One of my favorite final steps of the design process is making color selections and determining the printing processes we’ll use. The tool of choice? THE Pantone book!
The Pantone Color Matching System, or PMS for short, is largely a standardized color reproduction system used by graphic designers, reproduction and printing houses for a number of years now. It keeps us all on the same page (or should I say guide?) when communicating color.
Pantone swatch books, CMYK chart and buckets of perfectly mixed ink
Pantone, as it is today, was founded in 1962, when the company—at the time a small business that manufactured color cards for cosmetics companies—was bought by Lawrence Herbert, who had been an employee since 1956. He immediately changed its direction, developing the first color matching system in 1963. He only retired recently from the company as CEO.
The company’s primary products include the Pantone Guides, which consist of a large number of small (approximately 6×2 inches or 15×5 cm) thin cardboard sheets, printed on one side with a series of related color swatches and then bound into a small flipbook. For instance, a particular “page” might contain a number of yellows of varying tints. One of my favorite guides includes all the tints of one color. This is super handy when working with limited ink colors (sometimes translated to small budgets). I’ve learned to master eye tricks with using one or two colors to create much more depth and interest by using this handy guide.
The idea behind the PMS is to allow designers to ‘color match’ specific colors when a design enters production stage—regardless of the equipment used to produce the color. Pantone recommends that PMS Color Guides be purchased annually as their inks become more yellow over time. Color variance also occurs within editions based on the paper stock used (coated, matte or uncoated).
Pantone colors are described by their allocated number (typically referred to as, for example, ‘PMS 130′). PMS colors are almost always used in branding and have even found their way into government legislation (to describe the colors of flags). In January 2003, the Scottish Parliament debated a petition (reference PE512) to refer to the blue in the Scottish flag (saltire) as ‘Pantone 300′. Countries such as the USA and South Korea have also chosen to refer to specific Pantone colors to use when producing flags
. U.S. States have set legislated PMS colors of their flags.
A great gift for any color addict
If you are color fanatic or know a graphic designer who is, these mugs
, inspired by Pantone Color charts, may be the best gift idea yet. Nice clean ‘chip chart’ packaging too.