How the Color Shotgun works

How the Color Shotgun works is it converts the selected color into a L*a*b color or Lch color then creates a range of colors and converts those to the output color.

The Color Shotgun is NOT a CMYK mixer. It creates a range of colours based on the perceived difference between the colors and does not just change the colour formula which would result in duplicated colors and a messy layout.

The colors are arranged by Hue, Lightness and Saturation (chroma) or by the grey balance. This results in a chart with a logical and predictable layout making it easy to pick the correct color.

Its main purpose is to create a printed color chart based on a starting color , so you can then match the printed colors by eye (or with a measurement tool) to a sample such as a Pantone color from a Pantone book or a customer supplied sample.

Since this is designed to be used when you do not have an exact match, a small error in the starting color is not a problem, as you will be printing dozens or 100's of swatches close to the starting color, one of these will usually be a match if the color is in Gamut.

CMYK Conversions
CMYK colors may not be converted to the same color formula on the chart, This is because the starting color is converted from CMYK to a L*a*b color then back to CMYK. and black values are not preserved, and since there are multiple ways to create the same in CMYK, the output color formula is determined by the ICC Color Profile used.

Secondly, The assumption is that the starting CMYK color is not correct and that the goal is to find a CMYK mix that produces the correct color on a digital printer that matches a sample or colour book. To that end, the actual CMYK mix used is not as important as the colour produced.

It's important to remember that when printing to a digital printer, the color in your file is not the color formula used to print to the media. If your artwork is CMYK 0,100,50,0% that formula simply tells the printer what color you want. That formula will past through multiple color profiles and correction curves, so the actual mixtures of ink used on the media will be different. It should not be a concern if your starting colour changes from CMYK 0,95,70,25% to something more random CMYK 18,100,81,9% as they both will print the same colour on a digital printer.

The colors are created in a logical grid using two methods. This logical ordering makes it much easier to find the right color. Always start with the center swatch on the middle block. You can choose how many steps in each grid and also the range (difference in color)

LCH Grid
This is used for most colors, where each block is a different hue (color) and in each block the colors are lighter on top and darker on the bottom, less saturated on the left and more saturated on the right.

  • If the swatch is the wrong 'color' such as too green or too red, Move to another block
  • If the swatch is too light compared to the sample move down.
  • If the swatch is not saturated enough (too grey) move right

Lab (Grey) Grid
For Greys and low saturated colors, each block is a different lightness, and in each block the color will vary, left is more green, right is more red, up is more yellow, down is bluer. This grid makes is easier to find neutral colors

Delta-E is a standard way of measuring color differences, Each preview swatch indicates the delta-E difference to the sample color so give a guide to the differences.

  • 0 Delta-E - This is an exact match
  • <1 Delta-E - Extremely close match, hard to tell the difference
  • <2 Delta-E - Close match, Considered a commercially acceptable match.
  • 2-5 Delta-E - Some noticeable difference
  • >5 Delta-E - You will notice the difference

Color Profile
Make sure the color settings match your desired output profile, you can see the output profile by expanding the output sectio

Some key points to note:

  1. Most digital printers produce colors which are better than the CMYK gamut, you will usually get a better color match by outputting the colors in RGB and using an RGB Document to print the file. (Remember to make sure that any output files, EPS, PDF etc do not covert the RGB colors to CMYK or you will loose the benefit of the bigger range of colors in RGB)
  2. If you can not find the right color, choose the closest printed swatch formula and use this as your new starting point and create another chart.

Pantone Color Books

PowerScripts can read .acb files such as PANTONE+ Solid Coated.ACB, Until November 2022, these were supplied with Illustrator; however, after 2022, you must provide your Pantone color books.

To use Pantone Colors, your options are

  • If you have an older version of Adobe Illustrator, you can search in the folders below and copy the files to the latest version of Illustrator.
    • Max: /Applications/Adobe Illustrator XXXX/Presets.localized/en_US/Swatches/Color Books
    • Windows: C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator XXXXPresets\en_US\Swatches\Color Books
  • Search for them online, Google “Pantone color libraries acb” and download copies of the color books
  • Use the Pantone Extension and get the Lab value for the Pantone and manually enter this in
  • Use a physical color book, and enter in the RGB value (make sure your color settings are set to sRGB) for more accurate starting points

Where to place the .abc files

  • You can install them in in the Color Book folder for Illustrator, see above
  • You can click the button in the script and manually open each .abc file.
  • You can place them in a custom folder, and in Color Shotgun, go to the [Color] Tab and enter the location of the folder in the “Location of Color Book” setting. Restart the script and it will load the color books.

ASE files We are adding in support in a future update for ASE files.

Release Notes


  • Added ability to manually set the colour library folder.


  • Added: Color Control Wedges to the title bar, So you can be sure the print is consistent.


  • Added: Option to show Lab Values in CMYK charted, Needed for accurate second round sampling


  • Requires PowerScripts 3.4.2
  • CC2018 Compatability Fixes