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What are Pantone colours?

Pantone is a reference to the ‘Pantone Colour Matching System’ which is a standard colour system used by full colour printers all over the world. It allows large multinational companies to ensure that their corporate colours are consistent around the world when having all their marketing printed from one continent to another. By standardizing their corporate colours, then the same colours printed in Portsmouth can be replicated in Peru without the fear that it won’t be a similar colour, it will be exact.

The Pantone system is clever enough to take into account the material which any print job is being printed onto, this is referred usually using a letter at then end, so it would be Pantone 032C, this ‘C’ means a ‘coated’ material such as Gloss or Silk, where as a ‘U’ refers to an ‘uncoated’ material such as Offset or Bond. The reason for this is that the colour can alter when saturating different materials, so the colour mixture is altered slightly and compensated for the different materials, this ensures that the final product matches the original requirement of the Pantone colour requested by the client.

Pantone colours / inks are mixed before they are used. So it’s likely to be a percentage of 3 or 4 inks used to achieve the desired pantone colour – this is called ‘spot’ colour. So if printing a letterhead for example using a Pantone spot colour is printed soley with that ink as a solid colour.

An alternative to the Pantone matching system to achieve a specific colour is the use of CMYK process colour printing. This is a method whereby the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (or CMYK, the black is referred to as the ‘key’ colour hence the ‘K’) inks are then mixed to make up the millions of colours we see every day which are used in full colour printing. This system is used to produce the majority of the worlds printing, but it can have slight variations depending on how a print job is printed, this means that each machine and its operator can tweak the settings on a press and achieve slight difference in colours. This is fine to the average man on the street especially with regards to images, but when we are talking about the ‘red’ used for a global company such as Coca Cola, then even the slightest variation in colour can be disastrous.

So this is when Pantone comes into its own. The Pantone 032 (red) is the same colour mix all over the world so there is no need to worry.