Aug 3, 2023

Colour at a Price

written by Daryl Woods

On the subject of colour usage in design, recent developments have sparked discussions on accessibility and artistic empowerment. Pantone’s decision to require a subscription for their colour system in Adobe applications has raised concerns within the creative community. However, amidst these challenges, an alternative has emerged. Freetone is an innovative plugin created by artist Stuart Semple. The Pantone challenger was recently featured on The New Reality, a thought-provoking program aired on Global TV. In this post, we delve into the significance of the Pantone subscription issue, and the inspiring efforts behind Freetone. I contributed to this discussion from my perspective as a graphic designer, commenting and illustrating the impact of this change. It was an honour to shed light on the importance of accessible colour resources and amplify the dialogue surrounding artistic empowerment.

The Pantone Subscription Issue:

Pantone’s announcement of a subscription requirement for their colour system within Adobe applications sent ripples through the creative community. This decision introduced a barrier for designers, limiting their access to Pantone’s renowned colour library—a resource long valued for its accuracy and consistency. The subscription model poses challenges, particularly for designers with limited resources or those accustomed to the previously accessible Pantone colour system. Higher costs for resources mean designers will have to increase fees for their clients. Many organizations use Pantone colours in their branding. Designers needing to work with those colours would have to add the Pantone subscription.

Stuart Semple’s Freetone Plugin:

In response to the Pantone subscription issue, artist Stuart Semple embarked on a mission to democratize access to high-quality colour tools. Recognizing the significance of preserving artistic freedom, Semple developed the Freetone plugin—a free alternative seamlessly integrated into Adobe applications. It is easy to install and works exactly like the Pantone library. Each colour is numbered and formulated to replicate Pantone colour. Freetone offers artists the same extensive colour library as an accessible and empowering resource, allowing them to explore vibrant hues and infuse their work with creative expression.

Empowering Artists with Freetone:

Freetone represents a significant stride in leveling the artistic playing field for creators from all backgrounds. Stuart Semple’s innovative plugin removes financial barriers and expands access to a diverse range of colours. With Freetone, designers can continue to explore, experiment, and infuse their work with vibrant palettes. The plugin empowers artists to push boundaries, and create impactful visuals, all without the burden of subscription costs.

Freetone in the Spotlight:

Along with Stuart Semple, I shared my concerns on The New Reality.  Our participation shed light on the importance of accessible color resources and the transformative power of creative expression. By presenting information and commentary on The New Reality, we amplified the dialogue surrounding artistic empowerment.

Promoting Collaboration and Innovation:

The rise of Freetone highlights the value of collaboration and collective action within the artistic community. Artists worldwide rallied behind the Freetone plugin, underscoring the strength of unity in preserving artistic freedom. By embracing Freetone, artists continue to collaborate, inspire one another, and fuel innovation without financial constraints. This collective spirit strengthens the bonds of the creative community, fostering a more inclusive and vibrant artistic landscape.

The Future of Artistic Empowerment:

The Pantone subscription issue has sparked a broader conversation on accessibility and empowerment within the artistic realm. These developments remind us of the importance of safeguarding artistic resources and nurturing an environment that fosters creativity, collaboration, and artistic growth. As designers, we can shape our own destiny, inspiring change and cultivating a future that champions accessibility, collaboration, and artistic freedom for all.


The Pantone subscription issue brought to the forefront the challenges designers face when access to vital colour resources becomes restricted. However, artist Stuart Semple’s response with the Freetone plugin offers a glimmer of hope, providing designers with a free alternative and reaffirming the power of artistic empowerment.


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