Graphic Design – What is a Pantone?

What is a Pantone?

With such a variety of branding and marketing media available to businesses in the current market it is essential that a company’s corporate identity and brand style is consistent and professional. To help maintain this consistency graphic design agencies and commercial printers use the PMS (or Pantone Matching System®). This quick guide explains what a PANTONE® colour is and how to use it.

What is a PANTONE colour?

PANTONE® colours are a set of industry standard colour swatches. They have number references such as P289C or P576U. This ensures that a particular colour will be the closest match possible across the design and print industry no matter what application, machine or country it is produced by.

What do the colour codes mean?

  • P / PMS = Pantone / Pantone Matching System
  • 576 = Specific colour reference
  • C = Coated
  • U = Uncoated
  • PC = Process Coated

When a colour code ends in ‘C’ it needs to be printed on a coated stock to achieve the required colour. Similarly, codes ending in ‘U’ must be printed on an uncoated stock. It is essential that the correct stock is used – a ‘C’ colour may look washed out and dull on an uncoated stock as the paper absorbs some of the ink.

With coated stock, such as silk or gloss, the coated inks are designed to sit on a smoother surface giving a really vibrant finish. Uncoated papers are useful for letterheads, forms and other items which need to be over-printed or written on, whereas coated papers are more suitable for brochures or leaflets which need to look bright and enticing.

What is a spot colour?

PANTONE® colours can be used as either spot colours or process colours by printers and graphic designers. A spot colour uses a single colour ink, whereas a process colour (also known as CMYK) uses a mixture of four colours to print it – cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Any graphic design agency will be able to help you choose the correct PANTONE® for your business, and supply you with the process values to give your printer.

Should I use a spot or process PANTONE®?

Your graphic design agency or commercial printer should be able to help you, but as a general rule if you have a design with only one or two colours, such as on a business card or company stationery, it would probably be better to use spot PANTONE® colours as you only need to pay for two inks. If you have a design with a lot of different colours or photos, such as a brochure, it would be more economical to use a process printing technique as you only need to pay for four inks.

Need more information? 

At Parker Design Consultants we manage our clients’ brands by effective colour management – whether for print or digital applications – we ensure that we are producing the very best representation of colour.

With our extensive experience working alongside the print industry our clients know they can count on us to provide consistently high quality print solutions.