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Learn about the Pantone Plus color libraries used in Illustrator.
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    Pantone Plus modernize the way Adobe applications use spot colors from color book manufacturers. Adobe Illustrator, along with InDesign and Photoshop, uses the Pantone Plus Series® of color books. Pantone Plus includes the latest PMS colors, replacing the earlier Pantone Matching System®. 


    Adobe Illustrator has three types of color swatches: process, global, and spot.

    Process and global color swatches are related to the document color mode. Changing the document color mode from CMYK to RGB converts the process or global colors. Changing the document color mode back again is a second conversion, not a return to the original color.

    Unlike process and global color swatches, spot color swatches preserve the definition and color modes (CMYK, RGB, LAB, Grayscale, HSB, or WebSafe RGB) in which they are created.

    Color swatches can be created by either of these:

    • users
    • color book manufacturers such as Pantone

    Color system manufacturers create standardized colors for communicating color information across apps and processes. These standardized color libraries are called color books.

    The Pantone Plus Series® in Illustrator includes ten libraries:

    • Four with global color swatches
    • Six with spot color swatches using Lab values

    The filename extension of these color books is .acb.


    Before CS2, spot colors from Pantone and other systems used CMYK values as the color definitions. CMYK values were whole numbers.

    Pantone color books, introduced in CS2, use Lab values as the color definitions. The equivalent CMYK values aren't always whole numbers.

    The filename extension of these color books is .acbl.


    In Adobe Illustrator, you add named color swatches, such as manufacturer-supplied spot colors, to the document swatches.  

    Spot colors in the Pantone Plus Series® use Lab values. There are no CMYK definitions for spot colors in the Pantone Plus Series®. Therefore, to add Pantone Plus spot colors to your document swatches, define spot colors using Lab values. 

    To define spot colors using Lab values, choose Spot Colors from the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches), select Use Lab values specified by the book manufacturer, then click OK.


    With the Pantone Plus Series®, Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop CS6 and CC all contain the latest color libraries from Pantone, enabling seamless exchange of book colors from one app to the other. And because the spot colors use Lab values, the visible results are much closer to the real inks available. Using Lab values for spot colors also reduces the difference of appearance between the Normal and Overprint Preview viewing modes.

    CMYK, as a color mode, has a fairly limited gamut. Representing Pantone spot colors in CMYK values results in a wider difference of appearance between printed output and digital artwork.

    When workflows demand that Pantone colors use CMYK values, Adobe recommends that you use the Pantone Plus Series® global colors instead of spot colors. If you must use Pantone spot colors that use CMYK values, see the following workarounds.

    Workaround 1: Replace Pantone Plus with older Pantone color books

    In Illustrator CS6 or CC:

    1. Quit Illustrator.

    2. From the folder Adobe Illustrator [CS6 or CC]/Presets/[language]/Swatches/Color Books/, remove all the libraries that have names starting with Pantone+.

    3. From an older version of Illustrator (CS2-CS5), copy all the Pantone libraries with extension .acb and place into: Adobe Illustrator [CS6 or CC]/Presets/[language]/Swatches/Color Books.

    4. Copy all Pantone libraries with extension .acbl and place into: Adobe Illustrator CS6/Presets/[language]/Swatches/Color Books/Legacy.

    5. Relaunch Illustrator, and open all the document profiles from:

      • Mac OS: [user]/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Illustrator [CS6 or CC]/[language]/New Document Profiles

      -or-

      • Windows 7: [drive]/Users/[user]/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Illustrator [CS6 or CC] Settings/[language]/[binary]/New Document Profiles

      -or-

      • Windows XP: [drive]/Documents and Settings/[user]/Application Data/Adobe/Adobe Illustrator [CS6 or CC] Settings/[language]/New Document Profiles
    6. For each profile, choose Spot Colors from the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches), select Use CMYK values from the manufacturer's process books, then click OK.

      Spot Color Options
    7. Save and close all document profiles, then restart Illustrator again.

    Workaround 2: Make older Pantone libraries available for missing colors

    Use this workaround only if you encounter missing colors in legacy documents opened in Illustrator CS6 or CC. It is not recommended to use older Pantone libraries to add new colors to a document.

    In Illustrator CS6 or CC:

    1. Quit Illustrator.

    2. From an older version of Illustrator (CS2–CS5), copy all Pantone libraries with extension .acb and place into this folder: Adobe Illustrator [CS6 or CC]/Presets/[language]/Swatches/Color Books.

    3. Relaunch Illustrator.


     
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    FAQs

    Has the process changed for adding new spot colors from color books to a document?

    No. There is no change in this process. To add a spot color to a document, open the color book and click the desired swatch.

    Why does a certain spot color from Pantone Plus Series in CS6 and CC appear different from the same spot color in CS5 and earlier versions?

    In Illustrator CS5 and earlier versions, which included the older versions of the Pantone color books, most spot colors from Pantone had two definitions: Lab and CMYK. In addition, the default setting in the Spot Color Options dialog box was CMYK. CMYK values took priority over Lab values. The spot color added to the document usually came with CMYK values.

    If you need the same spot colors to be identical in CS5 (and earlier) and CS6/CC, take the following steps, see Workaround 1: Replace Pantone Plus with older Pantone color books.

    This workaround makes the Pantone spot color uniform across different versions of Illustrator. However, it could impact cross-product workflows with InDesign and Photoshop, if you are using the Pantone Plus Series® with these apps.

    Is there any impact on opening legacy ai/eps/pdf/indd files in Illustrator CS6 and CC?

    No. Files from earlier versions open successfully. Spot color definitions are preserved along with their original definitions.

    An exception: opening legacy files that contain linked PSDs or TIFF files that have spot channels from older Pantone color books.  

    Importing PSDs and TIFF files with spot channels containing older Pantone colors

    PSD and TIFF files that contain spot channels from color books retain a link to the color book. When you place-link such files in an Illustrator CS6 or CC document, the system searches for the color information for spot channels in the installed Pantone Plus color books. If an identically named color is found in any of the available spot color books, the system fetches it and links to the file or opens the legacy file. (This process is also true for opening legacy ai/eps/pdf/indd files that contain links to such PSDs or TIFFs.) During this process, there can be a slight difference in how the color appears (compared to Illustrator CS5 or earlier). There are two possible reasons for the difference of appearance:

    • The Spot Color Options setting may have been CMYK in the older Illustrator version, and Lab in CS6 or CC.
    • Pantone may have changed the definition of the color in Pantone Plus.

    If the color used in spot channels isn't found, Illustrator displays a warning and places the file with the spot color turning black. However, it retains the color as a spot color (Illustrator converts the color to a default black spot for the swatch values instead of coverting it to a process color).

    For workarounds, see Workaround 1: Replace Pantone Plus with older Pantone color books and Workaround 2: Make older Pantone libraries available for missing colors.