to your printed result. To ensure you don’t get a nasty surprise, they’re worth the investment!

You can either scroll through the colors, which are ordered numerically, or type into the text box above to bring up a specific Pantone swatch in the menu.

swatch options

Click on your selected swatch, click Add to add it to the Swatches panel, and then click Done to exit the window.

And there you have it! You’ve added your first Pantone swatch to the Swatches panel. 

Step 4

You can continue to add Pantone swatches to the Swatches panel using the same process. 

If you’re planning on using your Pantone swatches for the same print job, or related jobs, make sure to stick with the right Pantone type for the sort of paper you’ll be printing on.

Eventually, when you have built up a lovely selection of Pantone colors, you’re ready to save this as a color palette, which you can share across software programs and share with others over email or websites too.

swatches panel

3. How to Share Pantone Swatches

Step 1

Highlight all of your Pantone swatches in the Swatches panel, and then choose Save Swatches from the panel’s menu.

save swatches

Choose a filename for the palette and a file location, and click Save.

save pantones

When you navigate to the file location, you’ll see that InDesign has saved your palette as an Adobe Swatch Exchange (ASE) file. 

ase file

Step 2

You can now open Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop and use your saved Pantone color palette straight away.

To do this in Illustrator, open the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches), and from the drop-down menu choose Open Swatch Library > Other Library.

other library

Navigate to where you saved your ASE file, and click Open. Illustrator will open your palette in a new window.

pantone palette

In Photoshop, expand the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) and choose Load Swatches from the panel’s menu. Navigate to your ASE file location. 

load swatches

When you click Open, Photoshop will add your Pantone colors to the end of the existing selection of swatches in the panel.

swatches panel

Conclusion

Creating and sharing Pantone swatches is quick and simple to do once you know how! In this quick tip we’ve looked at three stages to creating Pantone colors to use in your artwork:

  • Know your Pantone basics—Pantone is based on a color matching system (PMS) which categorizes colors by number and paper stock.
  • Create Pantone swatches—we looked at how you can create Pantone spot color swatches in Adobe InDesign, using the Swatches panel.
  • Share your Pantone swatches—you can save your Pantone swatches as an Adobe Swatch Exchange (ASE) file, which you can open in other Adobe programs or share with others over email or file transfer.
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