Printer's Pantone CMYK values are different to mine!?

Posted on 2006-07-19
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-05

I'm having some work printed, and without a Pantone booklet to accurately select the Pantone's I'm after, I called the printer today to ask for their suggestions. Their suggestions seem pretty good just eyeballling them onscreen, however in checking the CMYK values of my Pantones with the CMYK's of the equivalent Pantone's that the printer suggested, there's a good few differences.

Pantone 476 Coated per the printer is CMYK  57/80/100/45
Per Illustrator 9 on my computer, 476 breaks down as 79/83/100/0

Any issues with this?

Question by:aidan09
LVL 38

Assisted Solution

lherrou earned 400 total points
ID: 17141027

Don't use CMYK, use your Pantone Spot Color palette. Remember if you are printing spot colors, it doesn't really matter what you see on screen, because the printer is going to be producing the ink based on Pantone colors, so you'll get the color that you specify, not what you have in CMYK.

Here's a reasonable discussion of the topic: http://www.techcolor.com/help/spotcolors.html


LVL 16

Assisted Solution

BongSoo earned 600 total points
ID: 17141942
The problem is with the Pantone Libraries having to try and simulate what the CMYK equivalent on different stock will look like. In most cases, they CMYK equivalent will NEVER match the Pantone exactly, regardless of the stock, but add in that different stocks have different hues and coatings and all, you can see why the build might be different depending upon any number of reasons. You noted that they supplied you with a Coated Pantone 476, but I'll bet if you asked them for the Uncoated Pantone 476 it would be different too. The libraries that Illustrator, Photoshop, Quark, InDesign etc. use can also be different, depending upon what software and what version.

The whole point of having spot colors is to utilize pigment to produce colors that 4/c process cannot produce in its gammut.

Lherrou is right, if you are going to print as a spot color, create the file using the Spot Color Palette. On the other hand if you are going to build a color, keep in mind that the more colors in the build, the less chance the printer will have for consistency. Also, the more neutral the build, the harder to be consistent.

In this instance, if you want to print CMYK, I would talk to your printer about what you want. They should be able to provide you with a color proof showing almost exactly what they can print that is close to the color you want. If necessary, you could pay for a press proof, but that can be expensive. Show them a swatch of the 476 and ask them to give you the best build that will allow them to print it. Put the onus on them.

LVL 11

Accepted Solution

walkerke earned 1000 total points
ID: 17162687
If you'll be using Pantone inks for printing, it doesn't matter what it looks like on your screen. Simply create a spot color named "color 1" and another named "color 2" and so on until you have enough colors. If you want one to be bluish and the other to be reddish, create them that way so that you can see sort of what it will look like on screen. You can wait until you get to the printer to pick the actual Pantone ink from the printer's swatch booklet and tell them which Pantone ink to use for "color 1" and so on.

However, if you're printing CMYK, don't use Pantone color swatches at all. The main reason Pantone colors exist is that some colors cannot be produced using CMYK. The vast majority of Pantone colors fall into that category. If you plan to use CMYK, pick your colors from a color wheel.

As far as differing CMYK values for Pantone colors goes, Pantone updated those values a few years ago (I think it was 2001). But it took a couple of years for the software vendors to update their libraries. It's possible to have an old book and an updated application library or to have a new book and an outdated application library. But if you have a new book and an updated application library (or an old book and an outdated application library), the values should be exactly the same. Although most of the changes were so subtle as to be insignificant (1 or 2 percent on 1 or 2 of the colors) others were dramatic changes in values which oddly produce very subtle differences in color. These dramatic changes mainly appear in the darker colors where high values of CMY were replaced with a higher value for K in order to reduce ink usage.

The one odd character is Photoshop which defines its Pantone colors using Lab color space instead of CMYK. When the Lab color is converted to CMYK, the values rarely resemble the Pantone recommended values. If you're trying to match a Pantone color in Photoshop, you'd better get your CMYK values from the booklet. Although it's possible that Photoshop's mix will be closer to the real Pantone ink than Pantone's mix, it won't match the mixes produced in other publications with other applications.

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