Converting colors between color systems is a never ending story for designers. Much of the converting can be done by the method described in a previous article on this site. There is one conversion not possible there, one that most designers are not aware of how to do easily: How to find what Pantone color best matches their CMYK matches.
There are a few ways to do this. This time I want to show you a little known secret inside Illustrator which beats everything else in speed and accuracy.
In Illustrator, pick a few colors to work with. Usually I make a copy to be able to compare the Pantone to the original colors I have.
Select all the objects and click on the New Color Group button.
I am using the default settings here. Convert Process to Global does not need to be checked but is clever to do whenever you are making Color Groups. But notice the white triangle that is added to the swatches, which means that the colors are now Global.
This results in a new Color Group, where the selected colors are grouped together inside the Swatches panel.
Select the Color Group inside the Swatches panel. When you do that you get a new option besides the New Color Group icon, called Edit or Apply Color Group. Click on this icon.
Now we get a new window called Recolor ArtWork. Our color group is selected in this window. As you can see, the first color of the Color Group is selected and we see its value.
The highlighted button on this picture is the tool we need. This button takes all the Color Group and limits its colors to a specified swatch library – like Pantone! So, let's find the Pantone Swatch Library.
Click and hold this button. A huge selection of swatch libraries open. The Pantone Swatch Libraries are under Color Books and as an example choose: Pantone solid coated and let go.
Now watch the difference we have here:
Over the button we just released it says: PANTONE solid coated and in the upper left corner you see that a dot has been added to the white triangle, meaning that we now have changed the Color Group to spot colors, which Pantone colors are.
Before you click OK be sure that Recolor Art is checked. Now you can click the OK button and Yes in the dialog box you get, verifying that you want to change the Color Group.
Now you can verify that everything has gone according to plan. Take a look at this last picture:
The top color row are the original colors and below is the same, now converted to Pantone. A quite good match.
You also see in the Swatches panel the Color Group is still there but now with that spot color dot in it and the Color panel confirms that you have a Pantone.