PMS Color Confusion

Hey all. I am freelancing for an agency. I designed a note card and envelope for them. Their printer requested the files be sent with PMS colors. The in house designer sent me this: Logo-Palette2

I’m unclear on which color book they are using. Is there a standard I should assume?
There is a 7700 for both coated and uncoated, and the color values they listed don’t match the pms color values.

I’ve requested an AI file with the color swatches but they just keep sending me the jpeg.

I have only worked with pms in terms of me choosing a color from the physical book, then applying the swatch in illustrator. Doing it this way is new to me. Am I missing something?

I wouldn’t assume anything when it comes to print, and especially when it comes to color.

One would like to assume, since it’s an envelope, that the reference would be uncoated. But you’ll learn in time that many people, even seasoned veterans, don’t know what they’re doing half the time.

If you’re in personal contact with your client, see if you can request a physical sample. As a long time print professional myself, nothing is more critical than having a benchmark sample print.

I’ve had customers request PMS Blue 541 C. To which I match precisely. And the customer rejects it. They “believed” that’s the color they have been using all this time, but either they were mistaken, or the color had been allowed to walk over time, or was improperly matched in the first place.

Color management is a precarious road. And something I’ve learned to specialize in to avoid such pitfalls.


Pantone coated and Uncoated are the SAME INK on different paper. The ink mix is the same, those books only represent what the color might look like on coated or uncoated stock – and that is a lie unless you are using the exact same paper Pantone is using.

We always assume the designer means Coated when specifying a number without a C or U. If the number has a U, we will contact the designer and ask them if they meant C, or if they want us to match the actual uncoated chip in the swatch deck. They are, more often than not, totally different colors. This is in the US. In Europe, for specific print processes, they want you to be looking at the Uncoated numbers, but that’s a whole different and likely off-topic ball of wax.

Most digital print machines (in the US) are calibrated to profile on Pantone Coated.

Only about 80% of Pantone swatches can be matched via profiling on a CMYK inkjet press (maybe up to 85% if you add cmyogv capability.)

If you are trying to match a Pantone for CMYK, you’d find yourself a Pantone Bridge, find your Pantone in the Coated column, then check if the matching Process swatch next to it is even close. If not, search through the deck to see if there is another Process swatch that comes closer, and if so, use those CMYK values instead of the ones for your Coated color. I don’t have my Bridge here in my home office to check if that’s what they did.

Some printers will do a shotgun test for clients (for money) and come up with a custom CMYK mix that works on their press. The designer mistake is to assume those numbers will work on any press.

If you are sending the design to a printer who either chart matches or is tightly profiled you can use the Pantone Coated color. Unless for some reason you want to match an uncoated color.
if going to a gang press or a CMYK printer use the specified CMYK values.

The RGB values, are not used in printing. Even the one RGB print process out there uses Pantone Coated, if you want a color match. You can use those for web work, but Hex color specs are better.

What isn’t catching on is LAB values. There isn’t an easy way to visualize LAB values in a book but if you have ISO verification and/or GRAcol standards, those are a very dependable way to get consistent color. I’m not a fan of either as they give up gamut to reproducibility, but I’m old and set in my ways too. I chart and shotgun to get as close as possible to the Pantone, if the customer pays for matches. Profiles are so tight these days they come darn close already and maybe only need a point or two of correction.

If color is important, get a proof.

And note:
Printdriver is a US-based digital-wide-format-print dude. Your mileage may vary. Slightly.


And, as Biggs mentioned, getting a physical swatch from your client is very helpful.
Sometimes even the Pantone book they are looking at is 2 or 3 points off from book to book, and definitely year to year. Not too long ago, Pantone changed a lot of their color formulas to include a wider color mix ink set. It’s very noticeable in the blue Pantones that things have changed. This was when the Pantone Plus series came out. Books previous to that year will not match. You thought the “Plus” was for more colors? Nope. It was because printers now had to buy more inks to match the spot formula. Yay.

For an “industry standard” those books are far from standard.

I hate Pantone.

Something is seriously wrong with the info the in-house designer sent you. It’s impossible for the CMYK tint for 7700 to be 123% y and 123% k. Get clarification from the client.


Ha ha
I didn’t even see that!
It’s a carry over from the RGB column.


You too? Told you designers can’t count.

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Nah, simple matter of not caring enough to read the numbers here. If it came to me as a job, I’d’a’ noticed.

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Yes … that is not helping this being less confusing lol

Thanks for all the great info PrintDriver!
What I’m getting from this, is that the coated book is the standard. Is that correct?

Sounds like my safest bet here is to use the coated color book in ai (with the pms numbers provided by the designer) so I can send to the printer.

I’m not dealing directly with the end client so any proofs would be on the in-house designer’s end.

I don’t know why they wouldn’t just send an ai or pdf with the correct colors in the first place. But, why make it easy?

You saw the part where the CMYK build for the 7700 is incorrect, right?
Maybe they are testing you.

(You can’t have a C, M, Y, or K value over 100)

Yes I’m aware, that’s why I put the jpeg with that info in the post.

I think I’ll just contact the printer and see what they say about all this.

Whatever you do, when you submit your final artwork to your client, always always always have your client physically sign a letter confirming that everything (including the colors) are correct. Disregard this CYA step at your own risk.

I’m not quite sure why you’re confused on what to do, but I’m confused about what you’re asking.

Since someone has made an obvious mistake in the Pantone 7700 CMYK breakdown (and who knows what other mistakes they’ve made), why would you contact the printer about it?

Was it the printer’s in-house designer who sent you the bad information? If so, contact that person. If it was someone at the agency, contact them.

If the “in-house” designer said the colors were Pantone 7700 and Pantone 368, well, that’s what they’re after. Why would you need an .ai file to confirm that? As PrintDriver mentioned, Pantone colors use the same ink formulae on coated and uncoated paper stock. It’s just that the ink sits on top of the coated stock while being absorbed into the uncoated stock, which changes the way the color appears. So will this be printed on uncoated or coated stock? That might affect which Pantone color gets chosen and could also affect the CMYK or RGB breakdowns. Of course, that seems sort of irrelevant if you’ve already just been instructed to use 7700 and 368.

In addition, will this job be printed using spot colors (Pantone in this case) or will it be printed CMYK? If it going to be printed in Pantone spot colors, all the printer needs are the Pantone numbers — the CMYK and RGB breakdowns are superfluous, but the obvious mistakes in them might confuse someone. If, on the other hand, the printing company just wants the Pantone colors so they can do the ink breakdowns themselves to best match the desired colors using whatever printing method they’re using, again, all they need are the Pantone numbers.

It this were my problem, I’d immediately contact the “in-house” designer who sent you the bad information and get it straightened around. If, as you suggested, this person is unresponsive and keeps sending you pointless JPEGs, bump it up the ladder to his/her boss or your contact at the agency (or wherever) and say you can’t proceed until the “in-house” designer sends you the right information.

And since someone in the process has already made a mistake and is being less than helpful about clearing it up, do as @PopsD said and make sure you have solid documentation from everyone signing off on every aspect of the job because when the job doesn’t turn out right, everyone will start shifting blame and the fingers will start pointing at you. Don’t let this happen.


Graphic design survival 101. On top of that, good SOP.

Hi Just-B
I guess I didn’t explain my question well. In a nutshell, I wanted to know which color library to use in ai when someone sends me just the pms numbers.

So I asked the printer (after my last post here), and they said to use solid coated or uncoated

I apologize if all the other info I gave was not pertinent.
Thank you so much for taking the time to help me.

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