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What happened to Pantone color books in Illustrator?

Adobe Illustrator used to come bundled with the Pantone color libraries, providing easy access to thousands of spot colors for design work. However, in recent years the Pantone color books have disappeared from Illustrator. This has caused confusion and frustration for many designers who relied on this integration.

Why did Adobe remove the Pantone color books?

In 2014, Adobe made the decision to remove the Pantone color libraries from all Creative Cloud applications, including Illustrator. This was primarily due to changes in the licensing agreement between Adobe and Pantone.

Previously, Adobe held a license that allowed them to include Pantone colors in their software at no extra cost. However, Pantone decided to begin charging a license fee for this inclusion. As a result, Adobe opted to remove the color books rather than pass the cost on to their customers.

How can I access Pantone colors in Illustrator now?

While Illustrator no longer comes bundled with Pantone colors, there are a few options to access them:

  • Purchase the Pantone Color Manager plugin – This allows you to install Pantone libraries directly in Illustrator again. However, it does come at an added cost.
  • Use Adobe Color Books – Adobe offers their own color books, which include common Pantone colors. These are included with a Creative Cloud subscription.
  • Manually build swatch libraries – You can manually recreate Pantone swatches by looking up color values and adding them to a custom swatch palette.

What are the benefits of the Pantone Color Manager?

For designers who work extensively with spot colors, the Pantone Color Manager plugin is likely worth the investment. Benefits include:

  • Access the full Pantone color libraries – Over 10,000 spot colors for graphic design.
  • Accurate spot color reproduction – Pantone integration ensures spot colors translate properly across workflows.
  • Color picking from Pantone palettes – Quickly sample and specify Pantone colors for projects.
  • Color mapping – Map spot colors to CMYK for proofing and simulating printed output.

For $15-$20/month, the Pantone Color Manager brings back seamless Pantone color workflows to Illustrator that were lost when Adobe removed their libraries.

Should I build my own Pantone color libraries?

Manually recreating Pantone colors in Illustrator is possible, but involves a fair amount of work:

  • Looking up the color values for each Pantone spot color needed.
  • Entering these into Illustrator to create swatches.
  • Organizing swatches into color books or libraries.
  • Updating whenever Pantone releases new colors.

This can be a good option if you only need a smaller subset of spot colors. However, for access to thousands of Pantone colors, the official libraries save significant time and effort.

What are the downsides to relying on Adobe Color Books?

While Adobe Color Books do contain some Pantone colors, there are a few downsides:

  • Limited selection – Only the most common spot colors are included.
  • Not the official Pantone libraries – Colors may not match Pantone specifications exactly.
  • No color mapping – Adobe books don’t support mapping spot colors to CMYK.
  • Not updated with new Pantone colors – Libraries only update with major software releases.

For most spot color needs, the Adobe Color Books get the job done. But for precise color matching and access to the full Pantone system, they fall a bit short.

Are there free options similar to the Pantone plugin?

There are a few free options that provide Pantone color libraries:

  • Pantone Studio – Desktop app that integrates Pantone with Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • InkSwatch – Downloadable Pantone libraries for various programs.
  • Open source projects – Some open source options aim to recreate Pantone libraries.

However, most legit free options limit you to only the most popular 100-200 Pantone colors. For full access, the Pantone Color Manager remains the best option despite the monthly cost.


The removal of Pantone color books changed the way designers access spot color libraries in Illustrator. While not ideal, there are now several options to choose from:

  • Use the official Pantone Color Manager plugin for full access and integration.
  • Stick with the included Adobe Color Books for basic needs.
  • Build your own libraries through manual work and research.
  • Explore free limited options from third parties.

Weighing the pros and cons of each option can help you find the right Pantone workflow as you continue creating vibrant designs in Illustrator.

Option Pros Cons
Pantone Color Manager
  • Full Pantone libraries
  • Accurate color reproduction
  • Easy color picking
  • Color mapping features
  • Paid monthly subscription
Adobe Color Books
  • Free with Creative Cloud
  • Contains some spot colors
  • Limited color selection
  • Colors may not match Pantone
  • No color mapping
  • Not updated frequently
Build Custom Libraries
  • Fully customizable
  • Very labor intensive
  • Ongoing maintenance
Free Third Party Options
  • Free or low cost
  • Limited color selection
  • Questionable accuracy