CMYK to pantone color conversion in Photoshop

hi visitors some days i come across a project in which my client ask me to convert their logo in Pantone colors. So i thought why not to add a tutorial on how to do that in photoshop.

1- First open your image, if its in psd format then you should flat it.
2- Convert it to CMYK if it is not.
3- Duplicate your image and rename it, in my case its “design_pantone”
4- Go to its channel palette, you should see four channels there named as Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and black there.
5- Select Cyan,Magenta and yellow channel and delete them individually.There should only black channel left there.
6- Now Click on the new channel button as shown in the image below , a new channel named as alpha1 should be there.

7- Double Click on it and a channel option dialog box should appear.
8- Select the spot color from the option and Click the color to assign the new color.


Now For CMYK, we first select the Global value of Cyan color which is #00FFFF and then find the nearest pantone match of that color.

9- So enter the value #00FFFF in the dialog box
then click the color library button to access the nearest pantone color match, Photoshop will automatically select nearest pantone color.I use the same as photoshop selects but you can change that if you want.Click OK when you  are done.


10- Now you should see the pantone color in the name field, click OK again.

There should be a cyan tone over all the picture now.

11- Make sure you selected the current pantone color channel, now go to image menu and then select the apply image.

Apply image dialog box appears.

12- In source drop down select the orignal image in CMYK,  in my case that was design.
In layer there should be background
In Channel field select the Cyan channel.
blending should be set to normal.Opacity  100%
Click OK when you are done!.


Now you mapped the Cyan color to pantone, next you would repeat steps from 6-12 for mapping both the Magenta and then the yellow.

The Hex value for magenta is #FF00FF and Yellow is #FFFF00.

When you mapped all channels to Pantone…..You are done!

If you see big difference in the colors double click the channels and change pantone spot colors until you are satisfied from the result.

Save the file as PSD or DCS 2.0(eps)

At the end i want to say that this is just the one way i done my work because it gives you quite a control over the colors so you can adjust them by your self..

Thanks, Have a GOOD DAY !

61 thoughts on “CMYK to pantone color conversion in Photoshop”

  1. In step #8, where do I go to select the global value? That step doesn’t seem as clear as it could be. I get that far and then I get confused.

  2. actually i got Hex value of Cyan Magenta yellow from Wikipedia, this i did to get the right tone of that color. otherwise you can use your own tone.

  3. Hi

    I followed all the steps but the channels remained black instead of changing to the selected Pantone colours :( Any ideas?

  4. Hi Maria please make sure you done step 12, as i mentioned, if it still does not make good then send file over here i can help you in that hey its freeeee offer.

  5. Hey,

    its really helpfull tutorial. But i have quastion:
    i followed all steps.. and on the end it looked fine, i saved file as .eps and then tryed to open it in Illustator. The programm said “DCS EPS files can not be oppened or embedded. Please plac e this file using the Link option” fine.. so i did, Placed image was black and white and looked like it has too low resolution.

    Please Help! Im stock :(

  6. Hi,

    I’ve tried all the steps, however, at the end I had the same problem as Leska.
    I think I’ve spotted what has gone wrong though. In the “apply image” dialog box, I can’t choose the original image within the drop down, it only gives me the option to choose the “design_pantone” image, which is the image I am current working on.
    Can you please advise?

    Many thanks. This will be of great help once it works!

    All the best

    1. Ohhh i figured out why u guys having issue its because by duplicate the image i means to duplicate the window not the layer, right click on the opened image and then click the duplicate, give it a name and u r done…. please tell me if that solved the problem or not…. ????

      1. I’m a little late to the party here but the confusion comes into play at step 3. I did not see a way to duplicate the whole image, but if you duplicate each of the 4 channels individually, then follow the remaining steps the conversion works great. I did notice that you did not change the black channel to a spot black in your tutorial. I get better results when I change all 4 channels to spots including the black. I’m sure 95% of the people reading this know that the hex code for black is 000000, but I will say it just to cover all the bases.

    1. Hi Emalik

      Um.. well..? I’m not really sure. It came out looking.. much more colorful than the original. Is that normal? It has what looks like a mix of all 3 pantone colors masked over it. There is a pinkish/yellowish/blueish hue that appears to be laying over the image.

