September 29, 2006

ASK MORDY: Pantone Number Please

Scott Citron submitted this query this morning:

In both PS and ID when choosing Pantone swatches I can type a PMS color (485, e.g.) to quickly select that color from all available swatches. I can't seem to find a way to do this in AI. Am I missing something?

What, you mean you're too lazy to scroll through thousands and thousands of Pantone colors to find the one you're looking for? What do we look like, Hertz? Sorry -- I always wanted to reference those cute Hertz commercials in one of my posts. But I digress.

I'm glad you asked this question, Sir Scott, because while the direct answer to your question is simple, you've added a teeny little detail to your question that opens up a much larger discussion. The kind if discussion we need to talk about here.

First, let's talk about finding your color. Once you've opened the Pantone color library, choose Show Find Field from the palette menu. Now you have a field where you can enter a number. I know, this is the kind of thing that should be on by default. When would you ever NOT want the find field to be active?

And while we're scratching our heads over this apparent oversight, we can wax poetic about older versions of Illustrator, where it was possible to just Command-Option click within the Pantone library palette and punch in a number directly. Good thing I don't get a nickel for every extra click we need to do in Illustrator, or I'd be too rich to care about it at all :)

And while we're on the topic of extra clicks, choose Persistent from the Pantone library palette menu to keep the Pantone library always open -- even after you've quit and relaunched Illustrator.

It's all in the details
Let's take a close look at Scott's question again (in super slow motion). Wait... almost... ok, RIGHT THERE! See it? He said "(485, e.g.)". Pantone 485!

Ok, at this point, all of you are certainly thinking that Mordy has finally gone over the edge. All that clicking with the Pen tool has finally fried his brain. Well, that may be true, but for all of you playing along at home, try to open your Pantone library, show the find field as we described above, and then try to type in 485. I'll wait... tap tap tap.... Did you get it yet? I'll bet not. In fact, I'll do my best impression of one of those mentalists or magicians. Wait! Don't tell me... you got a different number, right? Is it............

Pantone 1485?

No, it's not real magic. It's the way Illustrator's find field works. Actually, Teri Pettit explains it best (as she always does):

Prefixing the search string with a space is probably the best thing to do.

What the search command does is first look for a swatch starting with the characters you type in. For example, if you type in "lo", it will first look for colors starting with "lo", like maybe Loden Green. But if it finds none, it will then look for the first swatch name containing "lo", and will match to "Yellow".

Characters are concatenated into the search string if they occur within the double-click time. Otherwise it starts over with a new string.

Since the Pantone libraries are not sorted in numerical order, but semi-alphabetically, if you are searching for something like "613", it will find the substring match in Pantone 2613 before it will the one in Pantone 613. By typing in " 613", you prevent a match in 2613, etc. (It isn't true that all the 4-digit Pantone colors end in 5, although it is true that all the Pantone colors in the 1000's end in 5. The 2000's contain a lot of colors ending in 3 and 7. I think they kind of treat 4 digit colors almost like they had an implicit decimal point between the third and fourth digits, and tried to space them out evenly.)

The substring search is mainly meant to accomodate color book libraries, where a lot of colors have the same prefix. It should probably be changed to do a three-step search instead of a two-step search, first looking for the characters at the beginning of the swatch name, then if none is found looking for the characters at the beginning of a word (i.e., preceded by a space or punctuation), and only if no word match is found to look for an arbitrary substring match. Under these revised rules, "ye" would match "light yellow" in preference to "Bye Bye Blackbird", even though the latter comes earlier in the alphabet.

So there you have it -- Pantone 485 whenever you need it. Thanks Scott and Teri!


Scott Citron said...

Wow! I'm almost sorry I asked!! Just kidding. Many thanks, MG. Once again, you de man!

jean-claude Tremblay said...

So Mordy, since the Command-Option click, to target the Palette does not work anymore, what it is good for?

Mordy Golding said...

To steal a line from the famous song, "absolutely nothing"... it's like that light switch you have in your house that doesn't do anything. You flip it on and off and always wonder what it's for.

(The comic Steven Wright once said he had one such light switch in his home and he would always flip it on and off for fun until one day when he recieved a call from a woman in Germany telling him to cut it out...)

Scott said...

Beautiful... great tip!

Eric Henao said...

You don't know how much this has been frustrating me!!! YES!! THIS is why I read your blog. Keep up the excellent work and blog!

Anonymous said...

This is a great feature in illustrator. What I would love to see is being able to go from CMYK or RGB color and have Illustrator find the closest match PMS, much like Photoshop has. If there is a way to do this and I just haven't found it please let me know.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand a word of what you are saying here.
In freehand if I search for say Pan 4645c a brown in the Pantone coated Library it takes me to the swatch 4645.
In CS 3 it takes me to 104 or to 146? What's it all about?

Anonymous said...

I have a Pentone color selector samples and if enter say 5175C (or without 'C' it can not find at all!

Its either Illustrator or Pentone sux

Mac McRae said...

Please CUT out all of the folksy BS.
THE ANSWER is "put a SPACE in the search bar before you type the number". Nobody has time to read through 4 paragraphs for such a short answer.

Sair said...

Is there a quick way to search for a pantone is Photoshop, as there doesn't seem to be a "Show Field Name" option available.
I'm currently scrolling through the 1000s of pantones to find the number I'm looking for, and I'm loosing my will to live with each TPX I need to find.
Thanks, Sair

Sairy said...

Is there a way to 'show field name' in Photoshop, as I am currenlty scrolling through all the pantones to find the ones I need.