Pantone to CMYK

Converting Colour for Print: Pantone to CMYK

Posted in: Guides

From Pantone to CMYK to RGB. When it comes to printing, some designers have run into issues with getting colours right.

It might seem like getting colours to appear accurate on printed media is complicated, but it has a simple solution.

CMYK is the most cost-effective and most popular print colour system on the market today. These four base colours can make just about any high-quality colour.

Firstly, what is CMYK?

CMYK is an acronym and stands for:

C- Cyan
M- Magenta
Y- Yellow
K- Black

CMYK is the colour mode used by commercial printing equipment to create full-colour graphics and images. It involves combining varying amounts of tiny dots of these colours, printed at different angles to achieve the desired image. The CMYK model uses subtractive colours. This is where the background starts off white (i.e. paper) and more colour is added.

Pantone colours

Pantone colours are a standardised way to identify a specific printed colour. Designers typically choose pantone colours in their designs to keep brand consistency across mediums. Pantone colours are a pure mixed spot colour. It allows designers to colour-match specific colours regardless of the process used to produce it.

When designing for print you may use a pantone colour chart to get the exact print colour right for your project. It is possible to print in premixed pantone spot colours, but the price will skyrocket higher than Elon Musk flying to space. Learning how to convert these Pantone colours in CMYK will enable you to make your documents look as they should on a more cost-effective solution.

How to Convert Files from Pantone to CMYK

Since converting any file from Pantone to CMYK causes colour to shift, it’s crucial to make any necessary changes to compensate for these alterations. Make sure to check the Pantone Connect to see exactly what colours will look like after the piece is printed.

Convert Pantone to CMYK using Photoshop

  • Just click on Image, Mode and CMYK colour


Convert Pantone to CMYK using Illustrator

  • Click on Edit, Edit Colours and then click on Convert to CMYK.
  • Next, you need to click twice on one of the Pantone colours in the palette.
  • After that, go to the Colour Mode menu and click on CMYK.
  • Also, go to the Colour Type menu and click on Process before clicking on OK.
  • Make sure to repeat these quick steps for each and every Pantone colours in your file

Convert Pantone to CMYK using InDesign

  • Click on Window, Colour and Swatches.
  • Next, go to the upper right corner and click on the arrow before choosing Select All Unused. After that, delete unused
  • colours by clicking on the trashcan icon.
  • Now you need to click twice on one of the Pantone colours in the palette.
  • Go to the Colour Mode menu before choosing CMYK and go to the Colour Type menu before choosing Process. Click OK.
  • Make sure to repeat these quick steps for each and every Pantone colours in your file


Paper is not the same as light, yet nearly every designer relies on their computer screen for their printed work. The computer screen, as with other digital screens uses RGB (Red, Green and Blue). RGB colours are known as additive, meaning they are created with light. Additive colours start off black and as colour is added they turn lighter and lighter until they’re white. The screen you’re currently reading from shows colours made of light. RGB is basically the opposite to CMYK. RGB starts black and turns white, whereas CMYK starts white and turns black.

Printed material

The printed colour will look, not only, different to what you see on screen, but what it is printed on. Pantone’s spot colours come in a variety of formats such as uncoated or coated and whether it will be printed on matte or glossy paper. Again, the printed product will look different to the naked-eye so it is important to convert your colours when printing in CMYK.

Need help with your colour conversions?

Still need help with Pantone, CMYK or RGB? We’re more than happy to help and offer expert advice at hand. So, if you have a question, or would like to know more, follow the link or get in touch on 01625 870 000.

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