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Pantone wants $15/month for the privilege of using its colors in Photoshop

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The Pantone Solid Coated and Solid Uncoated color libraries are disappearing from Adobe's applications at some point, although the exact timing is unclear.
Enlarge / The Pantone Solid Coated and Solid Uncoated color libraries are disappearing from Adobe’s applications at some point, although the exact timing is unclear.

Pantone

If you want to use up-to-date versions of Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps, you’ve already been paying subscription fees for years. And if you want to use Pantone colors in Adobe’s applications, it will cost even more. Starting this month, Pantone color books in Adobe’s apps are mostly gone, and continuing to use those colors in your files will require a new Pantone Connect extension.

Using this extension is free once you create an account, but using the full color library, creating unlimited color palettes, and “dozens of additional tools to create smarter and more more impactful” will now require a subscription that will cost $15 per month or $90 per year, on top of what you already pay to use Adobe’s apps in the first place. I could browse colors using the base version of the extension, but trying to browse and select most colors from most libraries prompted me to pay a subscription.

Strange as it may seem for a company to be able to “own” colors, it’s an oversimplification of what Pantone does: it maintains an extensive library of reference colors and physical color swatches used in publishing. printed and many design industries to ensure that colors look the way they are meant to look, regardless of the material they are used on. If you want to see what a given color will look like when printed on a sheet of matte paper vs a sheet of glossy paper vs plastic vs fabric (among other things), and you want to know that the manufacturer or the printer sees exactly the same color as you do, that’s where Pantone colors can come in handy. Different computer, tablet and phone screens will also show different colors depending on how the screens are calibrated and what colors they are capable of displaying. Pantone colors and physical samples help eliminate some guesswork and inconsistencies.

This change seems to be unfolding gradually. Some users have already encountered Photoshop error messages informing them of the change, and that Pantone colors in old Photoshop files are replaced with black when opened in newer versions of the software. Adobe says the Solid Coated and Solid Uncoated Pantone libraries will be phased out “after November 2022”, leaving only the CMYK Coated, CMYK Uncoated, and Metallic Coated Pantone libraries.

Ars asked Adobe about the color replacement issue and an Adobe spokesperson told him the following: “We are currently looking at ways to reduce the impact on our customers. In the meantime, customers also have access to up to 14 full color books through Creative Cloud Subscriptions.”

On a MacBook Air M1 running the latest version of Photoshop, I can still access all Pantone color libraries as before, including the Solid Coated and Solid Uncoated libraries which are supposed to be gone. (Adding insult to injury for Mac users, the current version of the Pantone Connect extension is not compatible with Apple Silicon and requires launching the application in slower Intel emulation mode.)

Pantone colors still show up for us as they did before in Photoshop 24.0 running on a Mac M1.
Enlarge / Pantone colors still show up for us as they did before in Photoshop 24.0 running on a Mac M1.

Andrew Cunningham

To hear Pantone tell it, Adobe hadn’t updated Pantone color libraries in its applications for over a decade, resulting in the end of the previous license agreement and the wholesale removal of old libraries. applications from Adobe for the benefit of Pantone Connect. Extension. But communication around this issue has been confusing, with conflicting and changing dates for the start of removal of existing Pantone libraries and different pricing data depending on which source you consult. The Pantone FAQ and cover from earlier this year lists a subscription price of $8/month or $60/year for Pantone Connect, well below the prices listed on the plugin’s product page.

This Pantone FAQ also claims that “existing Creative Cloud files and documents containing Pantone Color references will retain those color identities and information”, a statement which appears to be contradicted by the Adobe license error message. For its part, Adobe’s FAQ states that versions of its apps released before August 2022 “will continue to have all previous Pantone Color books preloaded and available.”

In a pinch, this means you can use Creative Cloud’s “other versions” feature to install an older version of your apps that can still see and work with Pantone colors like you could before (Photoshop 23.4, InDesign 17.3, and Illustrator 26.4 appear to be the most recent versions released before August 2022).

It is only a palliative; Adobe does not offer older versions of its applications indefinitely. But for people who don’t use Pantone colors much or regularly, it can allow you to open and edit your files so you don’t end up with blacked out colors in your images. Others have suggested that manually copying these Pantone color libraries from older versions of apps and re-adding them to newer versions might also be a workaround for some users.

We asked Adobe about all the conflicting information we encountered: exactly when users can expect to see these changes; whether old files will have their colors removed or whether they will remain unchanged; and whether missing colors can be restored by installing the Pantone Connect plugin (something we can’t test as Pantone colors still work well on our end). The company had nothing else to share on these specific issues as of this writing.



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