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Paint It Black: Adobe Files Lose Pantone Support As The Color Company Gets SaaSy

by Rudy Sanchez on 10/28/2022 | 3 Minute Read

If you fired up your computer this morning and opened a file in an Abobe application with a Pantone color, you may have been shocked to see a notice about it being no longer available and changed to black. 

The message may have surprised you, but we were also warned this day would come since last November, albeit in a somewhat vague statement buried in an Adobe help document. Moving forward, if you want to use Pantone within Abobe’s software suite, get ready for yet another subscription, as you’ll need to shell out for Pantone Connect at $15 a month.

For now.

It could also be as high as $21 per month, but we're unsure where everyone is getting that number. Bottom line—it's going to cost you.

For those that rely on Pantone colors within Adobe, there are few good options besides forking over money to Pantone every month in perpetuity. Some users might get by converting Pantone colors into LAB values and saving them as .asc files.

The ramifications for those relying on Pantone references for years of design work can’t be overstated. It’s Pantone worming into your work files and holding them hostage until you subscribe to Pantone Connect. If you don’t continue paying the ransom, they’ll kidnap your files again. What’s worse, Adobe is an accomplice.

How did we get here? It’s easy to say it’s a business disagreement over licensing fees between Adobe and Pantone, and that’s likely more true than not. Still, it’s worth delving into how it’s possible two companies can retroactively remove a critical feature.

In the old-timey days, all but the most well-heeled creative shops could get away with older versions of Adobe software and years-old Pantone swatches. Adobe and Pantone, understandingly, weren’t that happy about this, but there was little either could do to get users to pay up every year.

The telecommunications explosion of the 2000s brought about an age of machines persistently interconnected. The computing potential exploded, but it also led to new and more lucrative business models for software. Software as a Service, or SaaS, changed how companies sold software. Rather than printing software on media, boxing it up, and then shipping it to stores, SaaS allows products to get accessed via the cloud. Or, that connectivity could simply validate user licenses.

Adobe switched to a SaaS model in 2013, discontinuing Creative Suite and replacing it with Creative Cloud. The change was met with criticism, of course. Professionals that rely on the software are now more at the mercy of Adobe. For example, suppose the connection to Adobe was somehow compromised, like an outage on Adobe’s end. In that case, it forces nearly every creative professional on the planet to sit idly by until Adobe fixes it. That happened in 2014. It’s a bummer when Twitter goes down for a bit, but Adobe being unusable has actual consequences.

Creative Cloud users are effectively locked in as Adobe users. It makes little sense for Adobe to pay Pantone to keep users happy, especially if there is potential to earn points on the package via Pantone Connect subscription sales within the Adobe ecosystem.

It's not the first time a change in Adobe software has coincided with user frustration and dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, there are no feasible alternatives to Adobe software for most creative professionals. Having no way to vote with one’s wallet, expect more of the same in the future.