It’s very likely that you don’t give much thought to the origin of the digital colors you use. You also probably didn’t wonder who might “own” a particular color, when you chose it when creating something in Photoshop. But many people are about to pay a lot of attention to it because their collection of PSD files is filled with unwanted black, due to a license change between Adobe and Pantone.
Effective immediately, widely used Adobe applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign will no longer support Pantone-owned colors for free, and those wishing to have these colors appear in their saved files will need to pay for a separate license. And this is real life.
Pantone has been around since the 1950s, with the New Jersey company originally refining printing inks and later inventing the Pantone Color Matching System, used worldwide by designers to ensure that the color of a creation will be exactly as you want it to be, no matter where or how it is made. So, of course, in becoming the industry standard for color matching, the company naturally claims ownership of all of its 2,161 shades, defending its intellectual property and preventing its unlicensed use. This goes so far as to prevent others from creating “Patone compatible” color systems. Or, to put it another way, they claim their own colors.
Last year’s announcement that Adobe would remove Pantone “color books” from its software caused consternation in the design world. Dropping one industry standard over another was obviously going to create problems, but at the time Adobe said it would “work on an alternative solution” while rumors spread that the companies had quarreled.
Since then, the official reasons given don’t make much sense. According to Pantone, the two companies began working together in the 1990s, but “since 2010 the Pantone color libraries in Adobe applications have not been updated”. This apparently means they are “significantly outdated and missing hundreds of new Pantone colors”. (Yes, the company is seriously capitalizing on “Color.”) This means that “Pantone and Adobe have decided together to remove outdated libraries and jointly focus on an improved integrated experience that better serves our users.”
The removal of Pantone’s colors from Adobe’s software was supposed to take place on March 31 of this year, but that date came and went. It was then scheduled for August 16, then August 31. However, this month people are noticing the effects, reporting issues with designs using Pantone’s spot colors. And the solution? It is an Adobe plug-in to “minimize workflow disruption and deliver updated libraries to Adobe Creative Cloud users”. Which, of course, costs $15 per month. It’s Netflix, but for coloring!
However, Pantone always indicates in its Obsolete FAQs that “This update will have minimal impact on a designer’s workflow. Existing Creative Cloud files and documents containing Pantone color references will retain those color identities and information. Yet today, people report that their Photoshop informs them“This file contains Pantone colors that have been removed and replaced with black due to Pantone licensing changes with Adobe.”
Others have reported that even attaching a pantone license in photoshop doesn’t fix the problem, the colors are still changing to black and the workarounds sound like a pain.
We have contacted Pantone and Adobe, and will update if either comes back to us.
As a species, we live in very interesting times when it comes to so-called “intellectual property”. As the rules for physical objects were poorly imposed on digital items, usually controlled by those with the most money to spend and lose, we’ve seen this kind of nonsense spread from music to movies to by digital art, and now the very colors they’re doing themselves. And that always seems to end up forcing us to pay even more money.
It is also increasingly common to have to pay for aspects of services that were previously free. BMW charges some people for heated seats.
However, there are workarounds to this specific problem. In particular by freeing you from the misery of these closed software, where ridiculous situations can reproduce like rabbits. There are free software like Gimpand free and open color schemes like open color. Of course, there are always difficulties in straying from industry standards, but then, if we all did, those problems would go away pretty quickly.
If you need or want to stick with Adobe projects, there are solutions too. Free ones. Watch the video below for one.
Another tip suggested by Print Week is to back up your Pantone libraries, then re-import them when your Adobe software is updated to remove them, or if it’s too late, find a friend who has already done this. Chances are this will work, since Pantone colors are stored as .ACB files, just like the rest of Photoshop colors.
Or, you know, you can just copy the pantone range metadata values.
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