Pantone colors now cost $15/month in Adobe products

Pantone colors now cost $15/month in Adobe products

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Pantone colors have long been free to use in Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator – but that’s now changed. If you want to use the industry-standard colors in future, you’ll need to pay a $15/month subscription.

Worse, if you have existing PSD files which use the color set, you may find that they have been replaced with black if you don’t buy the subscription …

About Pantone colors

Pantone colors are a standardized set of colors originally used to ensure that the colors of final printed products match the colors designers selected from swatch books. Print houses could purchase ink recipes for each color which were guaranteed to match the swatch books.

The standard color set is still widely used in the digital age, ensuring that calibrated monitors are showing the exact color selected.

Although the colors are an industry standard, the company is a private one, and it owns the intellectual property. Adobe reached a deal with Pantone to allow the colors to be used free of charge by Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator users.

$15/month Pantone subscription

Pantone has now ended its deal with Adobe, which means anyone wanting access to the color references will need a separate subscription for a Pantone license. This is known as Pantone Connect, and costs $15/month, or $90/year.

Kotaku reports a confused picture regarding the reason for the deal being ended. Pantone claimed that it was a joint decision with Adobe, while at the same time stating that Adobe hadn’t been updating the colors.

The official reasons given haven’t made a great deal of sense. According to Pantone, the two companies started working together in the 1990s, but “since 2010, the Pantone color libraries within Adobe’s apps have not been updated.” This, apparently, means they’re “significantly out of date and missing hundreds of new Pantone Colors.” (Yes, the company seriously capitalizes “Color”.) This means that, “Pantone and Adobe have together decided to remove the outdated libraries and jointly focus on an improved in-app experience that better serves our users.”

There’s more confusion about what happens to older PSD files using Pantone colors.

Pantone still states in its out-of-date FAQ that, “This update will have minimal impact on a designer’s workflow. Existing Creative Cloud files and documents containing Pantone Color references will keep those color identities and information.” Yet today, people are reporting that their Photoshop is informing them, “This file has Pantone colors that have been removed and replaced with black due to changes in Pantone’s licensing with Adobe.”

Others have reported that even attaching a Pantone license within Photoshop isn’t fixing the issue, colors still replaced by black, and workarounds sound like a pain.


Various workarounds are being suggested, with Print Week offering what appears to be the easiest one – provided you have a backup of your Adobe software from before the update.

Colour consultants, including Paul Sheffield, owner and founder of The Missing Horse consultancy, pointed out some workarounds early on. He recommended a stopgap of copying the Pantone libraries from the Creative Cloud apps (they are files with the extension. ACB), storing them separately and then re-importing them after Adobe removes them when it updates Creative Cloud. On a Macintosh you’ll find them in the application folder, in the Presets folder, in a folder whose name can vary but it is typically Swatch Libraries. You’ll still have the old 2005 V2 colour set, but you’ll be no worse off than before. 

Apple-certified trainer Iain Anderson has provided a 7-minute video (below) which explains the situation, and provides other workarounds.

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