First problem beware the Pantone/Adobe swatch search box!

The first thing to check – is the swatch actually missing – or is it just difficult to find*

There’s a long-standing, horrible, horrible bug in the swatch search field. Say, for example, you want to add Pantone 542, you’d assume that typing 542 in the search will filter it for you. You’d be very wrong. The search will take you to  5425 instead. To get to 542 you’ve got to manually go down about 130 swatches. [Of course, I’m sure different swatches will be at different offsets. You just gotta be patient and find it.] Thanks to this article about finding hidden Pantone swatches over on InDesign Secrets. From 2012. Oh my.

*We’re talking FML difficult to find

Now back to the issue of actually missing swatches…

Adobe CC apps come with what seems like a full set of Pantone colour books but they’re short of a couple of hundred swatches. Some of the brightest ones are missing. I’ve seen comments that Adobe supplied swatches are ten years out of date. If that’s right — then the answer to “how many Pantone colours are you missing”  is 756.

Speccing a Pantone colour in your design software when it’s not available is kind of awkward.

It’s a bit of a slog to get hold of the missing ones. Nothing terribly onerous but set aside more than two minutes:

How to get ALL Pantone colours in InDesign/Illustrator/Photoshop…

PANTONE Color Manager – chose your “fan deck” – and export for CC apps

You’ll first need to install Pantone Color Manager. You’ll need a valid product serial number. Every Pantone swatch book has one. (You can also buy it standalone but there’s no value in that.)

So, assuming you have a Pantone swatch book already, the steps are these:

  1. Find its Registration Code (bottom of the second ‘page’ on Color Bridge books)
  2. Register your product at Pantone
  3. Download the Pantone Color Manager (PCM)
  4. Restart your machine [I know]
  5. Export each book you want in Lab colour (CMYK for Color Bridge) from PCM — separately for each of Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop
  6. Find the swatch in the horrible interface as noted at the top of the page.

The 5th step is tedious but, in the end, you’ll have the full Pantone swatch collection available as well as the original incomplete libraries that ship with the Adobe apps. Look for the -V3 suffix, eg: “PANTONE+ Solid Uncoated-V3”.


PCM Pantone V3 vs original Adobe-supplied Pantone swatch libraries

Couple of issues I’ve found with the new PCM “V3” colour swatches in InDesign…

On the plus side, PCM V3 colours show small on-screen warnings for spot colours that are beyond the display’s gamut.

However, Pantone PCM V3 versions are not as well integrated into the CC apps as original Adobe integrated, versions. Once set, you won’t see related Pantone swatches – or the search field – in the Swatch Options modal. You’ll see converted values.

More confusion… Pantone PCM V3 versions display colour values. In the case of Color Bridge (CMYK process), these conversions are very different from the original versions. Have a look at the screenshots below showing PMS Orange 021. This matrix shows the original Adobe-supplied Pantone colours swatches against the new PCM exported V3 swatches: as solid and process; coated and uncoated. The differences are massive in the process versions (InDesign CC 2019, v14.0.2):

Spot vs Color Bridge vs native CMYK

Real word results must be considered when speccing colours. There’s a big variety of vibrant greens and oranges available in spot printing that just aren’t possible in process. This is where I personally find Color Bridge conversions to a problem. They give you a conversion where there is none. CMYK can’t print vibrant greens or oranges (nor plenty of other colours too). I find Color Bridge adds an element of confusion by offering non-existent parallels.

I understand that it’s necessary to have different unique(?) conversions for all the Pantone colours. People will spec different, similar, colours and need them to convert as different colours when converted to CMYK.


Perhaps a third conversion is necessary. Add a big red X [?!] where CMYK can’t even think about going – and offer a third match in terms of vibrancy. That’ll be a lot of oranges that point in the direction of C0/M60/Y100/K0, greens that point in the direction of C60/M0/Y100/K0, etcetera.

In the meantime, where budget or application doesn’t stretch to using spot colours – consider finding your own process colour variant.

See also Missing Pantone Colours? (Adobe Forums)

Last updated on 4th June 2020