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Everything You Need to Know About the Pantone Color Matching System

One name that often rings a bell for those in the private business sector and those in the business of branding is Pantone. The term “big deal,” is understatement when used for this industry staple. Specializing in color science, the company has created unique palettes and one of kind of colors for everyone from Tiffany & Co. to Illumination Entertainment's Minions. For decades, their “color of the year,” has influenced corporate market trends. When printing labels for your brand or organization, it's critically important that you understand how color matching systems, and Pantone specifically, works, to ensure accurate color across all of your branded materials.

pantone color library book

Why, though, does Pantone enjoy such far-reaching, and undisputed influence? Put frankly, they changed the color printing landscape.


pantone color of the year



A Brief History of the Pantone Color Matching System

In previous articles, we examined the interplay between a cohesive brand aesthetic and the brand’s established ethos. We looked at the ways in which a brand’s color palette helps or hampers the communication of its ethos. Prior to 1963, however,  the ability, to easily create and print branded materials with consistent aesthetics was a very tall order. Back then, print firms would struggle in earnest to reproduce color specifications made by a brand.

Branded materials for a company, then, would have a great many discrepancies in regard to their colors. Or more specifically hues. As you can imagine, this often required a lot of money to fix.


Pantone’s color matching system for brands and printing companies alike was a godsend. The process allowed a printing company to quickly and efficiently match the aesthetic of a brand. What’s more, it could be accomplished without the need for long, frustrating back and forths between the groups. (Imagine the hassle of such correspondence in a time before email and cell phones.) The Pantone color matching system allowed for brands to work from a set standard for color, across a variety of vendors and printing methods.

So How Does Pantone Color Match Printing Work?

Pantone chameleon
Print Matching System, or PMS, is a method more expedient and cost-effective than the alternative CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow,  Black) method. The reason for this is that the CMYK method requires the aforementioned four plates to do its job. Pantone offers a particular subset made from the CMYK inks. The Pantone colors available under this subset, however, are a limited and clearly defined set. For the most part though, Pantone is an entity all its own.  It is best reserved for print jobs that need only one to three colors to be matched. It also produces deep, and eye-catching colors that are especially useful for monochromatic designs.

The process is so simple that it is quite ingenious. The Pantone color matching system provides somewhere around 1800 colors. Each color, then, is given an accompanying identification code. All the company has to do is specify which of the color codes to use, so the printing company can replicate it.

pantone brand guidelines
The guidebook even allows for shade approximations of real world objects. This makes the process of rendering a real world object in a logo, like a flower or fruit, simpler than ever. Pantone colors are regularly used in company branding books.
These brand books allow companies to maintain color consistency across their respective mediums. (As you can see from the image above, we’ve got a few Pantone favorites of our own.) The fact that the majority of companies include Pantone color information in their branding books is demonstrative of Pantone’s sway over the industry of color replication.

Right now, you’re probably saying to yourself: It sounds nice, but it sounds pricey. Indeed, you have sound judgement. So, here’s one last fun fact: digital printing can replicate 90% of the Pantone color matching library without having to accommodate pricey print plates or specially purchased Pantone inks. The “next frontier” of printing is digital printing, and it is so precise now as to offer the benefits of color matching without the extra costs.

At LabelValue, we’ll make sure your branding materials come out just the way you envision. Get started on your free custom label quote here. Or dial 800-750-7764 to speak to a representative. We'd love to help. LabelValue is open Monday through Friday.

Thanks for reading, and happy branding.