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You now have to pay to use Pantone colors in Adobe products

You now have to pay to use Pantone colors in Adobe products


Pantone requires a $15 monthly subscription to use its colors in apps like Photoshop and Illustrator. Colors in old PSD files are turning black for some.

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The Adobe logo against a pastel rainbow backdrop
Pantone Color Books now require a paid subscription for Adobe products, with even old PSD files now displaying black in place of used Pantone colors.
Image: Adobe

Last week, Adobe removed support for free Pantone colors across its Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator Creative Cloud applications. PSD files that contained Pantone spot colors now display unwanted black in their place, forcing creatives who need access to the industry-standard color books to pay for a plugin subscription (via Kotaku).

“As we had shared in June, Pantone decided to change its business model. Some of the Pantone Color Books that are pre-loaded in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign were phased-out from future software updates in August 2022,” said Ashley Still, senior vice president of digital media marketing, strategy, and global partnerships at Adobe in a statement to The Verge. “To access the complete set of Pantone Color Books, Pantone now requires customers to purchase a premium license through Pantone Connect and install a plug-in using Adobe Exchange.”

Pantone has claimed that its color libraries inside of Adobe have not been properly maintained for several years, leading to the Pantone colors being inaccurate, with hundreds missing from Adobe applications altogether. A dedicated (and seemingly outdated) Pantone FAQ says, “Pantone and Adobe have together decided to remove the outdated libraries and jointly focus on an improved in-app experience that better serves our users.”

Creatives who understandably want to continue using the industry-standard color system are expected to pay a $15 monthly / $90 annual subscription for a Pantone license via the Adobe Pantone Connect plugin.

A Pantone license for Adobe will cost creatives $15 a month

Prior to the introduction of the Pantone Color Matching System, companies used individual color guides which gave inconsistent results as each ink company could interpret “red” as slightly differing shades. Even CMYK, another industry standard color matching system used in at-home printers, is seen as inferior as the required combination of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black can lead to slight variations. Pantone doesn’t require a combination of colors, making it more reliable for designers working on large projects.

While the Pantone FAQ states that “existing Creative Cloud files and documents containing Pantone Color references will keep those color identities and information,” Photoshop users are nevertheless reporting that their old PSD files utilizing Pantone colors now show those colors as black. “This file has Pantone colors that have been removed and replaced with black due to changes in Pantone’s licensing with Adobe,” reads a message on affected projects. Other Photoshop users have reported that downloading the Pantone Connect extension isn’t guaranteed to fix the issue. We’ve reached out to Pantone to clarify its position and will provide an update should we hear back.

There are several workarounds available to try and restore the lost Pantone color swatches. These include disabling Adobe application updates if you still have access to Pantone color books, or simply copying the metadata values for your required Pantone range.