How to legally obtain spot colour palettes for use in Scribus 1.3.3.x and later versions

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Operating System:   any supported system  
Scribus Version:   1.3.3.*
DTP skills:   novice


As long as no open standard for spot colours exists, Scribus users will have to buy a colour book by one of the colour manufacturers and insert the values and names of spot colours directly into Scribus. For serious work, colour books will be a requirement anyway, but that's another topic. There is, however, another way to legally obtain commercial spot colours palettes and use them in Scribus. All you need is a commercial program that contains those palettes. Older versions of CorelDraw e.g. contain Pantone, Toyo and more palettes from the major colour vendors and can be obtained for a reasonable price. You can either run them yourselves under Windows or OS/X, install them on another PC you can access legally or even use another version – you a have a licence anyway.

Getting and Using Pantone COLOR BRIDGE® Palettes Legally

Adobe has made versions of Illustrator's Pantone palettes prior to the introduction of Pantone Plus Series® freely available for download here. You can download the ZIP archives, extract them and convert the ACB files using SwatchBooker.

Getting and Using Pantone Goe™ Palettes Legally

In 2007 Pantone released another colour series, called PANTONE Goe™. While the digital versions are also available for free download, they cannot be used in applications other than Quark XPress, and some components of the Adobe Creative Suite, especially since the installers now check for an installed version of one of the programs mentioned before. As a result, those who want to use the digital PANTONE Goe™ libraries in other programs need to spend some extra time to install the required software and to convert the files provided by Pantone.

Here's what you need to convert the files to a format that can be used by Open Source software:

  • A file extractor that can extract ZIP/GZIP and PAX archives, e.g. 7-ZIP for Windows. Current Linux and UNIX versions, including Mac OS X, usually have all the necessary tools installed.
  • Swatchbooker. Please note that for the following instructions you need at least a current development version of Swatchbooker 0.7.3. It won't work with 0.7.2 due to a bug in that release.

Once you have the required software installed on your computer, you should download the installer for Mac OS X, even if you want to use the palettes on Windows. This will give you a ZIP archive that you can extract to wherever you like. Once you have unzipped the archive, you'll see a directory called "pms+_quark_mac".

The next steps may look a bit tedious, and they actually are, which is partially due to the way data are stored and used on Mac OS X. In the directory, you will find two subdirectories, PANTONE+ Digital Libraries for Quark XPress®.mpkg and __MACOSX. The latter can be ignored. Instead, you have to open the directory PANTONE+ Digital Libraries for Quark XPress®.mpkg > Contents > Packages.

In the Packages directory you will see an intimidating list of subdirectories with long names. Fortunately, you can safely ignore every subdirectory with "Spec" in its name. What remains are subdirectories, which are actually duplicates, the only distinction being an additonal "-1" to the name of the directory. You can use either of both versions.

Each subdirectory, e.g. pantonepremiumMetallicsCoatedUiSpec-1.pkg contains another subdirectory called Contents, which in turn contains, among others, a file called Archive.pax.gz. Here's where the actual colour palette is stored. "pax.gz" is similar to the more familiar "tar.gz", except that there doesn't seem to be a command like "tar xzf" available, so you need to unzip the pax.gz first, which will result in a *.pax archive. How to proceed from here depends on your operating system and the available software.

Once you have extracted the content of the PAX archive, you have a file with the extension *.qcl (Quark Color Library), e.g. PANTONE+ Premium Metallics Coated.qcl. Now fire up Swatchbooker, load the qcl file and save it as Scribus XML file. The final step is to copy (as root/administrator) the resulting XML file to the respective "swatches" folder of your Scribus installation.

Since Swatchbooker also supports other formats, like GIMP or colour palettes, users of programs that use these formats, will able to use the palettes, provided they take the time to follow the instructions mentioned above.

Getting and Using PANTONE® Palettes Legally (we think)

If you go to this link:

you will find a Python script you can download then run to create Pantone palettes, which will be saved as swatches under .scribus/swatches/locked/, and then be available when you run Scribus (either 1.4.x or 1.5.0svn).

As of this writing (September, 2013), running the script from inside of 1.5.0 caused a crash.


HKS doesn't offer any palette files for download, neither for free nor for a fee. There are, however, many websites that list the HKS base colours and their colour values, e.g. this one. You can easily create your own colour palettes using such web-based information.

UPDATE: As of version 1.4.0, HKS K is being shipped with Scribus as a subset of the "J&S K" palette.

See also

(c) 2007 Christoph Schäfer
The content of this page is licensed under the Free Documentation License.