Pantone® Matching System
The Pantone® Matching System is a proprietary color matching system developed by Pantone, LLC. The idea is that Pantone® or PMS colors can be accurately reproduced by any printer, anywhere in the world by using strictly defined combinations of Pantone’s 13 pigments (as well as black). Most people become familiar with Pantone® colors through the color decks, or swatch booklets that many designers and printers use. These decks provide a calibrated color swatch with the PMS color name (usually defined with PMS and a number) as well as the specific formula that makes up that color. Generally PMS colors are defined as coated or uncoated. A coated PMS color is meant to represent the color applied on a glossy substrate, while uncoated is a matte finish. There can be a significant difference in how these two versions of the same color appear.
Pantone® colors are most often used in branding situations where the very specific color makes up a large part of the company’s identity. For example, the yellow of McDonald’s arches (PMS 123) or the red of Target’s circle (PMS 186 C). One of the most famous uses of a Pantone color to create branding is Tiffany, who worked with Pantone to create and trademark their robin blue (PMS 1837 – the year Tiffany was founded). Tiffany blue is a proprietary color that isn’t even found in Pantone guides and cannot be used by other companies. You don’t have to be a huge corporation or develop an all new color to be specific about your branding and colors though. Many companies of all sizes use specific colors for their logos and branding, and these companies are sticklers for consistency. This is where PMS colors can come into play for your customers’ label printing.
Spot Colors vs. Process Colors
Most colors are printed with multiple runs of four-color (CMYK) ink, or four-color process printing. There are some Pantone® colors that can be printed using standard four-color printing. However, the vast majority of these colors cannot accurately be recreated with CMYK pigments. This is where spot colors come into play. A spot color is any color generated by an ink (pure or mixed) that is printed using a single run. With spot colors, additional inks are added to the printing process to guarantee a color match.