If you’ve been paying attention, there’s been a lot of buzz about Adobe and Pantone lately. Some say that Adobe is going to “break up” with Pantone; some say that Adobe is going to pull the plug on users, and some say that Adobe is going to “delete” the Pantone color cards built into its software.

Frankly speaking, this thing has actually been heard for a long time. But this time, the wolf is really coming!

The party in question, Adobe, has told half of the story on its website. The gist of it is: after November 2022, the Pantone color book for Adobe’s AI, ID, and PS will be adjusted. Pantone, on the other hand, has stated on its own site that Pantone Connect will cost $59.99/year or $7.99/month.

Since we started this article by mentioning that Pantone is charging for its Pantone Connect, let’s take a look at what Pantone is all about.

Pantone is a world-renowned color organization headquartered in Carlstadt, NJ, that develops color and supplies color systems. Today, Pantone is a wholly owned subsidiary of X-Rite.

In the 1950s, two Levine brothers, Mervin Levine and Jesse Levine, founded a small, unknown printing house in New Jersey, USA. At the time, no one could have imagined that this small New Jersey factory, called M & J Levine Advertising, would grow into the powerhouse that it is today in the fields of printing and fashion.

The year 1956 looked no different than any other year. However, in hindsight, it was an important turning point for the small New Jersey company. That year, the New Jersey factory hired a part-time color matcher, Lawrence Herbert. In 2013, his alma mater, Hofstra University, named a school in his honor, the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, and that was later.

Let’s go back to the small New Jersey factory, which has become different than before with the addition of legendary colorists. These differences were particularly evident in the pigment inventory and the production of inks.

The year 1962 was both an end and a beginning for New Jersey Minor. Herbert, the colorist who had joined the factory in ’56, bought it from the Levine brothers for $50,000 an hour and renamed it “Pantone”. Herbert also became the chairman, president and chief executive officer of the new factory after the name change.

In 1963, Herbert invented the famous Pantone Matching System (PMS). This system became the standard for color communication in the printing, publishing, packaging, graphic arts, paint, plastics, coatings, computer, film, video, textile, and fashion industries, among others.

The complex history behind the lifelike images
Let’s continue along the same lines as above.

In 1987, Thomas Noel, a PhD student at the University of Michigan, created a small program on the side of his coursework. The following year he and his brother John Noel made it a big deal, and it became the gateway to one of the top image processing pieces of all time. By the end of the year, the Noel brothers’ software had a new, familiar name, Photoshop. Also that year, Adobe bought the rights to distribute Photoshop.

In 1995, Pantone debuted its related technology, Hexachrome, at the DRUPA trade show in Germany. Color standard.

Hexachrome is a six-color printing technology. Traditionally printed in four colors, namely indigo (Cyan), magenta (Magenta), yellow (Yellow) and black (blacK), abbreviated as CMYK (for more on four-color printing, see the previous article “Why are your prints blurred when they are also black?) Hexachrome adds Orange and Green to the traditional four colors, abbreviated as CMYKOG.

In today’s digital world, when we talk about standards, they usually mean that there are two common forms: one physical and one digital. This is also true for Pantone’s color matching system, the former in the form of numerous color cards and other related derivatives, and the latter in the form of the software that accompanies them. This thing seems to be no different from other industries, but a single tree does not make a forest, and a pure color does not make a picture. Even if the colorful will inevitably involve a field, that is, image processing. And this, naturally, comes to the cooperation between Pantone and image giant Adobe.

In order to solve the problem of implementing Hexachrome technology, Pantone has developed a set of software called Hexware. In this set of software, Pantone provides a Photoshop plug-in called Hexlmage and an Illustrator plug-in called HexVector. This may be seen as the beginning of the cooperation between Pantone and Adobe.

Pantone and Adobe Design, Pantone color library into the Adobe software, greatly facilitate those engaged in creative workers. Whether it’s colorful, lifelike, or just brilliant, behind these words is the joint presentation of Pantone & Adobe Design’s cooperation.

