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What is the best way to match Pantone PMS swatch to CMYK color?

Jun 20, 2013 6:32 PM

I'm looking at the Pantone swatch book colors for coated solid colors, but need to know what the best way is to match, as closely as possible, a spot Pantone color to a CMYK color. Is there a way to see these side by side? or, Is there an equivalency in the PMS book like I remember their being in the printed version of the Pantone book (which also showed ink formulas for the various spot colors,) that shows equivalent CMYK percentages to most closely match a Pantone color? It would be best to be able to see the spot and the CMYK colors side-by side on screen.

 
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    Jun 20, 2013 6:42 PM   in reply to Ken Nielsen

    It would be best to be able to see the spot and the CMYK colors side-by side on screen.

    No. It would be best to see the spot ink and the CMYK process inks side-by-side on paper.

     

    That's why printed swatch books exist. I don't care what kind of monitor you have, it is never going to look like a spot color ink. Period.

     

    Monitors glow. Ink on paper doesn't. The human eye is incredibly adjustable; so you really can't trust your own eyes when looking at a monitor.

     

    No matter what monitor you are using, it is always showing you RGB. It can't do CMYK, and it sure can't do spot color.

     

    So when the match is so dang critical, you need to have in hand a printed Pantone swatch book and a printed process swatch book. And the two swatch books need to be printed on similar paper.

     

    And if you are expecting to find perfect matches, you need to understand something very basic: Many spot inks have no exact match in CMYK. You have to make judgement calls.

     

    JET

     
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    Jun 20, 2013 7:38 PM   in reply to Ken Nielsen
     
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    Jun 21, 2013 6:10 AM   in reply to Ken Nielsen

    Provided that your color management is set up correctly, you can do this in Illustrator, using e.g. Edit > Edit colors > recolor art. But of course printed samples are way better.

     
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    Jun 21, 2013 2:57 PM   in reply to Ken Nielsen

    Graphics applications like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and even CorelDRAW for that matter have their own built-in guess-timate tables to convert a spot color such as Pantone 485C over to CMYK. Those conversion tables are not exact and the printed results will vary from one computer set up to another. The results will even change based on the types of paper, vinyl or other materials that are being printed. At best, a table showing spot to CMYK conversion formulas is at best only a good start. You'll have to tweak the results to get the spot color and CMYK printed color closer to matching.

     

    There is no substitute for having a swatch book of the colors or even materials you're wanting to mimic with CMYK printed color.

     

    I have swatch books for Pantone coated/uncoated spot colors, Pantone+ spot colors, Sherwin Williams paint swatches, a lot of vinyl swatches (from 3M, Avery, Arlon, etc.), color chip samples of colored acrylic, baked enamel aluminum products, it goes on and on. Given I work in the sign and outdoor advertising industry I often look at how printed (or painted) samples will compare with the color chips in different kinds of light -indoors under fluorescent office lamps, LED lamps, incandescant lamps and I'll take the samples outdoors. Metamerism will have a tremendous impact on how certain colors and color combinations will look under different kinds of light.

     

    JET is right in that there is no exact CMYK match for many Pantone spot colors. Those specially formulated inks often have color intensity that extends well outside of the CMYK gamut range. Many even go beyond what can be accompished with 6 or more ink colors. The same is true for many kinds of paints. And then you have some paints that do things that are simply impossible with printing (like metal flake or pearlescent finishes).

     
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    Jun 21, 2013 3:54 PM   in reply to BobbyH5280

    BobbyH5280 wrote:

     

    Those conversion tables are not exact and the printed results will vary from one computer set up to another.

     

    No. The calculations are based on Lab values and on the color management which may of course be set up differently between one computer and the other.

     
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    Jun 22, 2013 11:00 AM   in reply to Monika Gause

    Regardless of how those spot to process formulas are generated they are only a starting point. There is no substitute for generating test prints (or in my case generating prints and/or paint mix samples). Adobe's applications do a reasonably good job of getting "in the ballpark" with the particular CMYK color conversion. Unfortunately there is a lot of space in the proverbial ballpark versus getting the color match dialed down into home plate.

     
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    Jun 22, 2013 12:00 PM   in reply to Ken Nielsen

    I guess I was just wondering it there were a computer app that showed the best closest comparison, say if you wanted the best spot color to equivalent, say, solid yellow and solid magenta, which makes a warm red, there must be some spot color that tries to be the equivalent of that warm red.

    Contrary to misconceptions among those over-devoted to so-called color management (color calibration), making good process substitutes for spot inks is not just a matter of colorimetrics. Reds are a good example.

     

    If, for example, a particular logo spec is Pantone 185 (a commonly used red), I would probably spec the process substitute in that style guide as 100m100y, rather than go with Pantone's recommendation.

     

    Why? Because it's not just about reading color values by an instrument. You can argue colorimetrics all day long, but the fact is, tint screens of offset inks just don't have the visual punch of a solid ink. Eliminating the dots altogether makes a perceptually "redder" red.

     

    ...they are only a starting point...

     

    I prefer to say they are only a recommendation. People tend to think that just because color can be digitally described that there must be some mathematically perfect 1:1 correspondence between various color models. There really isn't.

     

    Designers need to understand that there is no single mathematical "conversion match" between process and spot, just as there is none between RGB and CMYK. You're substituting four values for three. That alone give you some variability. For many colors, there are multiple ways to achieve a "match" with CMYK. For example, that fact is essentially what UCR (Under Color Removal) versus GCR (Gray Component Replacement) exploits.

     

    It is not at all unusual to find a "closer" match to a given Pantone ink than the one recommended by Pantone, by comparing printed process swatches from a Postscript process print.

     

    JET

     
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    Jun 22, 2013 5:35 PM   in reply to Ken Nielsen

    Ken, you keep mischaracterizing what I say. You asked the question. I'm trying to explain something to you.

     

    I sometimes add in phase of the moon and mood of the client to the forumla. Color is always a subjective matter...

     

    I am not saying that it's all touchy-feely, subjective and artistic, and unscientific.

     

    ...and the best method (excuese) a color lab has to work with is to go 'by the numbers.'...

     

    Of course color labs "go by the numbers." That's exactly what they should do, because what the "color labs" (I'm assuming you're aluding to color management software) pursue is color calibration, and I'm in no way dismissing that or calling it invalid.

     

    I always try to "go by the numbers." Photoshop's info palette is always in front of me. That's how I learn about color correction as I go. I was "going by the numbers" when I said that 100% M may be preferable to a dot, even if the strict colorimetrics say that the tint is a more accurate color match.

     

    What the vast majority of users do is sweat blood over the hair-splitting minutia of calibration, and expend too little discernment over making the image look correct.

     

    I like the comments here that point to the fact that color is not an exact science...

    Where did I say that color is not an exact science? It is in fact "the science" that proves that RGB and CMYK are not 1:1 coordinated. The scientists know that. It's the users that don't.

     

    ...when you work with it in the real world, retinal imbalances and perceptions by individuals come into play in real-world contexts.

    And principles of human percpetion are part of "the science"; just not the science of device calibration.

     

    None of us can claim to be an expert on color when we work with color in business, because, matter of fact, the customer is the expert.

    Baloney. The graphics trades are full of color experts, many of whom were experts in color correction long before all the buzz among desktop designers became all about color calibration. Both are valid and necessary. And that's why the customers have always budgeted for their services.

     

    JET

     
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