      You’re talking to a programmer. Not a designer. So I don’t know what pantone even is or what the end result is supposed to look like. the client wanted it.. and i’ve been at this for almost an hour now :) I don’t know if i did it correctly or not.

  7. Hi emalik,

    I was excited, thanks for your tutorial… but I have a question, therefore. Will be pantone colors remain after combining them in to a CMYK? If the C, M, Y chanels are in Pantone colors, after merging there is a mix, not Pantone colors at all. Any ideas?

  8. For Sadaf ….. What does you means to make it difficult……. :)

    Anyways thankssss a lot and be touch… and if possible just suggest me any good topic on which i can write any good tutorial …

  9. for Ulotrixx… Actually when you save it as DSC(2.0) it saves channels in pantone colors… these are print ready colors… Just import it to InDesign or which ever application you want channels would be there in pantone…

  10. Are you making 4 different documents and then merging them together? I have not been doing that but just working with the one. When I follow the directions by pulling the different channels off, it pulls off some of the graphics. I am starting from RGB, converting and flattening to CMYK, pulling channels off – following your directions to the tee and I get a channel that has a solid cyan color over it, a channel with sold magenta, etc. I can only see the graphics through it if I make sure the eye is active on the black channel (the only channel originally left.) Can you tell by this what glaring mistake I am making. I have spent hours trying to figure out what I am doing wrong. I have a whole book that I have created (139 pages) completed in Photoshop CS3 RGB that I have to make CMYK printer ready. Help!!!! . . . .

  11. Interesting tutorial. This isn’t quite what I was looking for, so I didn’t actually follow along in Photoshop, but …

    … it appears to me that you’re setting up spot channels that simply mimic cyan, magenta, and yellow. Okay, you can change them to different and interesting variations, but you’ve deleted the original color information and just kept the black channel–how does this help identify the Pantone equivalent from the original color?

    In essence, this seems to be a quick tutorial about creating a spot-color image, and from a single-color image at that. This can be very handy when printing spot-color work, but I think your title is a little misleading, which might be why some of your readers are confused.

    Best regards,

    1. To jeremy… this is so simple when you use Apply image command you’ll map the original colors from the original file into new face (called spot color) in duplicate file. if you still have problem simply use this new method:

      1. in channel palette, duplicate each of the 3 channels (CMY)
      or any of channel you want to change to spot colors by dragging the channel or channels on “new channel” icon. usually we have to keep the Black channel because this channel naturally is for cast and color shadows.

      2. then delete all 3 original channels.

      3. now you can double click on each new channels (this channel converted to alpha channels) and use spot color option and … you can see this is almost like first method.
      The point of this process is selecting right pantone color because you’ll lose some of the midtones in your image.

      In the other hand if you have a big big money and you want most accurate results, buy “Ink tools for PS” from the package “ESKO Deskpack”.

      Good luck

      1. @ Amir: your response led me to re-read the original post.

        I think I missed the part about duplicating the image, and just focused on deleting all channels except the black. Shoot – I’m a ninny!

        Your method also sounds easy. I rarely have a need to use more than 1 or 2 spot colors, but nice addition.

    2. To Jeremy… i think you’re not ninny but hasty. in fact this issue i mean converting process colors to pms in PS is perfect for using in illustration artworks not for photographs. you need so much exercises and test for using this method on photos but it’s possible. i’m a packaging graphist for Gravure and Flexo machines and this issue always was a big challenge for me. i hope you to find what you looking for.

      Best wishes




  13. OMG…. So much happning here…… sorry guys, as you know the job of a CG Artist is just a HECK… so cant follow on the blog, but anyways thanks a lot to all to keep this thread active, specially AMIR n JEREMY…

    Well you guys figured a lot of thing by yourself but if still need any help please let me know i am now active .. Atleast i will try to be :)

  14. Hey emalik,

    nice timing as I just read this huh?

    My company has an adobe membership on order for me and I was wondering about applying the new channels to the image.

    After deleting all of the channels, except for black, and creating a new one with a C, M, or Y mimic in pantone, how does this prevent the image from becoming a blob of a single color with different shades?

    It seems like to me each shade would color the whole image in the shades it would describe….

    as far as the question about making a file linked instead of embedded check out this blog the same question is answered near the end of it

      1. Hi Gonzo Yeh actually i miss too much of it in writing the tutorial as it was a quick tip, i will try to make a video tut for you guys soon may b in couple of days, i think that will help to sort out many problem regarding channels.

