Convert CMYK To PMS With Adobe Illustrator

When Would You Convert CMYK To PMS?

Every now and then, we get ourselves into sticky situations. Sometimes clients change their minds, or you are used to doing things a certain way and your client prefers otherwise. Whatever the case may be, you may have encountered a scenario, where you have created something in CMYK or RGB and you need to convert it to PMS for 2 color printing. Budget plays a major factor in this and this can make or break a project. You might be thinking “How in the world can I convert CMYK to PMS quickly and easily? How will I know that it is close or that it is correct?”. You can convert CMYK to PMS in Adobe Illustrator fairly easily, and I’ll show you how.

Most of the time, this happens with logos, or business cards. A situation arose for me where a client had planned to have their cards printed somewhere such as Vista Print or PS Print, where you can simply upload a project in CYMK and let that be the end of it. You pay $50-$100 for the print job, and you are done. However, my client decided that he wanted to go somewhere local, and the place that he chose set up a 2 color print job to save him money (however, the job came out to cost as much as if he’d sent it to Vista Print or PS Print). So I was faced with the conundrum of having to figure out how to convert CMYK to PMS without having to sift through all of the swatches and go through trial and error.

Below is not the name of the actual company, but it is a representation of a logo with a specific color. The CMYK value for the color is C=19, M=100, Y=98, K=10.

CMYK to PMS Step 1How To Convert CMYK To PMS

To Convert your colors from CMYK to PMS, click and highlight the items that you want to convert. Then, go to Edit>Edit Colors>Recolor Artwork. A dialog box will come up with all sorts of options. Click the box with the text “none” below it in the bottom center portion of the dialog box. Then all you have to do is choose the right PMS, which depends on if your paper is coated or uncoated.

Convert CMYK to PMS Step 2  Convert CMYK to PMS Step 3

As you can see in the image below, there is a box in the bottom left corner that says “recolor artwork”. Make sure that is checked and when you click ok, your colors should be converted to the PMS that you specified.

Convert CMYK to PMS Step 4

As you can see in the image below, we were able to convert CMYK to PMS easily, and now instead of a CMYK value, when we click the red text, we see that the color is Pantone 7621 C, which is the closest PMS equivalent to the original CMYK value that we had before.

Convert CMYK to PMS Step 5


Unexpected situations always arise, despite our careful planning. While this is inevitable, being able to handle these situations  sets true professionals apart from the rest. Being able to handle these issues also ensures that our clients will be happy with the results and will likely end up as repeat customers.

  • Michael King

    James, thanks for the nice overview.

  • Matt

    What fonts did you use for the Regimbald Industries text?

    • James George

      Riesling and Ostrich Sans

  • maysdesign

    A beautiful font mix….
    the printer mixes the pantone ink to a formula for 2 color printing so what does the screen conversion do for you…just send the black logo or art

  • spoocobra

    If you logo is just two cmyk colors to begin with you can just make them “spot” no need to go through all that mess. The printer will mix the ink to the correct pantone color.