14 Replies Latest reply on Jun 17, 2010 4:14 PM by largha21

    Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?



      I have been working on the graphic design of a tin top for some time now, and just now came across this problem this morning.  I have been working entirely in RGB since I began so that I could utilize a full range of colors.  Recently, I found out that the company that is manufacturing the tin is able to print in Pantone solid coated.  I then decided to convert the tin design to RGB colors that match colors in the Pantone solid coated color book.  This worked for quite some time without any problem; i was able to design the tin using a vibrant green, red, orange, and purple.  This morning, I went to save my most recent document - i have created multiple documents using the same colors with slight design variations - and the only thing that was different about this document was that the red tone i used came directly from the pantone solid coated color swatch palette.  When i went to save the document, a message came up that read "when spot colors are used with transparency, changing them to process colors outside of illustrator can generate unexpected results." After that, i don't know what happened.  Aside from the original design, which has the vibrant green, i am unable to duplicate the green using the color palette.  It automatically converts to a paler, ugly green.  As with CMYK, there now many shades that I cannot seem to use because the shade is deemed 'out of gamut'. This problem seems to apply to many of the colors i have been using, primarily green tones.  I have checked, and all my color settings are still RGB, even though the color palette seems to be acting as though it is in CMYK.  When i select the vibrant green using the eyedropper, it immediately appears paler when i try to access it from the color picker. Also, whenever i save my current tin... the one that still appears with the vibrant green in illustrator... it appears as the paler green as a jpeg and pdf (unless i look at the file in acrobat pro, then the vibrant green is retained.)  I don't know what is going on, and am wondering how to get back to my old settings so that I can work with a full range of colors. What surprised me was that I haven't run into this problem before and I have been working with these colors for many weeks...  It is also putting these restrictions on all my older documents as well as newly created ones.  Any advice would be much appreciated...


        • 1. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
          Monika Gause Adobe Community Professional & MVP

          Please post your color management settings.


          Is your document RGB or CMYK color mode? Did you ever convert the color mode?

          What kind of swatches did you create?


          Exactly which file format did you save? Which options?

          What did you do with the saved file?


          Did you re-open the document?


          That warning dialog box does nothing else. It just warns you. So whatever happened, is caused by the options you chose.

          • 2. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
            largha21 Level 1

            My document is - and has been - in RGB color mode.  I never switched it.  The only thing that I did was add pantone solid coated to my color swatches, and of the pantone solid coated colors, i only used 2 directly: a red called 484c and a green called 368c.  I colored some of my tin with those colors using the eye dropper.  All other colors are direct RGB.  Another thing: i noticed a change in my color picker... When you are in the color picker and you click on color swatches, a super simple palette with only 20-30 colors shows up.  I don't remember ever seeing one this limited before, and I believe that the shades available to me may be limited by this.  However, i cannot figure out how to change the color swatch within the color picker, which seems to be part of the problem. I have included a screen shot of it... If there are any other screen shots i can take to clarify, let me know.  In the shot, you can also see how the selected color in the color picker, it is darker than the green on the tin behind it, even though the green on the tin is what was last selected using the eyedropper.Screen shot 2010-06-17 at 3.09.53 PM.png

            Illustrator automatically converts shades like pantone green 368c into the pale shade in the color picker.

            As for my file format: it has been an Ai file all along.  That is the kind of file i have been working in.  I save jpeg or pdf copies of the Ai file to distribute to people for feedback... people who do not have illustrator.  I did not change the way I saved the file or any of the file settings.

            Overall, i never changed any of my settings, which is why I am so confused.  This whole thing started abruptly after that warning window popped up, and I can't reverse it.

            Could it have something to do with the fact that illustrator considers the pantone shades that I used to be spot colors, while it doesn't consider RGB in the same way?

            I have tried restarting the program, reopening the docs, opening older docs, and creating new docs.  All of them do the same thing.  I have also checked my color profiles, etc.  They all indicate that the document is still and RGB document.

            Is there anything more specific i might be able to show that could help?


            • 3. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
              Monika Gause Adobe Community Professional & MVP

              If you want to edit the swatches, you have to open the swatches palette. As for book colors (which is what the Pantone color is, please see these links:




              You will have to create spot colors out of those RGB swatches as well I guess - please ask your printing service. After that you'll have to assign them to the objects again. You can achieve both by "adding used colors" to the swatches palette (it's in the palette's menu)

              1 person found this helpful
              • 4. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                largha21 Level 1

                I see what you are saying, but I am not sure whether that is the issue.  Illustrator is taking well defined pantone and RGB colors.... ones which I have been using previously without trouble... and has been converting them - for a reason i do not know - to shades that seem an awful lot like CMYK shades.  I have already accessed the pantone swatches and have them available.  Technically, all my colors except white are in the pantone swatch set.  That part is fine.  The problem is that illustrator is taking these pantone colors and is changing them to a different shade...  In the same way that CMYK does when you try to access a shade that does not exist in CMYK.  I have tried deleting all shades from my palette and filling it with pantone colors... but illustrator still alters the colors when I try to use them.  Is there anything else I can do?

