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How to convert pantone to cmyk

Updated April 17, 2017

Pantone refers to a colour-matching system designed to make sure the hues designers pick from a swatch book match the actual printed piece. Pantone colours work best with vector-based programs such as Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or QuarkXPress because they separate colours better. Converting Pantone colours to CMYK, or process colour, is essential for four-color printing and can be done in all three programs.

Go to the "File" menu and select "Document Color Mode." Then select "CMYK Color."

Click and drag a marquee around the entire image to select all the elements.

Go to the Edit menu and select "Edit Colors."

Select "Convert to CMYK."

Deselect all items. Click on an element and check the colour values in the Color panel to make sure it's been converted to CMYK. Save your document with a different name to avoid overwriting the original file.

Go to the "Window" menu and open the Swatches panel.

Click the arrow in the upper right corner of the panel and choose "Select All Unused." Click the dustbin icon to delete any extraneous colours in your document.

Double-click a Pantone colour in the Swatches palette.

Change the Color Mode drop-down menu to "CMYK." Change the Color Type drop-down menu to "Process." Click "OK."

Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for every Pantone colour in your document. Save your document with a different name to avoid overwriting the original file.

Go to the Edit menu and select "Colors."

Double-click the name of the Pantone colour you want to convert to CMYK.

Uncheck the "Spot Color" check box.

Click on the Model drop-down menu and change it to "CMYK."

Click "OK." Save your document with a different name to avoid overwriting the original file.

Tip

Check a Pantone to Process swatch book to see what your colours will look like when printed in CMYK inks.

Warning

Spot-colour printing and CMYK are two different processes. Switching your Pantone colours to CMYK likely will change the colour from what you might have originally picked. InDesign or QuarkXPress can convert Pantone colours to CMYK automatically when you output your file, but if they have Illustrator files placed in the layout, it's best to convert the Illustrator files to CMYK in their native program for the best results.

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About the Author

Tony Smith has published articles, tutorials, comic book stories, poetry and fiction in both electronic and print media. He works days as the Prepress Manager/IT Coordinator for a printing company and has over 20 years of computer experience with both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems.