Creative & Design

Pantones - A Beginner’s Guide To Pantone Color

Jul 28, 2022

What is Pantone color? Learn more on how designers can refer to colors by more than just generalized adjectives by reading our beginner’s guide.

Laurenzo OvereeGuest Contributor
Pantones - A Beginner’s Guide To Pantone Color

What we'll cover


The Pantone Matching System contains 1,867 solid colors. (Source)

Pantone developed the Pantone Matching System (PMS) in 1962 as a reliable source of identifying and matching colors for printing ink on paper. The system has become the foremost color authority and reference point for brands, designers, and artists worldwide. 

By using the Pantone system, graphic designers and brands can effectively maintain a shared reference point for color consistency. The practice enables a brand representative of any company, regardless of size (e.g., from enterprises to small and mid-size businesses), to request an exact composition for their print projects from any printer or manufacturer. 

The company’s name, Pantone, means “all colors,” with “pan” referring to all-inclusive and “tone” describing color. 

Before Pantone, the nuances of color perception varied vastly among individuals, potentially resulting in disagreements. Hence, the PMS offered a standardized color system that facilitates collaborations between companies, graphic designers, and printers. Pantone’s colors provide a consistent visual across printed and digital mediums, helping brands achieve uniform aesthetics across their campaigns. 

The Pantone Matching System (PMS)

The PMS contains 1,867 solid colors, each created by carefully mixing 13 foundational pigments. Your brand can conveniently request a specific Pantone color from any printer by referencing its unique coding scheme typically represented by a three- to five-digit number usually followed by a “C,” “U,” or “M.”

Each alphabet represents the variation of color as it appears on a paper type, with C for “coated,” U for “uncoated,” and “M” for matte. The difference among paper types may appear subtle and barely noticeable for some colors and distinct for others. Therefore, it is essential to include the alphabet in your Pantone codes to achieve desired results based on the paper stock.

Pantone has also released color coding schemes for other materials—such as home interiors, cotton, nylon, and plastics—each featuring a unique suffix. Additionally, Pantone offers specialty solid colors with an added effect, such as its metallic and neon groups. 

Pantone versus CMYK

The CMYK system or four-color process, which distinguishes it from the PMS, has remained a traditional color reference for many in-house printers. Your brand can effectively print desired color compositions by selecting from over 3,000 CMYK options. The quality of the prints in the CMYK process depends on calibration, which aligns inkjet cartridge plates and their positions on paper. 

CMYK refers to the four primary ink plates used in the printing process: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key or black. Unlike the CMYK system, the PMS mixes colors before printing, keeping them unaffected by quality issues that may result from poor plate calibrations and misalignments. 

Due to the core mechanics of its calibration method, you might detect slight color variations with CMYK, which could range between 5-10% of the tonal difference between final print and on-screen visuals.

Alternatively, Pantone’s single-print method provides accurate final colors every time, regardless of the printing device. As such, Pantone’s method could prove more effective for major projects that involve carefully selected pure (and therefore, accurate) colors, while you might opt for the CMYK route for small-scale work that involves multiple mixed colors. 

Color conversions between Pantone and CMYK

Due to the difference in color quality and pricing, you might consider switching between Pantone and CMYK printing for your projects. The good news is that there are programs that enable you to conveniently convert colors from one system to another while maintaining print accuracy. 

Some advanced image editing and graphic design software feature options to switch your color modes directly from the platform. You can conveniently refine your CMYK visual with sharp Pantone definition with a few simple clicks. 

Optimizing your brand with Pantone colors

Pantone offers specialized services, where they will mix pigments to create an entirely new color for your branding needs. A unique color can enhance the professionalism of your branding and make your theme instantly recognizable among consumers. 

The pricing of these services varies according to the complexity of the color creation process, and you may choose to classify the color code to safeguard its exclusivity. 

The Pantone color of the year is an ongoing tradition that spans over two decades, where the company’s experts name the top color of the year by analyzing social, economic, and technological trends. Starting with Cerulean in 1999, the annual tradition has shaped multiple branding campaigns and remains highly influential in modern visual and design directions. 

Pantone’s 2022 color of the year is Veri Peri [1],  a periwinkle blue hue with violet-red undertones. The color marks a historic milestone as an original composition created by Pantone specifically for that purpose. Including the color of the year in your brand’s campaigns and product development leverages current global trends and may potentially drive consumer purchase decisions. 

Combine Pantone’s color consistency with label printing software to benefit from a highly convenient method of keeping design themes optimized and uniform across your products and campaigns. A carefully selected label printing software empowers your brand with the tools required to customize and print quality visuals that will make your brand stand out without guesswork.

Interested in enhancing your branding with PMS?

The PMS remains an integral component for brand consistency, and finding the right software can help scale and optimize your marketing efforts. 

GetApp is a one-stop software recommendation platform catered to brands, graphic designers, and companies of all sizes. We provide advanced tech solutions that help you leverage the PMS for seamless branding projects. Visit our site to discover resources to help you compare and finalize a software selection, such as graphic design, that suits your business.


About the author

Laurenzo Overee

Guest Contributor
Laurenzo has a profound love for writing and entertains readers on interesting and useful subjects by taking them through the corridors of language.
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