Computer monitors and digital cameras use a colour combination of red, green and blue or RGB. As a result, RGB is the default colour scheme for most graphic software programs. Sometimes an RGB image needs to be converted to use Pantone spot colours or the colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) for four-color process printing. The Pantone Matching System is a colour standardisation system that allows for this conversion, and the Pantone Libraries come pre-installed in most graphics software.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- RGB image
- Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign software
- Pantone Color Bridge chip book
Open an RGB image in Photoshop.
Using the Eyedropper tool from the Tools palette, select the RGB colour that you wish to convert to Pantone (PMS). This is now your foreground colour. Clicking on the foreground colour will open the Color Picker (Foreground Color) dialogue box. Click on the "Color Libraries" button.
In the Color Libraries, click the field beside the "Book" parameter, then select the PMS colour book of your choice from the menu. For spot colour, select the Pantone Solid Coated book.
The Pantone equivalent of your chosen RGB colour is highlighted with a black border. Click "OK" to complete the colour conversion.
Open an RGB image in Illustrator. Using the Selection tool from the Tools palette, select the RGB colours that you wish to convert to Pantone (PMS).
Choose the "Windows" option in the toolbar, then select "Swatches." In the Swatch Palette, select the "New Color Group" icon at the bottom of the palette. A new folder icon will appear in the Swatch Palette.
Select the folder icon that represents your new RGB Color Group, then click the "Edit Color Group" icon at the bottom of the Swatch Palette. This will open the "Live Color" dialogue box.
In the "Live Color" dialogue box, click the "Limit The Color Group" icon near the bottom of the dialogue box. Select "Color Books," then select the PMS colour book of your choice from the menu. For spot colour, select the Pantone Solid Coated book.
Click on the RGB Color Group folder. The white triangles at the bottom of the colour swatches show that the new Pantone process colours are now in your Color Group selection. A dot in the bottom right corner of the swatch indicates that the colour is a spot colour. Click "OK" to complete the colour conversion.
In the Swatches panel menu, click the down arrow on the right-hand side, then choose "New Color Swatch."
In the "New Color Swatch" dialogue box, choose "Lab," "Process" or "Spot" from the Color Type list. In the Color Mode list, select the PMS colour book of your choice from the menu. For spot colour, select the Pantone Solid Coated book.
In the "Pantone" box, type the Pantone reference number of your choice. Click "Add" to add the new swatch to your library. When you have finished adding swatches, click "Done." In the Swatches panel menu, the spot colours are identified with an icon of a grey circle inside a box.
Click the "Text" tool to apply colour to text, then click the new Pantone swatch in the Swatches panel menu to apply the colour to your selection. Alternatively, click the "Object" button to apply colour to an object, then click the Pantone swatch.
Tips and warnings
- Use a Pantone colour chip book to ensure colour consistency between the PMS colour and RGB colour.
- When working in Illustrator or InDesign, turn on "Overprint Preview" to get an accurate preview of spot colours. Also, use the default Lab values to display predefined spot colours. Lab values allow you to convert these spot colours to process colours.
- Spot (PMS) colours are vibrant and used when a colour needs to be consistent, such as for a logo on stationary. Process colours (CMYK) are used for four-color printing such as magazine publication.
- Some RGB colours do not have an exact Pantone colour match. In this case, find the closest match.
- Before sending your files to a commercial printer, it is a good idea to make a test print on your home printer to verify the accuracy of the colour conversion.
- Consult with your print service provider to determine which colour matching systems (libraries) they support.
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