Pantones: The right color every time

Chris Hebert
Commercial Representative
+41 22 741 01 51 (w)
+41 22 594 82 60 (f)
+41 78 629 01 51 (m)
The Pantone color match system
dates back to 1963, when a
part-time employee, Lawrence
Herbert was developing a method
to streamline his employer’s stock
of pigments and production of
colored inks. His efforts led to the
creation of a system to specify and
match colors, irrespective of the
equipment used to produce the
color. By classifying and
standardizing colors, all parties
involved, from marketers to
designers to printers and production people are certain that they are all getting a
predefined result, even without direct contact with each other. Pantone colors are also
called “spot” colors, as opposed to “process colors”, which are the 4 ink colors used in
offset printing (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black or CMYK). There are other color matching
systems, but Pantone is by far the most well-known and widely used.
How it works
The classic Pantone guide is made of cardboard strips,
printed on 1 side, in a series of related color swatches
(usually 7), bound into a “fan”. Each color has a name or
number, that never changes and a reference to the exact
proportions of each ink required to produce it. While
some of the colors can be produced using standard 4
color process inks, most are mixed from a set of 14
Pantone base pigments. Pantone guides will often have
the same color printed on coated and uncoated paper as
the apparent color differs, due to the coating (or lack of
coating) and finish, even though the ink mix is identical.
Metallic, fluorescent and pastel colors are also
referenced in the Pantone system.
How they’re used
Branding: Companies, governments and organizations specify Pantone colors for their
logos, flags and seals. By doing so they’re certain that the color is as consistent as possible
when printed on different materials or using different printing methods. Think of the
“golden arches” of McDonalds (123), or the blue of the UN flag (279).
Impact & Gamut: Using Pantones dramatically increases the gamut of printable colors, and
the colors are richer, bolder and more pure. A bright orange or neon green just isn’t
possible in CMYK.
Large areas of solid color: A large area of color on a page can often appear mottled or
irregular using process inks (CMYK), but clean and consistent with Pantones.
Did you know?
When looking at a printed piece
under a loupe a Pantone will
appear solid, as opposed to the
telltale dot screen of 4 color
printing (see at left).
In Switzerland, you can order
Pantone guides from IDPURE
Why not discover your Pantone
birthday color?
Call me: +41 22 741 01 51 (w) +41 22 594 82 60 (f) +41 78 629 01 51 (m)
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