This tutorial will show you how to load any Pantone swatches in your Adobe Illustrator workspace including paper (Coated, Uncoated, etc) and cotton (TCX / TPX) books. This is a great way to mock up fabric for your clothing line in Illustrator.
Q: Where do I find the Pantone colors in Illustrator?
A: It depends on what Pantone book you use.
If you need to work with any of the paper / printed color books – you can find all of those colors in under 30 seconds, and I’ll show you how.
But if you need to work with the Pantone Fashion + Home Cotton books – any of the TPX / TCX colors – it takes a little bit of time to get that set up. But don’t worry, I’ll show you how to do that too.
Loading the Default Pantone Books / Libraries in Illustrator
This method works with any of the following paper books: CMYK Coated / Uncoated, Color Bridge Coated / Uncoated, Metallic Coated, Pastels & Neons Coated / Uncoated, Premium Metallics Coated, Solid Coated / Uncoated
- From the Swatches Panel (Window > Swatches), open the drop down menu and choose Open Swatch Library > Color Books > to find and load the Pantone book you need.
- From the Pantone swatch panel you just loaded, you will want to make sure Show Find Field is checked. This will allow you to search for your specific Pantone code via the search field and will save you from the tedious process of manually finding your color.
- You might also want to change your view to Thumbnail or List
- Bonus Tip: Choose “Persistent” if you want this swatch panel to launch every time you open Illustrator.
So, that was pretty easy – right? You now have all swatches from that book available to use directly in your designs.
But Where Are the TCX / TPX Colors from the Pantone Fashion + Home Cotton Book?
Unfortunately these libraries are not included in Illustrator. And if you work in fashion, then these are the books you need.
And unfortunately, the workarounds below no longer work.
In order to get the Pantone TCX / TPX colors into Illustrator, you’ll need to subscribe to Pantone Connect. (Because yep, like everyone else, Pantone decided they wanted to do the subscription model too.)
Solution 1: Convert the TCX / TPX Code to a Pantone Paper Code
Tip: This is quick if you just need to convert 1 color – but if you will be doing this a lot, I recommend solution 2.
You can quickly convert TCX/TPX codes to a paper code using the Pantone Converter. Once you’re there, follow these three steps:
Select the book you’re starting with (in this example I chose the Pantone Fashion + Home Cotton book)
Select the exact color you want to convert (in this example I chose 14-1064 TCX)
Select the book you want to convert to (in this example I chose the Formula Guide Solid Coated)
This will then show you the closest color match from that book, which you can find in the default Illustrator Pantone color libraries.
Solution 2: Download the Pantone Color Manager Software and Load the TCX / TPX library in Illustrator
This process takes a few steps, but you only have to set it up once and then you’re done. If you use these colors a lot, I highly recommend getting it set up instead of using the converter over and over – which is not very convenient for a long term solution.
Here’s what you need to do:
If you have a current / new Pantone textile book, you are entitled to a free download of the Pantone Color Manager Software which includes the TCX / TPX Illustrator swatch library. You’ll need to register your product here – and if you need more support there are specific instructions here.
If your Pantone textile book is outdated, you’ll have to buy the Pantone Color Manager Software ($49 USD as of writing this – and make sure to choose “Download” unless you want to receive a CD, because the product defaults to “CD-ROM”).
Once you’ve downloaded the Pantone Color Manager Software (whether for free or paid) and restarted your computer, you can export specific libraries (such as the Pantone Fashion + Home Cotton one) and load them into Illustrator (make sure Illustrator is not open while you export). If you get an error (I did!), here is a workaround that you can use.
If it you didn’t have to use the workaround, the Pantone library should automatically be available in Illustrator off the Swatch Library drop down as shown below (and remember to show the Find Field!).
If you did have to use the workaround, you’ll actually be saving the TCX / TPX library to your computer – in which case you’ll want to make sure you save it in the right spot so it’s easy to access all the time (and make sure you save the right file type!). When you choose File > Save As… from the Pantone Color Manager Software, the Save dialog box will open. Follow these instructions:
Save the library in your Swatches folder. On a Mac, it’s located in your HD Applications Adobe Illustrator Presets en_US Swatches (as illustrated below).
On a PC it’s located C: Users <username> AppData Roaming Adobe Adobe Illustrator Presets en_US Swatches.
Make sure to choose Adobe Swatch Exchange (ase) from the File Type drop down.
Once you’ve done that and saved it directly in the Swatches folder, you can access it directly from the Swatch Panel drop down menu.
And Now It’s Time to Celebrate
Awesome! Go grab your favorite beverage and celebrate that you now have the Pantone TCX swatches readily available to use in your designs – they’ll be there every time you launch Illustrator from here on out. Woot!