Adobe’s controversial color scheme hits creatives hard

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(Image credit: Unsplash / Christin Hume)

Photoshop users are beginning to feel the bite as Adobe’s controversial decision to dump Pantone Color books from its Creative Cloud tools takes hold.

Back in December 2021, the creative apps firm revealed its plan to remove Pantone Color Libraries from products. Users will need to buy an additional license, Pantone Connect, to use them in their work - effectively placing the colors behind paywall. 

August saw the start of a phased cull that stripped the included Pantone Color books from InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. Now, that process appears more or less complete. And designer and video editor Iain Anderson, revealed on Twitter how the move is affecting creative workflows.   

Paywalls and pirates 

“Fun times ahead for #Adobe designers,” the tweet began. “Today, if you open a PSD (even one that's 20 years old) with an obscure PANTONE colour, it will remove the colour and make it black. Pantone want US$21/month for access, and Solid Coated goes behind the paywall in early November.”

The thread saw users suggest preferred alternatives to Photoshop and their favorite digital art and drawing software. Others offered workarounds to enable the color system in the app. Many seemed baffled by the apparent copyrighting of colors (although, technically, it’s the Pantone color name and matching system that’s being licensed here). Most, however, criticized Adobe and Pantone for not reaching an agreement.  

Extra costs aside, one of the biggest concerns for designers is continuing to deliver consistency and accuracy. While Adobe’s photo editor and DTP software allows third-party color books, they risk not identically matching the widely used Pantone libraries. As such, fears of rising complaints and assets not meeting branding guidelines loom over the creative industry. 

More worrying, as Anderson’s tweet shows, is that this update is retroactive. 

Adobe hasn’t revealed the reason behind the change. Its website simply notes “Pantone’s licensing with Adobe was adjusted. Due to this change, customers will need to purchase Pantone Connect licenses to access Pantone colors in Adobe Creative Cloud products.”

The company also confirmed that after November 2022, only Pantone + CMYK Coated, Pantone + CMYK Uncoated, and Pantone + Metallic Coated color books will remain available. 

Note: We've updated this article to reflect that this is a universal change impacting all customers, including Creative Cloud All Apps subscribers.

Steve Clark
B2B Editor - Creative & Hardware

Steve is TechRadar Pro’s B2B Editor for Creative & Hardware. He explores the apps and devices for individuals and organizations that thrive on design and innovation. A former journalist at Web User magazine, he's covered software and hardware news, reviews, features, and guides. He's previously worked on content for Microsoft, Sony, and countless SaaS & product design firms. Once upon a time, he wrote commercials and movie trailers. Relentless champion of the Oxford comma.