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Color Problems with CS6 & Solutions

Are you using the latest version of Adobe?  If you are using CS6 or Adobe Creative Cloud there have been some major changes to its color matching system, specifically when designing for print.

Please see the following article from our corporate office along with solutions and workarounds.

We understand this may be confusing and we encourage you to discuss this with your own designer if you have one, or to give us a call and we can help explain the process.

Thank you for your business!

Major problems with color shifts in any application using the new Pantone Plus Series libraries.

A major difference between Adobe CS5 and CS6 is the update in color libraries provided by Pantone.  The new Pantone Plus Series (PPS) has created a major issue with shifts in color, resulting in inconsistencies between color in old documents and ones created with the new libraries.

Three big changes were made during the creation of the Plus Series:

Pantone previously had two sets of Color Bridge libraries; one for the United States, and one for the rest of the world.  With the addition of the new Pantone Plus Series, Pantone combined them into one universal set.

Because there were slight variances between the two, you may notice some colors you’ve previously used being slightly different.

1. In an effort to make on-screen display accurately represent ink colors, Pantone has changed the Lab definitions of their Spot Coated and Spot Uncoated colors.

2. Pantone dropped the CMYK color definitions for their Spot Coated and Spot Uncoated color libraries.  This change has been the most problematic.

Before Pantone Plus Series, PMS colors contained two definitions: Lab and CMYK.

CMYK definitions are used when PMS colors are printed without actually using the spot ink intended.  This definition provides the printer the CMYK values that most closely match the PMS color.

Lab definitions are used to produce the color on-screen.

Because Pantone solid colors are intended to be used only as spot ink, Pantone had decided to drop the CMYK definitions and only provide only Lab definitions.  If a printer is printing with spot color, no problems will arise.  It is very common for proofs to be printed as CMYK builds, or designers use Pantone colors when they never intend to print with spot ink.  This is where the problem begins.

Previously, when a PMS color was output without using spot inks, the computer would read the CMYK definition provided within the PMS color library and output the color using those values.  This commonly resulted in a minor color shift, but the shift wasn’t enough to concern most designers.

With the Pantone Plus Series libraries, when a PPS color is output as a CMYK color, the computer has to convert the Lab color into CMYK values, then use those values while outputting.  This process has resulted in both minor and major color shifts, sometimes resulting in a completely different color than intended.  These shifts in color are unacceptable to designers, printers and their clients.

This change in processing has made it difficult for printers to achieve the same colors using the same Pantone colors in Pantone Plus Series libraries as they did with the Pantone Machining System libraries.


Pantone does not see this change as a problem.  Instead, they expect designers to simply use their libraries as they were designed:

Direct from Pantone:

“In general, if you are designing for spot color printing, you will use the PANTONE SOLID COATED or PANTONE SOLID UNCOATED libraries, depending on whether you are printing on coated or uncoated paper.  The PANTONE COLOR BRIDGE libraries should be used IF AND ONLY IF you intend to output separations to simulate PANTONE colors, with values consistent with those published in the PANTONE COLOR BRIDGE guides.”

Unfortunately, Pantone’s solution does not apply to documents that have already been created.  There are no magical fixes for this issue, but a few workarounds have been discovered.  Pantone supplied us a White Paper on how to use the new libraries, which is available for download here.   You will note that they do not refer to any issues you might have.  After reading the White Paper, move on to our workarounds below and things should make more sense to you.


For designers who never intend to print with spot ink:

Pantone has included two color libraries in the Plus Series named Color Bridge Coated and Color Bridge Uncoated.  These color libraries include CMYK definitions rather than Lab definitions for PPS colors.  Designers who print solely in CMYK should only use these color libraries.  These colors will not convert to spot colors in your application and therefore must always be used only as process colors.

For designers who are not interested in using Pantone’s 336 new colors:

If you simply want your libraries back to the way they were, and never intend to use any of the new 336 colors added in the Plus Series, you can load the old CS5 Pantone Matching System libraries and delete the CS6 Pantone Plus Libraries.  Adobe has provided a tutorial on how to do this here for both Illustrator and InDesign.  They even provide a zip file of the old libraries for you to download.

Note: when you create a file and save it, the colors used within that file are embedded.  This means that if you created a document using Pantone Plus Colors, saved it, closed the document, replaced the new libraries with the old ones, and reopened that file, you did NOT fix your problem.  Although you have deleted the Plus libraries, the colors were embedded in your document.  For the same reason, you can’t back save from CS6 to CS5 and expect that to fix your problem.

How to fix color definitions you have already used:

If you have already used Pantone Plus solid colors in your document and have no desire to recreate that document, you can fix the color definitions manually in two ways.

1. You can create a new swatch using one of the Pantone Plus Bridge colors, delete your unwanted swatch, and when prompted, replace the unwanted color with the new Bridge color.

2. If InDesign doesn’t allow you to delete your unwanted color swatch:

> Get the desired DMYK values from a Color Bridge Book, or by creating a swatch from the Color Bridge library.

> Convert your unwanted swatch by double-clicking it in the swatch pallet, then change the color mode to CMYK.

> Input your desired CMYK values.

Information and solution provided by Mallory MacDermott at


Alphagraphics Northern Colorado

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