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I guess you could say that I'm new to graphic design, as I've just secured my first full-time design position.

I've just designed my first publication and that went to the printers over the weekend, but I'm still new to the printing process, colours etc.

I do want to do a good job and believe that pantones is the way forward in assuring that I have the correct colours, and that everything matches up.

I've done some research and found that InDesign, which I primarily use, has lots of pantone swatches but I am unsure which ones are best to use. It's a little bit overwhelming. I think it would probably be good to stick with european colours, as I am in the UK. Please tell me if that is wrong.

So some suggestions on which ones to use, or a good way of breaking in to using them would be helpful.

Another question I have is, what to do if I am trying to match a colour exactly with someones logo. I have been doing this a lot in order to have a particular page themed in the same colour as the company it is designed for.
I've been colour picking from photoshop and inputing the numbers in to InDesign manually.

Last question would be that should I be converting everything that I place in to InDesign (photographs, logos, etc) to CMYK first or does that not matter.

Sorry if this has been covered in another post, but I couldn't find exactly what I wanted to ask.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,

Hi Dan,

Some thoughts on your question and on colour consistency in general.

Postscript Colour Labelling - is really useful if the printer you're using supports that. You will get the best possible CMYK matches to Pantone colours if your printer is properly colour managed and their RIP includes a PostScript lookup table. There's an article on this here: Using Spot Colours for Great Pantone Matches | Hudson

If you're copying numbers across programs you're fine PROVIDED you make sure your documents are in the same colour space. eg. sRGB for both - otherwise the same numbers will represent DIFFERENT colours. If that concept hurts, there's an article that touches on it here: CMYK? Which CMYK ?! | Hudson

There's definitely no need to convert everything into CMYK as you bring it into InDesign. If you're working for web there's an argument for converting everything into sRGB to make life easy. Personally, I'd work in a large RGB colour space, keeping components in their original colour spaces, until I was deciding where the artwork was going.

If it was going to a SWOP printer, I'd convert all to the US WebCoated SWOP colour space before saving a PDF. This would also be my default if I was unsure of the print house's colour credentials. (and is pretty much the default path of designers who don't actually know what's happening with colour spaces when they convert a document to CMYK and haven't touched the Adobe CS default settings.) If it were going to web, convert all to sRGB. If it's going to wide format digital, and the printer knows his stuff, I'd keep it in as big an RGB space as possible, ensure that all elements kept their ICC profiles and Postscript spot colour labels when I saved my PDF.

Although the perceived wisdom is "always convert to CMYK before sending to a printer" - the sentence itself is nonsense (which CMYK? is the question provoked). Rather than rant off topic about designers defaulting unnecessarily to CMYK because they and the printers they use don't understand colour spaces sufficiently- here are a couple of links about that very subject.

First - why a large RGB space is the way forward provided everyone knows what they're doing...
RGB or CMYK? The CMYK habit discussed! | Hudson

Secondly - a demonstration of what can be achieved if you DON'T default to SWOP CMYK...
Hudson's Edge - Colour Space | Hudson

I hope some of that's of interest Dan. Getting colours to match across programs and display methods is remarkably easy - but it's also remarkably easy to get it wrong. Good luck!


Thanks very much for all the information. You certainly have given me a lot to find out about and I appreciate the links you've included.

I'm glad that number method of cross platform colouring is ok, I shall keep it up.

The printers that my company uses has asked that the artwork be in CMYK format, so although I trust what you are saying about RGB. I shall have to cater for their requirements and stick with CMYK.

Concerning pantones, do you know of any industry standard set or is it just down to the individuals preference?

Thanks again for your response, I shall look in to all you've said.

Hi Dan,

A couple of important things to remember (if I'm understanding what you're doing correctly...) Moving the numbers between documents that are in the SAME colour space, will mean the same colour. (I said this in prev post too, but it's vital!)

Also - when you select a spot pantone colour from, say, the Solid Coated colour swatch book built in to CS - you are actually refering to a l.a.b. colour specified by Pantone. When you use the pipette to view the RGB and CMYK numbers you are looking at the numbers of the CLOSEST match to that l.a.b colour in that document colour space.

