Adobe products soon without Pantone colors!

Adobe products soon without Pantone colors!

In the middle of the dreary season, on November 22, 2021, Adobe published a note in the help system that packs a punch:

Changes coming to the Pantone Color Libraries.
In March, 2022, the Pantone Color Libraries that are pre-loaded in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Adobe Color, and Adobe Capture will be removed from future software updates. To minimize the impact of this change, we are working on an alternative solution for the affected products. Stay tuned for updates.

How should we assess this news?

The entry is tantamount to an earthquake in the paint and design industry. It’s not just that many Adobe users are working with Pantone colors and will soon be turning to alternative solutions (which ones?). It is probably due in large part to the firm integration into Adobe products since the 1990s that Pantone now plays the leading role among color systems worldwide. Pantone is so well established today that it is no longer possible to do without it. Multinational corporations, independent institutions, entire countries (even the EU! – see here) have defined their corporate design according to Pantone. This probably under the assumption that Pantone colors would be readily available for all time. But this is a fallacy, which should now become clear to many.

As soon as the Adobe software no longer contains Pantone colors, this will first trigger a run on Pantone Connect, where one can download the latest Pantone-ACB color palettes. This is more cumbersome than direct integration in the program, and the question is whether this will be permanently possible free of charge, as this would not be a lucrative model for Pantone. (Currently, there is a distinction between a free Basic access and a paid one with extended components). It is to be assumed that Pantone users will change their mind. It can also be assumed that other software manufacturers will follow Adobe’s example, primarily for licensing cost reasons. Thus, the importance of Pantone will decline…. sooner or later, Pantone will prove to be what it has been at its core ever since Lawrence Herberts set out to change the world of color with his system in the 1950s as a part-time employee of an ink manufacturer: a brainless dinosaur that at some point can no longer cope with the demands of a changing world – so the rampant marketing with “Pantone hotels” and the “Color of the Year” is of little use.

The lack of quality of the system should be known to most readers of these lines:

  • incredible variety of color guides and hues contained therein
  • hiereto associated patchy software integration
  • lack of accuracy and high metamerism of color guides and shades, due to diverse manufacturers with different papers and pigments
  • very restrictive licensing policy, no freely available source for color values

Why would Adobe users be willing to pay money for access to Pantone colors, which has always been free? Why would Pantone be willing to make its color collections available to Adobe users for free, while numerous other software houses pay licensing fees?

Where will the road lead?

It should become clearer: calculated and freely available colors are far more useful than color collections from commercial vendors. You can work with them much more systematically, you don’t need to pay a license fee for them, they are available for free in virtually any software, and above all: you don’t make yourself dependent on rights holders who mainly have the “protection” of “their” colors in mind… We recommend RGB as a simple solution, and CIELAB, especially CIE-HLC, as a qualitatively better one.

Many market gaps are opening up!

What now?

We will try to contribute a part to the discussion and upcoming developments. At the moment, a first idea is to contact Adobe to collaborate on the “alternative solution for the affected products”.

More ideas will follow, we will keep you posted


Join the color liberation effort – it’s more exciting than ever.

The Board of freieFarbe e.V.

More information

Note in the Adobe Help system.
A slightly more in-depth Printweek article on the topic with several opinions
Pantone at Wikipedia
Pantone Connect
Description of several Pantone/Adobe integration errors (german)
List of Pantone licensees in the software sectorh
Pantone Hotel Brussels
Color of the year
Portrait of the company founder Lawrence Herbert
Article and Podcast: Episode of Thrilling Tales of Modern Capitalism

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