Convert a Logo to Pantone in Seconds Without a Swatch Book (CC 2021 and Older)

September 15, 2018

Who starts designing a logo by choosing Pantone colors? I don’t. It’s much easier to pick a nice color from the color wheel or find inspiration from a color palette generator.

IMPORTANT: Adobe removed Pantone libraries from Illustrator after CC2021. Learn how to restore Pantone libraries in newer versions.

I also understand CMYK mixes and what type of color they will generate better than the obtuse numbering system that Pantone uses. Starting from Pantone doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when a very small percentage of jobs even require it anymore. Not to mention, the swatch books cost hundreds of dollars.

I always dreaded scouring over swatch books after completing a logo design. Trying to find the perfect match for a CMYK mix I had printed out took forever and was so subjective. I always came to the conclusion that NOTHING was really going to be a perfect match.

In light of all these difficulties over Pantone — why even bother?

Well, because:

  • Printers will always request your brand’s Pantone colors so they can check the quality of their CMYK print jobs. They will physically compare a Pantone swatch with their CMYK proof.
  • Larger clients will demand Pantone as it’s the best way to ensure consistent colors across their huge roster of print materials.
  • Some projects are going to be cheaper printed in one or two colors, which require Pantone. think envelopes and stationery for example.

Pantone is still relevant, so how do you find a near-perfect match for your logo’s colors without dusting off the swatch books?

The answer is by using Adobe Illustrator’s Recolor Artwork panel. Follow these steps and prepare to have your socks knocked off.

Step 1

Select the parts of your logo with colors you want to convert to Pantone. Typically blacks and grays do not need to be converted to Pantone because printers will just use black or tints of black ink.

Selecting art for recoloring in Adobe Illustrator

Step 2

Open the Recolor Artwork panel by choosing Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork.

Opening the Recolor Artwork panel in adobe Illustrator

Step 3

Make sure you are in the “Assign” tab.

Selecting the Assign tab inside of Recolor Artwork Panel in Adobe Illustrator

Step 4

Click on the icon next to the color sliders at the bottom of the panel that looks like 6 swatches in a grid.

Limit Color Group Icon in the Recolor Artwork panel

Step 5

From the flyout menu, choose Color Books > PANTONE + Solid Coated or PANTONE + Solid Uncoated depending on which version of Pantone you want to generate a swatch for.

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Pantone Coated is typically more vibrant and is used for printing on coated paper (think glossy). Pantone Uncoated is usually duller and used for printing on matte substrates.

Step 6

Press “Ok.”

Recolor Artwork panel automatically converts colors to Pantone

The Recolor Artwork panel chooses the closest matching Pantone colors and automatically applies them to your selected artwork. New Pantone swatches are generated in the swatch panel.

You’re done! It was that easy.

I usually just use the Recolor Artwork panel to convert my CMYK mixes to Pantone Coated because I find Pantone coated is often a better match for my original color than uncoated is. I then choose the same Pantone number for the uncoated swatch and call it a day. If you’re extremely meticulous when it comes to color matching, you can follow the steps in the tutorial for both coated and uncoated — you may get different Pantone swatches for both.

Pro Tip

Don’t let your Swatches panel get cluttered by all of those default swatches Illustrator automatically displays. It’s going to make the swatches that the Recolor Artwork panel generates difficult to find. To clean up the Swatches panel, open the flyout menu in the upper right corner of the panel and click “Select All Unused.” Then hit the trash can in the bottom right corner to delete all those default swatches.

Delete unused swatches from Adobe Illustrator

The Logo Package has a much more efficient method for converting your logos to Pantone, AND it’s more accurate too.

The Logo Package Express extension for Adobe Illustrator not only makes every logo variation your client needs in just a few clicks, it can also automatically convert your logos to Pantone with ease.

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