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  • Help with PMS


    Need to print a banner with PMS colours. I'm designing this in InDesign and have already contacted and I need to send them the Pantone number.

    Anyway, as it is my first time using the Pantone colours I would just like help understanding them.

    How do I convert my colours from CMYK to get a PMS number in InDesign? The printer wasn't very specific and have said I just supply CMYK but previously the colours printed poorly with them so I am going to supply PMS. In that case, do I change the colour mode to spot in the Swatch Options? And under the Pantone options there are CMYK uncoated and coated. How do I know which to choose?
    or do I convert the colour to PMS in Illustrator then import it into InDesign?

    Any help around this would be great.


  • #2
    In InDesign you open the Swatches Palette. In the tip down menu select New Color Swatch.
    For a banner you use Pantone + Solid Coated (not the CMYK options at the top of the menu.)
    Select the Pantone you want and add it to the color palette. It should come in as a spot and will probably have a LAB icon to the right of the spot.

    In the color palette under the tip down menu, tell it to Add Unnamed Colors. Select the CMYK color you want to swap and hit the trash can. InD will ask what color you want to replace it with. Select your Pantone number.



    • #3
      I think they're asking how they go about picking the Pantone color to match the CMYK. Or seeing if there's a way to convert. The short answer is not really. I know PD knows much more about getting the best possible match, but the short answer is your best bet is to get a Pantone color book (or use your vendors) and find a Pantone color that best matches your CMYK breakdown.
      I like to beat up pacifists, because they don't fight back ...

      N.A.N.K.A. "We Kick Because We Care."


      • #4
        There are a few online services like this one: Type in your numbers and it will come up with the closest match.

        Photoshop will let you convert fairly easily by clicking on the swatch. Strange that InDesign doesn't.
        No cell phone, no Facebook, no iAnything. Am I missing something?


        • #5
          There is a gritty dirty method to get close using Photoshop, but most times not exact matches and I certainly would not use it without first asking the client if they have Pantone callouts.

          Remember there are 10s of thousands of CMYK combinations. There are only about 2000 pantone ink mix colors. And digital printing, like for a banner, can only hit about 80% of those 2000 pantone colors because the machines are using some form of CMYK, but usually with an extended gamut beyond conventional press CMYK.

          Tell us the CMYK values.


          • #6
            Not strange at all.
            Photoshop's conversion quite literally sucks 98% of the time, just because there are so many possible CMYK combinations.
            At least InDesign is keeping a modicum of professionalism in a vast sea of mediocrity.


            • #7
              The original poster says she doesn't understand Pantone colors, so I'm wondering if she understands the nature and limitations of spot colors and when to use them and when to stay clear. For example, a typical 4-color job with hundreds colors made up from those four inks isn't a good candidate for spot color.

              Since she needs a banner, I'm assuming she'll be using large-format digital printing and only using Pantone for reference to take advantage of the larger gamut of, say, 6-color digital. Unless the OP really does need near-exact Pantone color matches for certain critical or large areas of solid colors, that larger color gamut she's after might very well be best achieved by sticking to RGB instead of dealing with the limitations of a Pantone spot colors. Anyway, the OP's question is too ambiguous for a detailed answer.

              Just something to consider... My situation differs from PrintDriver's, so my take on the importance of color accuracy comes from a different set of needs. PD's advice on these issues comes from the end of the business where precision and accuracy are essential for meeting clients' printing requirements. I'm in the part of the business that designs the things that are sent to printers, which means that I'm sometimes fussy about exact color matches and sometimes not.

              Most of the time, for me and my clients, approximate matches are good enough. When that's the case, Adobe's in-program conversions and on-screen color swatches are often fine. Typically, for me, a CMYK approximation of Pantone 185, for example, is perfectly adequate for the job at hand. As long as, say, a screen printed Pantone color isn't going to be immediately adjacent to a 4-color version of the same color, sort of close is often close enough.


              • #8
                Originally posted by SabrinaN View Post
                The printer wasn't very specific and have said I just supply CMYK but previously the colours printed poorly with them so I am going to supply PMS.
                If the printer says to provide CMYK, then that is what you need to provide. If the vendor you have contracted prints in CMYK, they will not be printing your materials in spot colors, but instead would convert your Pantones to CMYK for their presses.
                Last edited by PanToshi; 08-08-2017, 05:24 PM.
                Sketching not only helps you work out good ideas, it helps you get past the bad ones.


