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

Enlarge / The Pantone Solid Coated and Solid Uncoated color libraries are disappearing from Adobe’s apps at some point, though the exact timing isn’t clear. (credit: 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 now. And if you want to use Pantone colors inside of Adobe’s apps, it’s about to get even more expensive. Starting this month, the Pantone color books in Adobe’s apps are mostly going away, and continuing to use those colors in your files will require a new Pantone Connect extension.

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

Strange as it might seem for a company to be able to “own” colors, that’s an oversimplification of what Pantone does—it maintains a large library of reference colors and physical color samples used in print publishing and many design industries to ensure that colors look the way they’re supposed to look, no matter what material they’re being used on. If you want to see what a given color will look like when printed on a matte sheet of paper versus a glossy sheet of paper versus plastic versus cloth (among other things), and you want to know that the manufacturer or printer sees the exact same color you do, that’s when Pantone colors can be useful. Different computer, tablet, and phone displays will also show different colors differently based on how the displays are calibrated and what colors they’re capable of showing—Pantone colors and physical samples help to eliminate some guesswork and inconsistency.

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