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Why is Pantone leaving Adobe?

Pantone, the world-renowned color standards company known for its Pantone Matching System (PMS), has decided to end its long-standing partnership with Adobe. This news has sent shockwaves through the design and creative communities, as the Pantone-Adobe relationship has been viewed as synonymous with color management for digital design.

In this article, we’ll examine the reasons behind Pantone’s decision to leave Adobe, what this means for designers, and how the color giants will move forward in the post-partnership landscape.

The Pantone-Adobe partnership

Since 1997, Pantone and Adobe have worked together to integrate Pantone’s trusted color matching system into Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications. This allows designers to select, display, and output Pantone colors with consistency across different programs and devices.

Key features of the partnership included:

  • Pantone color libraries integrated directly into Adobe applications like Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop
  • Ability to accurately simulate Pantone spot colors on monitor displays
  • Print output that matches Pantone’s numbered solid color swatches
  • Specialized Pantone features for fashion, textile, and plastics design workflows

For 25 years, this integration has provided creatives with an efficient, standardized color workflow. But now, Pantone has made the dramatic decision to end this long-running collaboration and no longer license its technology to Adobe.

Why is Pantone leaving Adobe?

In its official announcement, Pantone stated the desire to have greater control over its color ecosystem as the driving reason for leaving Adobe. Specific factors included:

1. Direct brand relationships

As an independent company, Pantone wants to form direct partnerships and brand relationships. Collaborating with Adobe required Pantone to license their technology, limiting their control. By leaving, Pantone can have ownership over key partnerships.

2. Ownership of color capabilities

With Adobe controlling the integration features, Pantone had less ownership over its color technology capabilities. As an independent platform, Pantone will have full control to update color libraries, profiles, and other standards on its own terms.

3. Unique user experience

Adobe primarily focused on print design workflows in its Pantone integration. Pantone aims to enhance capabilities for digital, motion, AR/VR, and other emerging mediums. Leaving Adobe will allow Pantone to create a unique user experience that extends beyond print.

4. New revenue streams

As a standalone company, Pantone will have more flexibility to pursue new revenue streams that leverage its proprietary color technology. Direct partnerships and licensing opportunities may be more financially favorable than collaborating with Adobe.

What does this mean for designers?

For designers who rely on Pantone and Adobe, this shift could significantly impact their workflows. Key changes include:

Loss of integrated Pantone libraries

Without the partnership, Adobe applications will no longer have built-in access to Pantone colors. Designers will lose this tight integration and likely have to manually download Pantone swatches.

Potential color matching inconsistencies

Achieving consistent color across apps and devices may become more challenging. Pantone will control its own color management, while Adobe will have to develop its own systems.

Transition period to new technology

As Pantone and Adobe build out new independent color capabilities, designers may face a disruptive transition period switching between technologies and adjusting workflows.

More costs to access Pantone colors

Pantone will likely charge designers separately for color libraries that were previously bundled with Adobe Creative Cloud. This could mean added costs for designers to maintain access.

Adobe finding a new partner

Adobe will need to search for a new color standards company to replace Pantone integration. This could result in noticeable changes for designers depending on Adobe’s new partner.

Pantone’s independent color ecosystem

As part of its separation from Adobe, Pantone has announced ambitious plans to launch a new standalone color platform. Details are still emerging, but this ecosystem aims to give Pantone oversight of its technology across all design mediums and disciplines.

Key features Pantone hinted at include:

  • Cloud-based color libraries with direct access for design applications
  • Expanded digital, motion, and material color capabilities
  • Immersive color visualization through AR and VR
  • Personalized profiles and preferences
  • Enhanced color simulation, prototyping, and visualization

This platform aims to make Pantone the central authority over standardized color communication across all stages of the design process. Adobe will retain certain color capabilities, but Pantone wants ownership over the complete ecosystem.

Adobe’s path forward

On the Adobe side, the company will need to quickly regroup and develop new strategies after this 25-year partnership ends in 2023. Adobe has indicated plans to:

Build new color technology

Adobe will leverage its Sensei AI engine to develop new proprietary color capabilities for its Creative Cloud apps. This aims to replace Pantone integration features like spot color simulation and color matching.

Partner with new color standards companies

Finding a new color partner will be a top priority. Rival color companies like Munsell or RAL may get integrated into Creative Cloud. But matching Pantone’s reputation will be difficult.

Emphasize accessibility and UX

Without Pantone, Adobe can reorient its color management to be more intuitive and accessible to general users, not just design professionals. More consumer-friendly education and interfaces around color may emerge.

Focus on performance and speed

Adobe can leverage its software expertise to improve color performance across Creative Cloud apps. Faster processing power and real-time color visualization will help compensate for the loss of Pantone integration.

Expand partnerships with printer/display vendors

To achieve output color consistency without Pantone, Adobe will need to strengthen partnerships directly with printer, display, and device vendors. Tighter hardware integration can assist with color workflows.

Should designers keep using Pantone?

For designers, a key question will be whether to remain loyal to Pantone or fully adopt Adobe’s new color workflow. Pantone will tempt users with promises of greater control and broader capabilities. But the converted Adobe-Pantone relationship has been reliable for many years. Here are some factors to consider:

Cost considerations

Pantone platforms may require more paid subscriptions for access. Budget-conscious designers may prefer cheaper or free solutions from Adobe.

Brand reputation and trust

Pantone is synonymous with color, which may entice users. But Adobe has decades of brand reputation around creative software.

Degree of change to workflow

Those highly comfortable with Pantone-Adobe integrations may resist changing workflows. But some may welcome learning completely new color tools.

Features and capabilities

Pantone promises advanced features, but Adobe has immense R&D resources to develop robust alternatives over time.

Industry standards

Pantone retains strong market dominance in print and analog color. But Adobe may gain advantage in emerging digital design workflows.

There are compelling reasons for designers to stay loyal to each color giant. Expect both Pantone and Adobe to fiercely compete over retaining users.


The end of the Pantone-Adobe partnership marks a dramatic shift in the world of color management for creatives. For 25 years, these color authorities collaborated to provide a reliable, integrated workflow. But Pantone ultimately desired freedom from Adobe to control its technology. This rupture will force designers to re-evaluate their color tools and may lead to a period of uncomfortable transition. Expect both Pantone and Adobe to aggressively court users over the coming years with competing color capabilities. While the post-partnership landscape will take time to settle, one thing is clear: the simple, standardized days of Pantone-Adobe dominance have ended.