                • #9
                  It sounds like the OP just supplied CMYK and it looked like garbage. Or at least, not what was expected. That happens sometimes, and if on a quick proof it looks like it might go south, you try to adjust for something prettier. Doesn't always work. It happens more often if the vendor is not profiling properly, and they are less likely to prettify something too, but some files... sow's ears and silk purses comes to mind.

                  B, I like designers like you. "Close Enough" always works for me. I have a few clients that get a proof and say, ''as long as the colors look good together, it's fine.'' Only works on short term projects or one-and-dones though. If you have something that keeps coming back, say a string of tradeshows, or a museum exhibit where children can ruin the graphics, then you have to standardize the colors somehow if you are trying to put a new graphic into a hole with other prints made weeks or months ago. The machines drift. The nozzles wear. The color output can be influenced literally by the weather (high and low pressure systems.) Can drive you crazy.


                  • #10
                    Hi everyone. Thanks for the responses.

                    This banner was printed previously in the clients brand colour red ( C 4, M 100, Y 88, K0 ) and the previous designer did not understand printing properly and just got the printer to match as close as possible in Process colours. The printer however does prefer PMS colours and since their brand was not created using PMS colours from the start but instead CMYK colours, they could not provide this. So it turned out orange tinted when printed.

                    So now to avoid these problems in future I think it would be best to try and give the client PMS numbers to match their original branding CMYK colours. Having done further reading I now understand how difficult it can be to get a good match. What I think I'll do is ask the printer to print off some test swatches and hopefully they can mail them out, but I'll discuss this with the client. And yes, close enough would be great, but it was way too orange last time.

                    The printer said I can supply CMYK but if I have the PMS numbers I can also send that. But seeing it's the same printer as last time and I'm just dealing with a different person, I think it's best to get PMS colours this time so it turns out right.

                    Also yes I do now understand when to use process vs spot. Printing images would use process and a typical brand colour should be created from PMS to make sure the colour stays consistent no matter where/how it's printed from what I understand.

                    And by the way the banner I'm printing will have their brand colour in the background with a couple of images.


                    • #11
                      This banner was printed previously in the clients brand colour red ( C 4, M 100, Y 88, K0 ) and the previous designer did not understand printing properly and just got the printer to match as close as possible in Process colours. ...So it turned out orange tinted when printed.
                      I was just about to suggest looking into LAB colors instead of Pantone, but now I'm confused. That combination of CMYK definitely isn't orangish -- it's more like a fire engine red. If your printer can't get a closer match than that, I suspect you'd totally confound them by bring up LAB colors.

                      I'm not quite understanding what you wrote, though. You originally said the printer asked for CMYK, which is process color. If the client's original brand colors were specified in process ink percentages, why didn't the previous designer just give them the artwork in CMYK with the red areas colored as c4,m100,y88,0k? If he/she did that and the fire engine red printed out orangish, a more competent printing company is probably needed. Or maybe the previous designer didn't know what he/she was doing and supplied the printer with garbage.

                      If the printer is now asking you to specify a Pantone color, I've got to assume they're trying to match colors as closely as possible. Really though, if this is a good printer and the company's original brand color was in CMYK (process color), and you provide them with CMYK files where the color in question is in the right percentages, that red (with a little wiggle room) really ought to be pretty close to the red you want without it somehow wandering off into orange. If the printer really does prefer Pantone, 1795 seems fairly close. I don't have a swatch book handy, so I'm just relying on Photoshop, however. And even though a Photoshop + your computer display spot color approximation isn't anywhere good enough for exacting purposes, it's most definitely not going to give you orange when you mean red.

                      Finally, this really will be a digitally printed banner, right? We're not talking offset or screen printing or something, are we?


                      • #12
                        Yes, the printer said CMYK is fine but also suggested that if I have the PMS numbers they will use them so they can colour match. Seeing the colour printed poorly last time, I thought creating a specific PMS number this time would be better off. This printer is a fairly decent one too. And yes, digitally printed banner.

                        Sorry if this is confusing, I'm still trying to wrap my head around all this.

                        So at this point, is it worth looking through the swatch book to match PMS values? I know it can be tricky but I think it would be good for them to have a PMS match seeing they use this red across a lot of different applications.

                        Thanks for all the help!


