Photoshop Paywalls Pantone Colors, Is Turning Users’ Art Black

Adobe products used by designers will no longer include thousands of colors made by Pantone starting in November.
Paint swatches. Getty Images
Paint swatches. Getty Images

Pantone is putting 15,000 colors behind a paywall for users on some of the most popular Adobe products starting next month—leaving designers who want to use, or have ever used in the past, no choice but to pay up if they want to use them.

Designer Iain Anderson tweeted about getting a notification in Photoshop that said “This file has Pantone colors that have been removed and replaced with black due to changes in Pantone’s licensing with Adobe. To resolve, click ‘Learn more’.” The “learn more” message explains that Pantone color books were phased out of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign starting in August. After November, the only Pantone Color books remaining for use without a license will be Pantone + CMYK Coated, Pantone + CMYK Uncoated, and Pantone + Metallic Coated.

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According to the Advertising Specialty Institute, Pantone Connect costs $59.99 per user per year, or $7.99/month. Previously, the cost of licensing Pantone’s colors fell on software developers, but now that cost is passed on to users.

Pantone rules the color trends world, and is the company that decides the “color of the year,” what is to most people a mostly arbitrary title, but what Pantone claims will dictate fashion and design in the coming months. The color of the year for 2022 was Very Peri, “a new Pantone color whose courageous presence encourages personal inventiveness and creativity.” But only for those who pay to use it.  

“As announced over the course of the past year, Adobe licensing of Pantone products was updated to include a curated set of Pantone color libraries to be included in Creative Cloud,” a Pantone spokesperson said in a statement to Motherboard. “While we do not determine the pricing, features, or user experience of our partners’ solutions, we do collaborate closely with our partners to create the best possible customer experience. Adobe Creative Cloud customers can leverage Pantone Connect to gain access to the full color library system. Until now, neither the integration with Adobe nor the add-in extension of Pantone libraries allowed Pantone to actively update its color data within Adobe’s Creative Cloud.”

This piece has been updated with comment from Pantone.