Learn about the Pantone Plus color libraries used in Illustrator.
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 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:
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:
The filename extension of these color books is .acb.
To learn more about the changes in Pantone color books, see Pantone Color books FAQ.
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 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.
In Illustrator CS6 or CC:
From the folder Adobe Illustrator [CS6 or CC]/Presets/[language]/Swatches/Color Books/, remove all the libraries that have names starting with Pantone+.
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.
Copy all Pantone libraries with extension .acbl and place into: Adobe Illustrator CS6/Presets/[language]/Swatches/Color Books/Legacy.
Relaunch Illustrator, and open all the document profiles from:
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.
Save and close all document profiles, then restart Illustrator again.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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).