                        • #13
                          c4,m100,y88,0k? If he/she did that and the fire engine red printed out orangish, a more competent printing company is probably needed.
                          With all the media/inksets/machines out there, it isn't always about competence when it comes to CMYK. The media manufacturers supply profiles for their media that supposedly work on identified machines with identified inksets. Key word being supposedly. But since you can put various inksets into various machines and still print on various media it isn't always a simple thing to profile stuff. I have several vendors that have one guy full time that keeps all their machines profiled. And usually a tech or six doing color checking on job files as they come in.

                          Reds are a problem. That CMYK mix on a lambda printer would look totally different from an inkjet like a mimaki or Vutek if you just tell the machine to spit it out. If the designer doesn't send a physical color match print of what they want, they get what they get.

                          The funny thing about digital print is you can have spot colors and images in the same file and not worry too horribly much about 4-color vs spot printing (just don't get me going on Spots with Transparency.) Where the money comes in, is if you want an eyeball match instead of a profile match.

                          Most machines are profiled to very very closely approximate Pantone Solid Coated colors. The media, machine and ink companies provide those profiles in conjunction with Pantone. Some printers use those profiles straight up, some use them as a starting point and further tweek them to create their own proprietary profiles. Because not every media/ink/machine is supported, and because custom profiling can cost at least a few thousand dollars in time and materials, it's the reason why printers only offer certain media, not everything under the sun. Caldera has a rip now that can so closely hit about 80-85% of the Pantone Coated spectrum that there are some vendors I know I don't even need to see a proof. Toss in a machine here and there that has OGV capability and you have even more to work with. There are still color that can't be hit though. Some you can't even get close. Reflex blue is the bane of my existence. 021 Orange is another.

                          My hit on those CMYK values is 1788C, which is one of those ''hot'' reds that is very difficult to produce on an inkjet or lambda. 1795 on the other hand, is one step darker in the Pantone chromatic scale and has just enough cyan (nearly 10%) that it actually registers enough to be able to offset the hotness of a magenta yellow mix. You'd get a good match with that one.
                          Last edited by PrintDriver; 08-09-2017, 07:33 AM.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by PrintDriver View Post
                            With all the media/inksets/machines out there, it isn't always about competence when it comes to CMYK. The media manufacturers supply profiles for their media that supposedly work on identified machines with identified inksets.
                            At the risk of hijacking the thread, maybe you can clear up some digital color matching questions for me, PD.

                            Despite profiles, differences in machines, inksets and whatever media is being printed upon, if the machine prints out orange when the color combinations going in obviously add up to red, shouldn't the operator notice that problem and do what's necessary to compensate for it rather than just relying on the machine's profile algorithms to make the decisions?

                            CMYK percentages are fixed, quantifiable values that, at least in offset printing, can be measured using a densitometer. A four percent cyan or yellow, for example, will yield exactly that: a four percent halftone dot that can be adjusted by known quantities to account for dot gain on the specified paper stock.

                            With digital, there really are no traditional halftone dots to measure and the CMYK values in the file just serve as the starting point for the digital software to recalculate the ink mixtures for that particular machine. Of course digital presses don't actually print Pantone inks either, they just print an estimation of the Pantone color.

                            So with that in mind, why is it that digital printers can successfully approximate a Pantone color, but seemingly have a much harder time doing the same for CMYK or RGB -- especially given that both CMYK and RGB are composed of quantifiable values (percentages) whereas Pantone colors are not. It can't be just a matter of the digital press operator having a Pantone swatch book to refer to when eyeballing the adjustments, is it?

                            Furthermore, if specifying a Pantone color (for whatever reason) will help prevent, say, a red shifting to orange, what happens in those digital jobs where specifying Pantone colors isn't possible, like on a continuous tone color photo. Does this just place the client in the position of accepting whatever the machine prints out -- despite the colors being noticeably skewed in one direction or another? You mentioned that the color shift problem doesn't seem to affect continuous tone images to the degree that it affects solid areas of color, but that sounds counterintuitive. If the machine is printing too much or too little magenta or yellow on the solid color areas, how could it be simultaneously be getting the colors right on an adjacent full-color image?

                            I guess I just don't get why specifying a Pantone color will produce better results in digital printing than CMYK when the digital printer is, in reality, not printing either Pantone or CMYK. This is especially puzzling to me since CMYK has measurable percentage values whereas Pantone colors do not unless you're actually mixing Pantone inks. I've asked digital printers these kinds of questions before, but I typically get shrugged shoulder responses that indicate to me that they probably don't know all that much about printing beyond what's written in the owner's manual of the particular machine they've learned to operate.

