What Are Pantone Colours?

Pantone colours

For those of you not in the know, Pantone is a colour pallette containing 1,757 unique and individually numbered colours. These were devised to help designers and printers specify colours for printing projects.

Pantone is sometimes referred to as PMS – Pantone Matching System, and it also sometimes called ‘Spot Colours’. It’s important to know all the different names so you don’t sound stupid when talking to a printing firm (joke!).

They are often described as ‘spot colours’ because of the way they are printed. For example if a printing job required the use of two different Pantone colours from the pallette, the printing firm involved would make two sheets of film for the printing plates. Each pantone colour has it’s own printing plate.

Now Pantone is the ONLY colour printing system available that totally guarantees colour accuracy. If you print in CMYK instead (a mix of four colours, and it’s the method that your own bog standard office printer users), whilst there is a good chance that colours will fairly well match up from printed item to printed item, there is no guarantee of exact accuracy from job to job.

What is particularly special about Pantone is that colours such as metallics and flourescents are available, and not even close to the same cannot be reproduced with CMYK process colour printing.

It should be noted that actually most Pantone colours cannot be reproduced in CMYK, and that the CMYK colour printing system is actually quite narrow and restrictive by comparison. I guess what can you expect when you only have four colours to mix together to produce different shades from!

Regardless of this most SMEs opt for printing in process colours (CMYK) and the reason for this is that when you print in multiple shades of Pantone, the cost of printing is far higher than compared to printing the same number of shades in CMYK. SMEs don’t have bottomless pockets like corporates, and the risk of non exact colour consistency isn’t enough of an issue for them to warrant to paying far more for their printing on a regular basis.

To get the most from your business printing, read more about printing methods here >

The History of Pantone
Pantone was founded in 1962 when purchased as a small business by Lawrence Herbert. Herbert had been an employee of Pantone since 1956, and once in charge immediately changed the company operations from manufacturing colour cards for cosmetics companies to developing the first colour matching system. This was launched in 1963.

Although Herbert had an early interest in printing, he graduated from Hofstra University with a double major in biology and chemistry and with aims to attend medical school.

In 1956 however he joined the payroll at Pantone on a part-time basis, and became so interested in the industry he decided to continue on at Pantone rather than pursue a medical career.

In 1977, with sales at $2million Herbert took the company private, and although sales volumes were no longer public, it was estimated that by the mid 80s the Pantone TM appeared on around $500million art supplies, inks and other printing products in over 50 countries worldwide.

By 1990 Pantone had entered into licensing agreements with the worlds major graphic and design software manufacturers for both Mac and PC. By 1992 major players such as Adobe, Bitstream, Quark, and Ventura had all announced support for the Pantone color system.

To date Pantone, based in Carlstadt New Jersey, has amassed 1,757 shades on the Pantone Matching System and its name is virtually synonymous with color management on a global basis.

Funky Cool Pantone Products
Pantone Rubik Cube
(Unfortunately not actually for sale!)
Tons of Pantone Goodies At Heals

Not at Heals includes…Pantone USB Stick

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