However, the sweet time is always so short, after the hot love is always accompanied by chicken feathers. Pantone said that the color library in Adobe applications had not been updated since 2010. It was also in this year, in September 2010, Pantone quietly launched a software, Pantone Color Manager, to make up for the lack of (Adobe Pantone color library). On February 20, 2020, Pantone released version 2.4, which was never updated, and then Pantone announced that it would stop selling Pantone Color Manager on December 31, 2021. The software is no longer available for download on the Pantone English website.

What followed was the situation we see today, where Pantone and Adobe jointly decided to “remove outdated libraries and focus on improving the in-app experience to better serve our users”. At the same time, in order to solve the problem of Pantone color cards going offline, Pantone and Adobe “collaborated” to develop a plug-in: Pantone Connect Extension, to provide users with updated libraries. Of course, this plug-in must be paid for, $15 / month, annual payment of users for $90.

Well, it’s all for the best.

The wind rises at the end of the green apple. Behind this update of Adobe’s deleted library there is always something that foreshadows the situation today.

As early as when Pantone complained, Pantone may have begun to plan. Like the above-mentioned Pantone Color Manager, the initial intention may be to facilitate users to use the relevant data on Adobe’s software. But the feedback from users was that they couldn’t export AI-ready acb files with Pantone Color Manager. Around this, Pantone and Adobe kicked the ball around. The final result is that Pantone Color Manager will stop updating.

On Adobe’s side, despite being the king of its own territory, things are not so optimistic either. Pantone’s website says that Pantone and Adobe have agreed to stop distributing outdated Pantone color libraries (Pantone color cards / color catalogs) through Adobe’s Creative Cloud by March 31, 2022. But Adobe has been hesitant to delete the library. From the beginning, it said it would delete the library on March 31 this year, and then the time point became August 16, and then there was another August 31. However, it was not until November that the boots hanging in the air finally fell to the ground.

Whether it is Pantone or Adobe, they are the kings of their respective fields, and neither can shake the other’s position in their respective fields. There is a saying that it is difficult to support alone. In order to make the final product flowing colorful presentation, whether Pantone or Adobe, the two sides who are away from who are quite difficult. So, since we can not do their own far, then we have to sit down and talk about it.

In fact, in these things behind, can not get rid of a word of profit. Pantone’s profit model ultimately determines the direction of this thing. Every year, Pantone is constantly “pushing the envelope” in the color field, whether it’s physical color cards or corresponding services, behind all these products, people need to pay. As mentioned above, “there has been no update”, which affects both the user experience and Pantone’s own business promotion, and more importantly, it affects “earning money” too much. In today’s world of software subscriptions, no company can afford to be stuck with constant cash flow. Pantone’s cooperation with Adobe, the deletion of libraries and the switch to subscription system is just the right way to “take advantage of the situation”. On the other hand, even Adobe itself has gone subscription-based, not to mention Pantone’s partnership with it.

So in this case, we see the “sincere work” of cooperation between the two sides, the user-pay Pantone Connect Extension distributed through Adobe Exchange.

After reading the pains of others to delete the library fee, let’s move on to the next. For those designers who are paid by the company or not badly off, that little subscription fee is nothing, and the swatch will be updated continuously after subscription, which seems to be a good choice. However, it doesn’t end there, and for the average user, the ‘white whoring’ party, it’s not good news. The incoherence on Pantone’s website has indirectly hinted at this, while Adobe says it quite bluntly on its official website, “You may be blacked out!”

Adobe replies in the book on using Pantone colors in Illustrator:

Illustrator files with swatches from the Pantone color book will work fine when opened or placed in Illustrator (including past or future versions of the software).

Illustrator files with linked Photoshop files that are no longer available in Illustrator use the spot color channel to render gray/black.

The interconversion of CMYK four colors and Pantone CMYKOG six colors has been mentioned before, and the interconversion of Pantone colors will be mentioned in articles including Small Colors, Big Stories and this article. However, there are always some flaws in this scheme, which is the reason why many people call Pantone colors spot colors. In fact, the automatic conversion between Pantone colors and regular RGB / CMYK values is rarely seen in many software nowadays.

