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.

EPS is the key

In the drawing program:

  1. Draw as much vector objects as one spot colour palette contains.
  2. Apply each spot colour to one object – most palettes aren't huge, so this is feasible.
  3. Export the drawing as EPS. Be careful not to convert the spot colours into CMYK during export.

In Scribus:

  1. Create a new document and use File > Import > EPS/PS. In Scribus 1.3.4 or later you can import colours directly from EPS files: Go to Edit > Colours, click »Remove unused« and then »Import«. Select »Others (*.eps, *.ps, *.ai)« in the file dialog. In both cases you'll see all the spot colours with their correct names listed in the colour dialog after importing the file.
  2. Now delete the imported drawing and save the file under an appropriate name, e.g. pantoneu.sla.
  3. Next, close all docs again. Go to Edit > Colours, choose the palette Scribus Small from the drop down menu. Remove all colours except Black (Scribus needs at least one colour to work). Then click »Import« and select the pantoneu.sla file. Now you can see all the spot colours in the colour list. Finally, click »Save Colour set« and save your new palette e.g. as Pantone Solid Uncoated.

From now on your spot colours will be available for you in any project. If want to reuse your palette on another computer, just store the file Pantone Solid Uncoated from your .scribus folder on a USB stick or a floppy disk and copy it to the respective directory on the other computer.

From Scribus 1.3.4 onwards you can even skip the step of saving a sla file first, since Scribus can import colours from EPS files directly.

Getting and Using Pantone COLOR BRIDGE® Palettes Legally

Believe it or not, it's possible to download and use Pantone swatches in Scribus legally. While the palettes can't be distributed with Scribus, users can get them from Pantone directly for free. Below you'll find the steps necessary to obtain the palettes.

  1. Create a member account at myPantone.
  2. Once you are logged in, follow this link for Pantone's Color Bridge Library and this one for the new Pantone GOE Library.
  3. There you'll find download links for Windows and OS X. Linux users can download the Windows version.
  4. If you want to use the palettes on Linux, you need a current version of WINE.
  5. Unzip/unstuff the installer. Windows and OS X users can now follow the usual install procedures. On Linux with WINE installed, either double-click the file "PANTONEcolorbridge.exe" or run wine PANTONEcolorbridge.exe in a console. WINE should now launch the installer. You can always click forward until the end of the installation procedure. If you don't have any of the selected applications available, you should see a dialog like this:


  1. Next, go to .wine/drive_c/Programs/PANTONE(R) color bridge(TM)/ in your $HOME directory, where you will find the swatches in different formats, among them EPS. You can now load them into Scribus as described above. In Scribus 1.3.5, things have even become easier: just copy the EPS (or AI) files to ~lib/scribus/swatches, where ~ indicates your installation directory. Upon the next start, the palettes will be available in Scribus.


While we are no lawyers, we think it is, otherwise, this information wouldn't be available here. Let's just quote Pantone's stance from the download page mentioned above:

The installers provided below will install Application Support files for your favorite graphic software applications. These files will allow you to import PANTONE Colors with CMYK simulation data consistent with the printed PANTONE color bridge coated, uncoated or PANTONE color bridge coated EURO guide. If your graphic software does not appear within the Easy Install, we have provided EPS and TIFF files, which can be utilized within most graphic applications using a color selection tool such as the eyedropper. We have also provided a folder with the Easy Install libraries for each application, in the event that you need to proceed with a manual install.


In 2010 Pantone released a new version of its standard colour libraries, called PANTONE® PLUS. 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® PLUS 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 Quark XPress 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.


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.

See also

(c) 2007 Christoph Schäfer
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