Adobe to drop Pantone colour system

Jo Francis
Friday, December 10, 2021

Print and pre-press professionals have expressed disquiet about the information gap around Adobe’s decision to remove Pantone Color Libraries from future versions of its Creative Cloud products.

Pantone "will continue to explore new partnerships with other digital design focused companies"
Pantone "will continue to explore new partnerships with other digital design focused companies"

Last month Adobe issued a technical bulletin about “changes coming to the Pantone Color Libraries”.

The software giant stated: “In March 2022, the Pantone Color Libraries that are pre-loaded in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Adobe Color, and Adobe Capture will be removed from future software updates. 

“To minimize the impact of this change, we are working on an alternative solution for the affected products. Stay tuned for updates.”

The news has caused consternation among power users of Adobe products in print and graphic arts. 

Colour management expert Paul Sherfield, owner and founder of The Missing Horse consultancy, told Printweek: “I’ve been talking to a number of my customers about it this week. It’s a rather disappointing example of two major companies that supply the graphic arts industry, not supporting this industry.

“You need a subscription to download the latest library, printers will have that but how many graphic designers and publishers will?,” he noted

“Fortunately there are workarounds.” 

There is industry speculation that the situation is the result of “a huge commercial falling out” over licence fees. 

Printweek has approached Adobe and Pantone for comment. 

Marcie Foster, Pantone director of brand management and marketing communication, responded and said Adobe and Pantone “have been and continue to be long standing partners”.  

“Unfortunately, the current implementation of the Pantone library within Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps are outdated with many missing colors as well as inaccurate information. In order to provide the best user experience for our users, the companies together have decided to remove the outdated libraries and continue to collaborate on a better in-app experience.  

“In addition to Adobe, Pantone will continue to explore new partnerships with other digital design focused companies to ensure that users of Pantone can have easy access to our most up-to-date color libraries from whichever design application they enjoy using.”

Adobe had not commented at the time of writing. 

Pantone is owned by Danaher, which also owns Esko, X-rite, Videojet and Linx.

 

Industry reaction:

Simon Eccles, Printweek contributor and technical expert

“I’ve been using Adobe products since Illustrator 88, and the built-in Pantone libraries were always an important part of their useability for print across the whole industry, especially labels and packaging. Digital printing means that spot colour inks are less important, but Pantone is still the industry standard for colour descriptions over much of the world. 

“To announce that it was removing built-in Pantone on an obscure web page boxout, and to give only four month’s notice with no explanation of the alternatives, is irresponsible and disrespectful to the millions of designers and printers who dutifully pay Adobe's rental fees every month. 

“Did it consult any users first? What Adobe could have said but hasn’t so far, is that Pantone does offer a plug-in app called Pantone Connect for Creative Cloud print applications, that’s free in a limited version that gives access to 15,000 colours, or costs about £45 per year for the full version access to all Pantone colour libraries. That’s on top of Adobe’s Creative Cloud rental fee of course – previously Pantone was part of the deal. It’s not a lot for industry professionals, but the way Adobe is handling this leaves a bad taste.

“Our very wonderful all-British Serif Software (subject of an early Best of British feature) still has Pantone libraries in its Affinity range, which compete with Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator.”


Bill Greenwood, specialist in high-end image manipulation and retouching

“Pantone does make an Adobe Extension called Pantone Connect. This Extension allows users to access the Pantone libraries. I am hoping that Adobe automatically includes the Pantone Connect extension in the base install. Otherwise, users can download it from the adobe marketplace at exchange.adobe.com

“Software is mainly moving to a rental basis and Adobe not including Pantone libraries in its suite is an interesting development. Obviously, this will force many to sign up for the Pantone monthly subscription cost. Yet another cost to already struggling independent designers and firms across the board.

“If Pantone wants to stay in the mind of users, then they must offer more standard key features free to users. Especially smaller companies and designers who will not want to have to pay yet another monthly subscription cost. After all, Pantone is just a guide, there are many other ways to specify colour. With a lot of work being done for online uses, users may decide to specify RGB values or HTML Hex colour codes or just CMYK print colour values instead of Pantone. 

"People may start to move away from Pantone if the cost is not worth it to them.

“It's always good to keep older versions of the software "just in case" and maybe more will do so to keep access to the Pantone libraries for now. I am sure though that many people will be backing up their current Pantone .acb files and presets to use moving forward, and will then manually copy them into the Presets Swatch Libraries if they need to.”


Simon Gambling, managing director, Zebra

“A somewhat scary prospect, removing Pantone that is the industry standard the world over, it is hard to imagine an alternative solution that will prove to be a seamless transition, we can only await the further update from Adobe to be sure.”

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