Generally speaking, using the converted RGB/CMYK color values to replace the Pantone colors in the text will not cause much problem, the file will open normally, and the color display will not cause major problems. However, this is only an appearance, and in fact there is some loss in the conversion process. This is because RGB specifies the color that is directly reflected under normal lighting conditions, while Pantone corresponds to the relevant ink/pigment conditions. This is like the reality where clothes, paints, etc. are the same color, but their RGB values are different under different perspectives. Pantone provides a color solution that includes all aspects of color rendering, such as printing inks, material materials, lighting, etc. Even a very inexpensive xRite has measured reflectance in 13 bands. In the color value conversion process, these 13 features will be divided into 3 RGB numbers; and the complex ink situation in the printing process will also be converted into 3 simple RGB numbers. When the two are added together, this loss is even less optimistic.

So, this creates a situation where if you specify Pantone colors and you use converted RGB/CMYK values, the final rendering will be at great risk. Although the colors look beautiful to the naked eye, you may really be “blacked out” by the party.

As a blacked-out onlooker, it is useless to be gloomy. In Pantone and Adobe can not count on the time, the more reliable way left to help themselves. Here are a few tips that may help you.

Here is a word of advice, if the father of the A specified Pantone color, must be in accordance with the requirements, do not make up. Before you start to take a long sigh, be sure to determine whether you are really “hurt”. It is only when you are really “hurt” that you need to do more homework. If you don’t use the Pantone color cards mentioned, this “blackout” can even be seen as a way to “lighten the load” on your computer. Besides, after “blacking out”, there are still three Pantone color books in the computer, right? These three color books can also cover a wide range of applications.

Although it is possible to temporarily ease the anxiety by disabling automatic upgrades, it is better to be prepared. One is Adobe’s Family Bucket series, and the other is the Affinity Family Bucket, which is a counterpart to Adobe. Compared to the former, we haven’t seen a similar announcement from Affinity yet.

In Adobe’s Family Bucket there are configuration files related to Pantone color cards. Just find these files, back them up, and re-import them (copy them to the appropriate folder) if you run into problems.

In general, the configuration files related to the color cards are placed in specific folders, and are listed below for reference based on my personal situation.

In these folders, find the corresponding configuration files for Pantone color cards and copy them out for backup. Here it is recommended to make a separate backup of the color card profiles in AI, PS and ID. Because I have seen some articles that the profiles of the color cards have different extensions in the three, although the profiles in my computer have the extension .acb.

In addition, if you don’t have a backup and you have upgraded, you can also look for a friend who doesn’t have one and ask him to “give a hand” to save it. Adobe officially provides a tutorial on how to import and create color swatches, you can also refer to it.

In addition to Adobe’s family bucket, and its counterpart Affinity also has a small bucket: including Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, Affinity Publisher, respectively, corresponding to Adobe’s PS, AI, ID. in Affinity’s suite also has the corresponding Pantone color card There are also Pantone color cards in the Affinity suite.

Coincidentally, we have not seen any “library deletion” or “blackout” announcements from Affinity, and Affinity-related swatch location files can be found below, however, Affinity and Adobe-related swatch files are not common.

However, if you look closely, the swatch configuration file in Affinity is stored as a .csv. When you open the file, you will be pleasantly surprised. This is because these .csv files record the corresponding RGB and CMYK color values.

After reading the previous article, when we look back and look again, in fact, Pantone’s complaint is also justified. After all, the flood of fashion rolls forward, we can’t stay where we are, we can’t stop. In the Adobe Exchange introduction page has this sentence, “Pantone Connect is the only way to access 15,000+ essential brand, print, fashion, and packaging colors for use in your digital design projects. For practitioners in related fields, it’s not very realistic to try to bypass the only way, to try to bypass these colors involved altogether.

For the shy worker, here is an idea to try. This method also works for those who have a hankering for new colors, or who have upgraded because they have no other choice but to upgrade.

Pantone’s website mentions that Pantone Connect can “retrieve color data to find RGB/CMYK/Hex/L*a*b* color equivalents that are close to the color of the color pass”. So we can use this feature to build our own Pantone color library.