                • 5. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                  Monika Gause Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                  Have you changed any of the preview options? Or color proofing turned on using CMYK-options?


                  The color picker can't serve as a comparison. The brighter colors you are referring to, were inside the document, correct?

                  • 6. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                    largha21 Level 1

                    i have not changed any preview options or, as far as i know, color proofing options (how would I check?).

                    As for the brighter colors... yes, they are within the document, and have been for a long time (the last few documents of tin prototypes I have made).  The only exception is the red, which i recently fine tuned using the pantone color palette before this problem began.  I was able to work with all the colors (including the bright ones outside the CMYK gamut) until I saved the document and the warning popped up for the first time.

                    • 7. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                      Monika Gause Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                      Proofing options is in View > Proof colors and in View > Proof Setup


                      See if it is checked and which options you have in Setup. Ususally when using CMYK Proofing you'll get the dull looking colors

                      • 8. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                        largha21 Level 1

                        I have checked the setup and see what you are saying.  When the CMYK color proof is checked, all of the colors are paler.  However, whether the proof colors are checked or not, and whether the proof setup is for RGB or not, illustrator is still changing my green tones from will not let me create certain tones - such as the vibrant, pantone green - from scratch.  Even when i enter in the exact RGB value, illustrator shows it as being a different shade.

                        • 9. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                          Monika Gause Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                          Different from what? Other applications maybe have different color management or none at all.

                          • 10. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                            Wade_Zimmerman Level 6

                            I am not certain why this is even posted or why the OP expects pantone spot colors to be displayed in any form of accuracy.


                            RGB is simply a different color space and environment then Pantone spot colors exist in and is design to represent.


                            The first thing I noticed from the screenshot is that you were in an RGB document, Illustrator is probably showing you what the color actually is in spite of the wrong color space they are being brought into.


                            To be honest what you want to do is to use the color picker's mixer in the color panel and making your rgb swatches that way not the pantone colors.


                            Trying to get what you want in a consistent way is not the right way of going about this,after all there is no right or wrong way to convert pantone spot colors to RGB colors, unless pantone has developed an rgb equivalent library I don't know about.


                            But one thing you can check is if you have Overprint Preview turn on if so turn it off.

                            • 11. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                              largha21 Level 1

                              I will clarify by taking some screenshots...

                              Shot 1: This is what the tin should look like, and has looked like as I have been working with it.  All the colors are RGB colors.  Notice that the green of the tin is the same green that appears in the lower left of the screen on the menu. It is R102 G189 B41.


                              Screen shot 2010-06-17 at 4.32.41 PM.png


                              Shot 2: Now, when I double click on the color picker while it is still in the exact same color as shot 2, you will notice that the color picker immediately identifies it as a darker, paler green, even though it claims the RGB value is still R102 G189 B41.


                              Screen shot 2010-06-17 at 4.38.39 PM.png

                              Notice that the green in the little circle is the same green on the tin, while the green in the two boxes by 'OK' and 'Cancel' are the different green... the same way that Illustrator converts color to the nearest CMYK value.  Because I am in RGB, i don't understand why this value is changed.


                              Shot 3: Now, when i save the file as a jpeg or pdf, when i view the jpeg on my computer or as a pdf in adobe acrobat pro, the green appears at it should.  However, when i view  either the pdf or the jpeg on another computer,  it appears as the altered green.


                              Screen shot 2010-06-17 at 4.50.44 PM.png

                              Hope this helps clarify the problem... Another interesting thing i noticed... The pantone color 368c looks different according to illustrator than it does for photoshop.  In photoshop, it is considered the exact same vibrant green as my tin, while in illustrator it is much closer to the green in shot 3.  Do you know what accounts for this difference?

                              • 12. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                                largha21 Level 1

                                The reason I though the i had found RGB and pantone shades that were equivalent is because i had compared them in the photoshop color libraries... I can understand if this is not accurate... I had just assumed that it was.

                                • 13. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                                  Monika Gause Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                  As for the differences between Illy and Photoshop please read the links I posted. Especially the second. You can set up Illy to look the same as PS.


                                  If you view the image in other apps, don't expect it to look the same. Especially when viewing it in Preview or anything in Mac OS Finder.

                                  • 14. Re: Why is illustrator converting pantone to CMYK/paler colors?
                                    largha21 Level 1

                                    Thanks for all of your quick responses!  Sorry this keeps on dragging on...

                                    The only reason why I expected it to look the same in other programs is because in earlier versions of the file - with the same colors - it appeared the same - with the vibrant green - both using preview and the os finder.  In the past, the green did not change shades, at all - or at least not noticably.  That color change started recently, and the difference between the greens is huge.  I understand that I cannot expect clean standardization... but what has happened today is totally different than what has happened in the past, and none of the variables - save the use of one shade of red - has changed.  That is why I am so confused...  Thanks for the links, and I will definitely set up illustrator so that it corresponds better with photoshop.