Pantone Colours Explained?

10/08/2012  | by: Shaun Cleary

The Pantone Matching System for colours is the standard way that colours are chosen by printers worldwide. Having a worldwide, standardised pallet of colours means that colours remain the same for advertising and corporations throughout the world and mean there are no discrepancies. The Pantone Colour Matching System means colours printed in Dubai will be the same as colours printed in Dublin.

Of course, different materials will absorb and change certain colours for a number of reasons. Fortunately, the Pantone Colour Matching System has a solution for this in the shape of the letters after the colour.

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Adding a C to the colours, so say 045C will mean that the item is coated. Adding a U will mean it is an uncoated material and so the colour mix should reflect that. This allows for colour saturation and changes the mix slightly for different materials. This means that the colour will match the original colour for the Pantone that the company wants on a worldwide scale. Pantone colours can be used to create metallic, matte and a whole range of versions of specific colours,

Colours are always pre-mixed and this is done before they are used. This results in three or four inks being used for any particular colour to get it right. This is called ‘spot colour and is printed with the ink as one pure colour.


The Pantone Colour Matching System is not the only way to achieve a specific colour. CMYK is another form of colour printing and mixes Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black to create millions of colours.

Generally, this is the way the majority of the world’s printing is done. Of course, there are slightly variations taken into account for the type of printing and the material used for printing as there is with the Pantone method. This method can be slightly tweaked to achieve a different sort of colour.


However, Pantone colours are used on big brands for the simple reason they can’t be tweaked. A slight change of colour to Coca Cola’s decades old colour would be instantly noticeable and would most certainly be noticed.

This means that when you ask for Pantone 032, which is the one used by Coca Cola, it is the same right the way across the world and there will not even be the slightest difference in colour.

Pantone itself came into existence in the 1950s, but came to prominence in the next decade. The company was recently sold to X Rite Inc in the mid-2000s. Each year the company picks its colour of the year. Amazingly this takes two days of debate to decide and reflects the world at the current time. For instance honeysuckle, an uplifting colour, was chosen as the colour of 2011. Pantone said "In times of stress, we need something to lift our spirits. Honeysuckle is a captivating, stimulating colour that gets the adrenaline going – perfect to ward off the blues." The result of the colour of the year is often taken on board by designers of clothing, florists and other companies for who colour matters.


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