Pantone Colours

2 May, 2018


When you first start thinking of what colours you would like to use for your print it’s highly likely Pantone colours will come into the mix at some point. However, many people don’t know how Pantone colours became the mainstream colour matching system.


Pantone Book
Pantone Book


History of Pantone

Back in the 1950’s, Pantone was a not very well-known commercial printing company based in New York. It wasn’t until 1963 that they became a household name when they introduced the world’s first colour matching system. The Pantone Matching System as it is called revolutionised the printing industry. It was a systemised and simplified structure outlining the precise mixtures of inks required for printing a particular colour. Before then, when you asked for your stationery products to be printed in blue, you could receive your letterheads in a completely different shade of blue to that of your business cards. The system specifies the exact colour so print buyers know the specific colour their printed products will be.


Pantone Matching System

The Pantone Matching System was created so there would be a universal standard language for colours. For example, when a print buyer says ‘I would like it to be printed using Lapis Blue’ they know exactly what colour the final printed product will be.

The system is made up of 14 base colours: Yellow, Yellow 012, Orange 021, Warm Red, Red 032, Rubine Red, Rhodamine Red, Purple, Violet, Blue 072, Reflex Blue, Process Blue, Green and Black. These are all the base colours needed to make a required Pantone colour from the Pantone Formula Guide.

Pantone colours are often referred to as Spot colours due to them being precise and consistent. There are a substantial 1,114 spot colours, offering a broad selection of colours to choose from. They are particularly important when it comes to corporate branding as the colours have to be exact. Pantone colours have even been included in government legislation and military standards. This is to ensure the correct colours are used for their flags and uniform. Countries such as Canada and South Korea refer to Pantone colours when producing their flags.


Pantone Books
Pantone Books


Special Colours

Metallic Pantone colours consist of 7 basic colours ranging from gold, bronze and silver (Pantone colours 871-877). They can be used as Spot colour on their own or they can also be mixed with Pantone base colours to produce numerous other metallic colours.

There is also Silver 10077 which is used in the Pantone Premium Metallics Book. It is a specialised non-leafing silver base. This means the metallic particles are evenly dispersed within the ink, therefore ensuring consistency.

These premium metallics are mixed with a base Pantone colour to create pastel metallic colours. This a result of the introduction of four new base colours: Bright Red, Pink, Medium Purple, and Dark Blue. While these are not widely used by customers, they do create quality unique print.


Premium Metallics
Premium Metallics
Silver Metallics
Silver Metallics
Gold Metallics
Gold & Bronze Metallics


Current Trends

The number of jobs printed using Pantone colours has reduced considerably over the last 10 years. Print buyers are increasingly favouring the 4-colour process, CMYK. The majority of corporate colours have now been converted from Pantone into CYMK. This makes it easier to replicate across all formats. Furthermore, with the ever so increasing use of shorter digital print runs, which offer reduced costs for the customer and the options for personalisation, Pantone colours are facing increased competition – even if they do create quality print.


To read more about Pantone click here.

To read more about print click here.