                            What obvious things am I apparently not understanding in all this?
                            Last edited by B; 08-09-2017, 01:50 PM.


                            • #15

                              Without looking it up on your layout software, what color is 71/11/91/62?
                              Those are just some numbers I typed in for CMYK values of a color I thought looked pretty on my monitor. You might guess what it is approximately, but would you know if it was the color the client wanted even if a densitometer gave you those numbers back, assuming, as in this case, the color just looked good on their monitor? The question not asked here is, did the OP get a proof? Or did they just assume it would look like the monitor and tell the printer to push the button?

                              The short answer is if you want G7 or ISO accuracy, you have to use a G7 or ISO shop. Few and far between and there are tradeoffs. They work within a specified delta-e, and there's the price. I got into an argument once with a G7 device rep because he was arguing back that I should cut my gamut down in order to make that section of the gamut far more accurate and repeatable. It meant being able to hit less colors on the profile, but the CMYK stuff would more closely resemble traditional press printing. I didn’t particularly want to be doing that.

                              Without me having to write it all out, here is a good blog post on the steps required just to color calibrate a wide format machine. Bear in mind each machine, inkset and media you are calibrating is DIFFERENT:

                              Then after you do all that, the media manufacturer goes and changes the product coating...
                              Lots of visual input and the use of measuring devices. Have more than one or two machines and several different substrate media and it is a full time job. Imagine doing that for each CMYK build in each job file that comes in. You can see why some shops just use the canned profiles. Not an excuse. Printers are like designers. Some of them are just nephews with computers, others know enough to be dangerous, many are skilled pros, and fewer still are on that G7/ISO level, if, that is, they want to work within the constraints and regulations of those systems.

                              The truth is probably 50% of the small shops out there don't know even half of that color management all that well. It’s a really big part of success of a print shop though. The better you are at it, the less time/materials are wasted. In some places they will look at you crosseyed if you talk to them about profiles. Walk away from that. But still a lot of shops will eyeball match Pantones, either by eye or with a spec to get you what you want as accurately as possible. CMYK builds, not so much. Even that matching by eye or by spec is still iffy because it's done under 5000k lighting in a color booth, then the finished piece goes into a dark trade show arena, or a halogen lit exhibit space, or the office lights are cool LED. Or worse, they are warm LED or they are florescent, which makes everything look bad.

                              As far as photo imagery goes in wide format, you sort of do have to trust the skill of the printer. For instance, if you want to do glamour photos for a high end retail environment I’d steer you away from certain print media because I know it will print the flesh tones off to the green side just due to the nature of the media. No amount of densitometer reading and color adjusting will bring it back. Or if you want to do prints that pop (I hate that word) there are some processes preferred over others. For instance, dye sub printing will give you a much more color saturated print, rather than the washed out look the same image might have on a solvent printed soft fabric. But you do have a size limitation on the dye sub. (At least until the few 16-footers out there becomes more common.)

                              Even the most basic of canned media profiles are not available to the average designer. You can’t apply them from a drop down menu in Photoshop or from the Bridge sync. The proprietary ones? Forget it. A lot of these machines have a gamut that extends somewhat beyond the normal Process printing gamut and the custom profiles. That’s why we ask for native RGB images, so we don’t lose some of your color information as you would if you saved them in the standard CMYK web swopv2. Once you save them in a lower gamut CMYK profile than the machine has, you no longer have that color info to work with.

                              The industry is at a cusp right now in the ability to color correct on the fly. It is soooo close to being automated. There are inline spectrophotometers out there that interface directly with rips. LAB is becoming more prevalent. As I said, I've seen incredibly accurate results from those using the very robust top-of-the-line Caldera rip with all the bells and whistles, but not every shop can afford that.. However, it all really starts with the designer. The designer has to have an understanding of color and how it is represented in the industry niches they work in, and how CMYK builds vs Spot vs LAB color accuracy works - and doesn't work. The designers without even the basics of Spot vs Process shouldn't be allowed to service clients.

                              Not sure any of that answers your question(s) or if it is more beating around the bush.
                              I guess the bottom line is, how important is color to you in any particular project, and how willing are you to work with your printer to achieve it?






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