  15. Don’t do a video – just touch up that bit of writing, and you’re set. I see I’m not the only one who got a little confused :)

    I think a couple of slight edits to the text would prevent the confusion.

    I’d recommend just calling out step 3 (duplicate the image) w/ bold text/strong emphasis, and then rewriting this bit –

    12- In source drop down select the orignal image in CMYK, in my case that was design.

    – to this –

    12- In source drop down select the *original image in CMYK*. (in my case this was design – you _are_ doing this on the duplicate image, right?)

    – where asterisks are bolding, and the underscores indicate italics.


    Then I think this tip would be perfect, no need to produce a video.

    I do think it’s interesting that the two commenters who seemed confused weren’t actually playing along. So maybe it’s just us stirring up trouble :) but clear instructions are always a good thing.

    Great blog, in general.


  16. Hi emalik,

    Probably a stupid question on my part, but I am finding that when I delete the CYMK channels, photoshop asks “flatten visible layers and discard hidden layers?” If I click OK then of course my duplicate layers are merged into one background and I effectively loose the information in the original image. Thus, when it comes time to apply the new panatone colours to the image the program does not source the original colours and I get something very strange indeed.

    I can’t see any way to disable this and I suspect that I’m missing something in the “duplicate image/layers” portion of your tutorial.

    Any suggestions? Anyone?

  17. Mr Emalik

    I tried as your way and successful but the problem is my spot color have gradient part which is when I applied images the gradient part become solid, do you have skype so I can transfer the files for you to try????

  18. Hi, Great tutorial and something I really needed to learn about! Just a question, excuse my ignorance, but the logo I’m trying to convert from CMYK to Pantone colours I want to make several pantone colours rather than just one. In this case, do I hide the layers I don’t want to convert to Pantone colour and then just alter layers I do want to colour change? I am a little confused!!! I don’t want entire logo to be ‘blue’ say, it will be made up of 2 pantone colours at least.

    Look forward to hearing from you .



  19. Hi, Great tutorial and something I really needed to learn about! Just a question, excuse my ignorance, but the logo I’m trying to convert from CMYK to Pantone colours I want to make several pantone colours rather than just one. In this case, do I hide the layers I don’t want to convert to Pantone colour and then just alter layers I do want to colour change? I am a little confused!!! I don’t want entire logo to be ‘blue’ say, it will be made up of 2 pantone colours at least.

    Look forward to hearing from you .

  20. So I followed all of the steps, and it all seemed to turn out fine, but how do I make the background transparent, it’s not letting me do much with the file afterwards. Thanks in advance.

  21. This tutorial is way more complicated than necessary. Easiest way to convert CMYK to Pantone is this:

    1. Select the color with the eye dropper tool
    2. Double click on that color in the “set foreground color” box at the bottom of the toolbar
    3. In the next dialog that opens (Color Picker, foreground Color) click on the Color Libraries button
    4. Select Pantone solid coated in the pull down menu and it will give you the closest match.

  22. Thanks Emalik I have been trying to find out how to do this for so long (it took me a few go’s to master it). Single colour printing made easier!!!!

  23. Hi Emalik

    I have a question about this process. I am currently designing a file for print which will be printed as one spot colour. However, this colour has no black in it’s CMYK values (C = 55, M = 33, Y = 23, K = 0). How do I get past step 5 without having a completely white file?

    1. Thanks Emalik

      You are right! I wasn’t really understanding how this process worked, but much respect once again for providing an invaluable tutorial.

  24. I tryed this because the printer wanted pantone colors and needed spot colors. However I now have to send this to them in PDF format and it won’t allow me too? What do I do?

  25. I have done this because my printer needed this in pms colors. But now I cant save it in the file format they need. Which is PDF format ….any ideas. I tryed to even import this into Illustrator CS4 and it could not accept it either.

  26. I’ve tried this many times but the channels remain black :( I tried with the values of Cyan, Magenta and yellow which are mentioned but the image remains in black and white till the end. In your point no. 10 it is mentioned that cyan tone will be all over the image. But in my case nothing like that happened. Plz help:(

  27. Can’t save the file, it keeps saying” Could not save because the resulting document will have no channels

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