After registering through the Pantone Connect link provided on the Pantone website, you can login to the Pantone Connect website.

Pantone Connect has three payment strategies: free, annual and monthly for individual users, and two payment strategies for corporate users; a 7-day free trial is available for Premium users. Users can use the trial period offered by Pantone to export relevant data, i.e., equivalent color values.

Once on the Pantone Connect website, select the appropriate color by performing Color -> Select in sequence.

Then add the colors to the palette, and subsequently download the colors from the palette. When downloading, we recommend selecting the small image in the bottom left corner, which has information about the color values.

The color values for the colors are available in the downloaded image. Then, refer to Adobe’s How to Use and Create Color Palettes in Illustrator to create your own color book.

In addition, we can also install the Pantone Connect plug-in to AI, ID, PS and other software via Adobe Exchange. The installation of the Pantone Connect plug-in requires Adobe Creative Cloud client 5.3 or later. Then you can extract the color values from Pantone Connect using a screenshot to create your own Pantone color book.

Third-party Freetone solutions
In addition to Pantone’s color cards, we can also consider third-party solutions such as Freetone, whose simple name reveals at least two things: one is free, and the other is close to Pantone.

Freetone is part of CultureHustle.com, a general education project by Stuart Semple, a British artist who was born in 1980 and is a post-80s artist who spans painting, sculpture, technology and more.

FREETONE includes 1280 colors, including Stuart Semple’s Pinkest Pink, Incredible Kelinish Blue, Black 3.0 and more. Like Pantone, Freetone also offers a free Adobe color book plug-in similar to Pantone, and there are many people online who believe that Freetone’s color book is comparable to Pantone.

The statement on the Freetone website is interesting in that users need to make sure that they are not employees of Adobe or Pantone when downloading and use, and that they need to make sure that the files do not fall into the hands of Adobe and Pantone.

Some other methods
In addition to the methods mentioned above, here are a few more methods to consider.

The first method is to avoid “library deletion” by disabling the Adobe Full Family Bucket upgrade. This method can even be as simple and brutal as just unplugging the network cable. Of course, this method is certainly not a permanent solution: do not upgrade, the old version of the software may have security problems; every year the new push, sooner or later there will be a point that makes you excited, and then pressed the upgrade button, so this is a way but also not a magic pill.

If you still have Pantone color manager on hand, you can use it to export the relevant data. Although Pantone’s main website no longer offers downloads, the Pantone China website currently offers a download link for the software. Note that the technical support for Pantone color manager is not available for a few days, and will end on December 31, 2022.

Similar to the above mentioned method of using color values, users can also go to the website icolorpalette.com to find the color values for Pantone colors. The corresponding color values can then be used in Adobe’s software. For those who are more capable, you may want to try the xml method, there is a color book on GitHub that you can download and try.

As far as the whole thing itself is concerned, the matter is limited to Pantone color cards (color catalogs), and only to Adobe’s software. Beyond that, other unrelated features in Adobe’s entire bucket are not affected. So far, I haven’t seen Affinity make a similar announcement to Adobe’s.

On a side note, from personal experience, the percentage of Adobe users who use the Pantone color library is not very high, and the average user does not even notice the presence of a Pantone color book in their installed software.

Then again, the scenarios that require the use of Pantone colors are not as many as one might think. Therefore, Adobe and Pantone’s practice actually does not have much impact on the general public, and only a small group of specific groups are affected. In addition, under the current digital trend, the need to use physical printing, production of materials is ultimately in a trend of reduction, so the people can be affected even less.

In addition, for some practical reasons, Adobe many of the stock of users may never upgrade their Adobe products. Naturally, they will not be affected by the change. Even if some users want to upgrade, then upgrade before making the appropriate backup, it is still time.

Finally, for those who have specific needs, or for those who work in related industries, my personal opinion is to pay when you have to, and to respect the intellectual property rights of others. pantone Connect costs $59.99 per year or $7.99 per month, which is acceptable when you really need specific pantone colors.