Pantone Plus Color Books in CS6 Explained

Color WheelAnd where did all these LAB color swatches come from?

In CS6, the default Pantone Plus (Solid) color libraries are now based on Lab values instead of CMYK. Therefore, the CMYK builds in CS6 are different from previous versions because of the ICC profile that is referenced during a spot-to-process conversion. When converting colors to CMYK, take note of the build you are expecting (i.e. check if it is the same CMYK build as in previous CS versions and that it is the same build across all applications). If you have specific brand guidelines, the build can be significantly different, not the typical refinements that characterize Pantone updates (see examples below).

My recommendation is to establish internal and vendor guidelines that say, “Our green is Pantone 340, and the CMYK build is 100/0/66/9. Please use this CMYK build for all 4C process jobs.”

If you’re not sure what color library was used, look at the colors in your swatch palette:

color graphic

Putting The Predictability Back Into Print

Pantone® and Adobe have made a fundamental change in the way color is defined in CS6, resulting in different – and unpredictable – CMYK builds if you start with the default spot colors and change them to process colors. The CS6 default Pantone+ spot colors are now defined as Lab values instead of CMYK builds. Pantone’s thinking is that the device-independent Lab color space is more consistent across a range of media – web to print, iPad to billboard, computer screen to silkscreen.


  1. The Pantone+ Color Bridge books do not use the same CMYK values as previous versions, so it is difficult to match previously printed projects.
  2. Pantone+ spot colors do not convert to defined CMYK builds, so conversion to CMYK will not match previous versions.

How to Make Predictable Color

Match Previous Spot-to-Process Conversions

An easy way to make sure your spot colors will match previous CMYK conversions is to open an old file that uses the spot color(s) you want in your new CS6 document. The spot colors will be imported with their original CMYK definitions.

Here's a Workaround

For any new spot or process color, choose from the Pantone+ Color Bridge book in the Color Books Library (the color name ends with CP for Coated or UP for uncoated). These colors are built from CMYK and give a predictable result when printed. If you want to print the color as a spot Pantone ink, you can always change it to a Spot Color using Swatch Options in the Swatches Panel.

Spot Swatch OPTIONS graphic

Pick Up the Correct Colors

If you have used the spot color prior to CS6 and want the CMYK conversion to match, you will need to either open a previous file with that color in it in CS6, or make your own CMYK color using the previous CMYK build.

Adobe Says:

If it’s necessary that your colors are identical in CS5 (or earlier) and CS6, you can replace the Pantone Plus Series® with the older Pantone color books (see instructions at the link below). It’s also necessary to change the setting of the Spot Color dialog of the CS6 document to “use CMYK values from the manufacturer’s process books” (found in the Swatches Panel drop down menu – see screen shot). Here’s a link to find out more from Adobe.

Spot General OPTIONS graphic

Unfortunately, the days are over when you could build your whole job with spot colors, then change them to process later and get predictable results.

Tags: tools



207 Arco Drive

Toledo, OH 43607-2906

Phone: 419.861.8611

Fax: 419.861.3299

Affilate Websites