What is Pantone?
Most people think that colors are all the same, regardless of the medium. Red is simply red, right? It turns out that the colors on your computer screen aren’t the same as colors you see in print. Colors can also vary wildly between different printers, and between different computer monitors. This is why we need a way to standardize the color spectrum.
Pantone is a company best known for developing the Pantone Matching System (PMS). This is the industry standard for matching colors, and it is incredibly accurate. Originally designed for use in the printing industry, the system is now employed in a variety of different industries, including the manufacturing of fabrics, paints, and plastics. Different manufacturers in different locations can all reference a Pantone-numbered color to make sure colors match across the board.
Each of the nearly 2,100 standard Pantone colors has a unique code, followed by a C, U, or M suffix. For example, Pantone Yellow 101 can come in Pantone 101 C (C=Coated Paper), Pantone 101 U (U=Uncoated Paper), or Pantone 101M (M=Matte Paper).
The Pantone Matching System
The Pantone Matching System uses pre-determined color formulas to create a large number of ink colors. Just like a paint swatch guide at your local paint shop, the Pantone chart consists of thousands of color swatches, all created from a palette of basic colors. Using PMS inks is called spot color printing. Creating a Pantone spot color is a lot like mixing paints, such as mixing yellow and blue to get green, but with much more accuracy and precision. The unique code assigned to a color, or its PMS number, is used to identify the exact colors needed.
Why use Pantone?
When your colors have to be the same across multiple platforms and materials, then you should use PMS colors. Here are a few examples of when it’s advantageous to use PMS:
- Consistent Branding/Logos: When the Coca-Cola Company prints its logo on different merchandise, it always uses the same tone of red, known as “Coke Red”. How do they achieve such consistency? Coke Red is actually PMS 484. Whenever the Coca-Cola logo is printed, no matter where in the world, this is the color code that is used.
- Colors Outside the Range of CMYK: Some colors simply cannot be produced with CMYK, such as bright orange. In such cases, you should use PMS colors.
- To Cover Large Areas: When coating large areas with a solid color, PMS colors work well, offering extremely smooth coverage.
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