Pantone Colors: Knowing The Basics

Pantone. If you’ve followed us on Facebook at any point in time, there’s a good chance you’ve seen this strange word pop up in your news feed. You may have no clue, however, as to what this term means or how it relates to design. Originally a commercial printing company in the 1950’s, Pantone didn’t gain much recognition until 1963 when they introduced the world’s first color matching system, an entirely systemized and simplified structure of precise mixtures of various inks for use in process printing. This system is commonly referred to as the Pantone Matching System, or PMS. Let’s take a brief look at the advantages and disadvantages of using Pantone colors.

Any business professional is familiar with the term CMYK, which stands for the four common process colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) used in most professional printing. Much like when you were a kid mixing red and yellow finger paint to make orange, CMYK colors are created by mixing different percentages of these four primary pigments. CMYK printing is both inexpensive and efficient, making it great for printing brochures, catalogs, or anything else with lots of images. However, CMYK colors are not always consistent across jobs or printers, raising a very common question: “How do I explain to my printing company the exact colors that should be in this project?” Sure, you could send an image via email, but we all know that any given color won’t look the same on paper as it does on screen. That’s where Pantone comes in.

The PMS was created to function as a standard language for color identification and communication. When you say to the printer, “I want to print an orange 165C,” you can be sure that he knows exactly what color you mean. Often referred to as spot colors, Pantone colors are precise and consistent, and are often used in relationship to corporate identities, in order to insure that the brand does not change from printer to printer. Each Pantone color can be referenced in a swatch book that contains specific numbers for each color, along with a CMYK breakdown that best represents that color.

Hopefully this sheds some light on what may have been a mysterious thing known as Pantone, and perhaps our colors of the week will have more significance for you.

Visit fatrabbit CREATIVE’s Facebook page to see our color of the week!
Click here to download a PDF of a Pantone color chart.
Click here for more information about Pantone or to order color swatches.

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