Re: [R] R plots pdf() does not allow spotcolors?

From: Ted Harding <>
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2011 14:18:01 +0100

On 13-Apr-11 12:30:26, Ben Bolker wrote:

> Matthieu Stigler <matthieu.stigler <at>> writes:

>> Hi
>> We are about to publish a book, which contains figures made
>> with R plots. An important detail that we did not take into
>> account is that the book will not be printed in 4 colors
>> (cmyk mode), but only 2 (black +"spotcolor"). The spotcolor
>> we use is part of the big Pantone family.
>> The problem is that both pdf() and postscript() offer either
>> rgb or cmyk, but no spotcolors such as pantone. I'm afraid
>> this constraint can't be solved at all, and we can't use R
>> for creating these plots? I did not find any package that
>> would extend the colormodel to include spot colors... Did
>> anyone had a similar experience?
>   Wasn't aware of spotcolors, but I bet you could hack the PDF
> reasonably easily (if you have many figures you might have to
> use awk/sed/perl ?) ... if you don't use R, what is your
> alternative for creating the figures?
> Ben Bolker

Don't expect to hack PDF "reasonably easily" -- for many reasons, one of which is that in PDF different bits of a document can be (and usually are) encapsulated in PDF "objects", whose physical location in the PDF file can be pretty random (there is a kind of "hash index" at the beginning which points to them). So a PDF file can be heavily fragmented (as also can a PS file, though usually not nearly so heavily). In theory it would be possible for every single character in a textual document to be in a separate "PDF object" and located in random order in the file!

As a general comment (which unfortunately doesn't address the main problem raised by Matthieu), it can often be better to use independent software to create figures/diagrams based on numerical results computed by R. R's plots are quite nicely done by default, but tweaking them to achieve a preferred layout in R itself can be painfully time-consuming. Myself, I farm this out to the 'pic' preprocessor in troff/groff, using which any details whatever can be arranged exactly to one's taste.

Since spotcolour printing is a multi-pass procedure, one can prepare the separate "layers" in the respective colours, along with any necessary crop-marks or "bulls-eyes", quite easily.

However, this too generates PS output in the first instance (convertible to PDF of course), so suffers the same "binding" to the RGB/CMYK colour paradigm. So Pantone would not be available in the first instance (except insofar as a subset of the Pantone "spectrum" corresponds to colours in CMYK).

However, I presume it is highly likely that there is software which can take a file (PS or PDF) prepared using RGB/CMYK, and convert this to a Pantone-compatible file.

Even so, this would depend on what your publisher/printer requires in what you submit. It would be important to obtain from them a full and exact specification of what they require for colour printing in files submitted to them for printing.

Hoping this is of some help ...

E-Mail: (Ted Harding) <> Fax-to-email: +44 (0)870 094 0861
Date: 13-Apr-11                                       Time: 14:17:56
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