9 Replies Latest reply on Mar 27, 2011 9:42 AM by Wade_Zimmerman

    What is a Pantone process color?

    graph22 Level 1



      Hope you're doing well.


      I am just starting to learn about colors and printing.


      I have a job I am working on where the printer requires the Pantone colors. The person who originally created the file kept them as CMYK.


      I have been converting them to Pantones by using the Edit/Edit Colors/re-color artwork feature where you then choose a Pantone library and Illustrator converts it to a Pantone.


      However, with one color conversion, it didn't give me a number, it gave me "Pantone Process Yellow C." Does that mean it is still CMYK?



        • 1. Re: What is a Pantone process color?
          Scott Falkner Level 6

          Pantone spot colours are formulas for mixing Pantone inks to achieve a specific colour. There are only a few base inks in the library; the rest are created using a recipe that mixes specific ratios of the base inks. Pantone Process Yellow is one of the base inks. It is a spot colour.

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: What is a Pantone process color?
            Jacob Bugge MVP & Adobe Community Professional



            However, with one color conversion, it didn't give me a number, it gave
            me "Pantone Process Yellow C." Does that mean it is still CMYK?


            It is/corresponds to the Y of CMYK.

            1 person found this helpful
            • 3. Re: What is a Pantone process color?
              graph22 Level 1

              Ok. So it is NOT a Pantone?

              • 4. Re: What is a Pantone process color?
                Scott Falkner Level 6

                graph22 wrote:


                Ok. So it is NOT a Pantone?

                No, it is a Pantone. The “Pantone” in the name is a dead giveaway.

                • 5. Re: What is a Pantone process color?
                  graph22 Level 1

                  Hi Scott,


                  Thanks for your reply.


                  Another question if you have a moment. The way I'm understanding Pantone colors right now is that they seem to be a way to minimize the number of colors in a job because they take the CMYK elements of orange for example and turn it into one spot color as opposed to four. Is this correct?



                  • 6. Re: What is a Pantone process color?
                    John Danek Level 4

                    Your concern should be maintaining what the print vendor is requesting.  They are asking for Pantone spot colors for a reason.  As soon as you convert to process, it will be immediately more difficult to match the color on press.  Pantone spot colors gives the press person some flexibility in maintaining consistency, especially when you are talking about branded corporate identity type materials ( i.e., stationery, business cards, packaging, etc. ).


                    And yes, to answer your question, Spot colors usually mean less colors on press.  However, you could conceivably print 4-process colors ( for photography ) and add 3 spot colors for a total of 7, plus a varnish ( optional ).  So, Spot color may mean more colors on press depending on the piece you are designing.

                    • 7. Re: What is a Pantone process color?
                      Scott Falkner Level 6

                      You are not correct. What you call Pantone colour, in this example, is more accurately called a spot ink. Spot inks can be produced by many companies and specified using any of those companies’ systems or none at all. Pantone is simply the most well known. Pantone also has a library of process colours, with a corresponding swatch book they would love to sell you. I have two of them, one for coated paper, one for uncoated.


                      Using spot colours can reduce the number of inks used to print a job, but that is not their primary purpose. The range of colours you can reproduce using process CMYK inks on white paper (also known as the gamut) is large, but limited. Also, most of those colours require one or more of those inks to be screened. If you want to exactly match a specific colour, like the red on a can of Coke, then your only option may be to use spot inks.


                      If you have fine details like small type that uses colour, you will get a more legible result if you print using a single solid spot ink than if you use two or more inks, any or all of which may print as a screen. Spot inks can also increase the number of inks in a job if they are combines with process colours or if you have more than four spot inks.


                      If you are printing on non-white paper, but need the ink colour to be exact, then process colours will not work since they are translucent. Most spot inks are as well, but they can be very opaque.


                      Pantone and other companies produce special inks with metallic components that simply cannot be reproduced any other way.


                      Each ink used requires another plate on a press and uses up one station on the press. Most offset presses have at least six stations, but there is no limit beyond cost and space. I have prepared files that use ten stations for printers that have eight station presses. This requires running the job twice through the same press or running it a second time through another press, whichever the printer thinks is more appropriate or economical. I forget, in this case, which of these were done.


                      The ten stations were four process colours, two spot inks, one flood varnish (covering the whole sheet) one spot varnish, one embossing die, and one cutting die. Now that I think about it, it is obvious that the last two could be done on anything that supports them since there is no ink and a much looser requirement for registration.

                      • 8. Re: What is a Pantone process color?
                        JETalmage Level 6



                        It is not "a Pantone." It is an ink. Pantone is a company. "A Pantone" does not mean "a spot color" any more than "a Honda" necessarily means "a motorcycle."


                        In other words, Pantone is just a brand. Pantone Process Yellow is the product name of a yellow process ink manufactured by Pantone.


                        People really should stop using the term "Pantone" as if it is synonomous with "spot color." It is not. Pantone is a company which manufactures spot inks and process inks, and publishes its own color matching and ink mixing specs. It is not the only ink manufacturer which does this.


                        Referring to an ink, for example, as "Pantone 185 C" is correct because that's the actual name of the ink product. But without the actual color number, calling an ink "a Pantone" does not specify it is a spot color. Moreover, you can also lookup, select, and apply Pantone 185 in one of Pantone's process libraries and thereby apply the CMYK mix of what Pantone considers to be the process equivalent of its spot ink. So even saying "Pantone 185" doesn't really specify that you are referring to a spot ink.


                        So to answer your question, "What is a Pantone process color?" [emphasis mine], it is a set of CMYK (4-color process) values which Pantone lists in its published libraries.


                        If you had asked "What is a Pantone process ink?" the answer would be: It is a process ink manufactured by Pantone.



                        • 9. Re: What is a Pantone process color?
                          Wade_Zimmerman Level 6

                          Responding poster above is correct and not correct.


                          Pantone is a company and they developed a color matching system which they call Pantone®  Solid Color Coated, Pantone® Process Coated etc.


                          But they are Pantone colors and they will not match 100%colors in a different color matching system. They are color formulas and printers can mix inks based on it or more than like purchase already mixed Pantone formulated inks.


                          And the Pantone colors and Formulas are used widely all over the world and so if one uses the term Pantone it is understood you are using their system.


                          As is noted in the Color Book Libraries from Illustrators and Photoshop and ID there are other Libraries that are book based formulas and Color Matching System.


                          No where is it suggested or is it understood to mean that even these book libraries are spot color only and Pantone has always had both Spot and Process Color Libraries. The only people here who believe the Pantone means spot colors and inexperienced beginners and like all beginners they are not going to stop making mistake.


                          After all the person who I am responding to makes mistakes all the tie why should a beginner not.