Try it. Create two documents. Make one in your default CMYK space (i'm guessing USWebCoatedSWOP) and one in your RGB space, (I'm guessing sRGB). Make a patch of colour in each document filled with the same Pantone colour (use something like 072c to make this obvious). Now if you take your numbers from the SWOP version, you're now specifying SWOPs nearest match to 072c, you're no longer specifying 072c. That's fine, until you decide to use the file for something else - eg. web.

RE: Pantones - personally I tend to refer to the Solid Coated set first, but different parts of the world seem to favour different books.

It's worth asking the printers your company uses which CMYK space they mean. If their eyes glaze over, start looking for a better printer! (If they can't answer and you can't move your business elsewhere, convert everything to US Web Coated SWOP and cross your fingers. If they're litho you'll be fine. If they're digital, they're almost certainly going to ignore all colour management and output your CMYK numbers to their printer directly. That way lies madness, or at least rejects, proofs and time wasting in the long term!)

Have fun!

If you have a set of Pantone guides you will notice that there are 3 basic ones - solid uncoated, solid coated, and solid to process coated (I think they are called 'bridge' now and come in matt as well). When printing is done on different stocks the colour will look different. If you specify a solid coated pantone and print on matt finish paper (cartridge type paper) you will not get the exact same colour as you have specified. And vice versa. If you specify a pantone and then print CMYK the difference can be dramatic - take a look at PMS 333 in the solid to process. If you know that you are going to be using CMYK then design in CMYK - but if you are designing for 2 colour you can use Pantones for logos.

If you use digital (Xerox types 'presses' ) you will find that the Pantone colours (which aren't wildly out) will be closest to the solid coated colours. (Unless you can find an Océ 1000 which is 'flatter' and looks more like solid uncoated!)

Talk to your printer - they will probably be very helpful and give you the best settings to use.
Key to this is understanding what you're outputting on and using the tools appropriately.

Kate - if you look at the notes in your Solid to Process Swatch book and look up "Color Ink set" you'll note that it states "the process color ink set used in this guide meets SWOP specifications" That book compares Solid Coated with the nearest match in the SWOP CMYK colour space. It does NOT in any way show the nearest match possible on setups with larger colour gamuts (pretty much all digital presses!)

Please look at Hudson's Edge - Colour Space | Hudson to see a demonstration of the huge difference that is possible in your designs if you stop limiting yourself to SWOP CMYK.

The only time you need to limit yourself is where your production involves SWOP certified presses, and you want all to match. If you know you're designing for web and digital print only, there's no reason to limit yourself to the dull SWOP space. (explanation of SWOP here.. SWOP Specifications - Relevant to Wide Format printing? | Hudson)
I read your Colour Space page and in the third from last paragraph there’s a link missing:

At the top I promised no effort, and no cost to implement this. All it involves is changing your default colour settings in Adobe CS. There's an article HERE that explains it, and contains a link to a file that has the settings preset. Once done, it's done. Just design away and explore the extra colours you can now achieve!

It’s all very interesting, will have a bit more of a read when it’s not so late!
Hi David - thanks for pointing that out. Major omission if the .csf isn't there to download, will get that fixed asap!

From memory our default settings are:
Working Spaces:
RGB: Adobe RGB 1998
CMYK: US Web Coated SWOP v2

Colour Management Policies
All set to "Preserve Embedded"
Profile Mismatches and Missing Profiles all check boxes checked.

I'm glad it's of interest. There are many takes on this - Some experts argue persuasively that a huge space like ProPhotoRGB should be used instead of AdobeRGB. Many professional photographers are happy to sacrifice colour gamut for the (relative) safety in online proofing of wedding albums etc, by importing their camera RAW into sRGB (limiting the image to sRGB's colour gamut from the outset.) My point is - there's no right or wrong colour space. My suggestions just happen to suit my field, wide format printing, better than the NA PrePress Defaults that AdobeCS ships with.

We've gone a little off of Dan's topic (my fault) which was about Pantone spot colours. Spots are a really good example of when understanding your colour space can keep you out of a whole bundle of trouble! I know designers who refer to their Solid to Coated book for the CMYK formula of their colour, tap the CMYK no's in to Illustrator and explain to the client that things look dull because CMYK can't hit all Pantones. Whilst it's true that not all Pantones are printable, the chances are the designer has killed the colour before the file even reached the printer and a far better job was possible!