Converting CMYK to Pantone

So this is officially my first of a series called “Secret’s Revealed” in which I give away all of my graphic designer gold. Well, not all of it.

Anyway, I had to convert this clients graphic from CMYK to Pantone. It’s super easy to convert from Pantone to CMYK in Adobe Illustrator, but there are a couple extra steps to go the other way.

Artwork printed in CMYK is printed using four (not three like I say in the video) separate inks layered over one another to create the colors in the artwork. What does CMYK stand for? Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK. I don’t know why they use “K” for black. I guess they didn’t like the way CMYB sounded? Anyway, a Pantone color is a single, custom mixed ink that costs more to use than the standard CMYK. You get prettier, truer, cleaner colors with Pantone though. Many of my clients use the more economical CMYK, but I always include a Pantone equivalent in their style guide because I’m so damn helpful.

To convert CMYK to Pantone you select the artwork (there’s a helpful little tip in the video about how to select all of the same color without having to client each element individually and risk missing something) then under the “Edit” menu you select “Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork”. There’s a tiny little icon to the right of the color sliders. Click this and find the “Color Books” library. Choose which Pantone library you want to use (The Pantone Solid books are the most commonly used). It will automatically convert the CMYK swatches to Pantone and add them to your swatches panel. Now, Pantone doesn’t always know best. I’ve had some pretty awful equivalents happen. Remember, though that what’s on your monitor isn’t what is going to print. Every monitor is calibrated differently using different temperatures and brightness values. So if you really want to know what a color will look like when your printer prints it …. ask them for a test run or get your hands on a Pantone book. Any printer who uses Pantone ink and is worth their salt will be helpful and be able to educate you on what will work best for your project.

Once I converted I found that my gradient in the rectangular element had a weird band. Hm. Since I don’t often work with Pantone, I’d never seen this before. So I did what any good independent person would do and turned to Ms. Google. (I call her Ms. because she knows everything, therefore she must be female). I found this super helpful thread that explained what to do with this troublesome result. Basically, you create a solid colored object with the lighter of the two swatches in your gradient. Then you copy those and paste them over the top and create a gradient using only the darker of the two colors, setting the opacity of one to 100% and the other to 0%. Then you set this top object to overprint in your Attributes panel.

I hope some of you find this helpful and that you will reach out if you have any questions. Tell me what you want to know next. I look forward to your feedback!

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