The PANTONE Matching System (PMS) was created by the company Pantone, Inc.
PMS is the print industry’s standard for defining true color in the United
States and Canada. Without having a way to define true color, you would not be
able to determine if the blue logo on your company’s letterhead was exactly the
same color blue logo on that is on your company’s envelopes. As you can see, PMS
is extremely important in the world of both print and web media.
There are currently 1114 PMS colors available. Many of these PMS colors are spot
colors, otherwise known as solid colors. These PMS colors were created without
screens or dots from a palette of 14 basic colors. Basic colors are then mixed
in different ways to create a rainbow of variety.
Who uses PMS colors?
Most print and graphic designers, such as the professionals here at See More
Media Graphic Design, use PMS solid colors, which are described by a three or
four digit number that is followed by the letter C, M, or U. The C, M, or U is
used to determine what type of paper stock the color is best printed on. C
stands for coated paper, while U stands for uncoated paper. M stands for matte
paper. An example of this type of PMS color is PANTONE 185C.
PMS also has colors that are specifically used for the fashion, architecture,
and home industries. These colors are represented by a number consisting of two
digits followed by a dash (-), and then four more digits. A TPX or TC suffix
follows the last four digits. TPX determines that the color is best printed on
paper, while TC means that it should be printed on dyed cotton. An example of
this type of PMS color is PANTONE 14-4510 TPX, which is the color Aquatic.
The plastics industry also has its own set of PMS colors. These colors are
distinguished by a Q or T followed by a three-digit number, a dash, and two
singles digits that are separated by a dash. The Q stands for opaque color,
while T stands for transparent color. An example of one of these PMS colors is
What type of PMS guide should you get?
PMS has a variety of swatch books and chips that serve as guides for determining
colors. PMS swatch books are composed of strips showing a few related colors,
with their names and formulas printed alongside them. These PMS strips are
typically secured together at one end so that you can fan them out. They can be
purchased in color sets or as separate pieces.
PMS strips are printed on coated, uncoated, or matte-finished stock. What type
of stock you prefer depends upon what your company is going to be printing. The
type of stock used will directly affect the way the ink appears. There are some
specialty guides made by Pantone that will show ink colors on foil, film, or
Another way PMS displays colors is on chips. These chips are tear-off samples of
Pantone colors that come on pages in a three-ring binder. This type of display
is beneficial to companies that want to provide color samples to their
customers. For example, if you are working on artwork for your customer’s
brochure, you can simply rip off a color chip and attach it to the brochure’s
outline. This way, the customer can approve exactly what he or she will be
getting from you.
PMS for first-time designers
Designers at See More Media Graphic Design use computer programs such as Adobe
Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, and QuarkXPress to duplicate the
appearance of PANTONE colors. In order for the program user to see the colors
accurately, his or her computer monitor must be properly adjusted according to
the program’s specifications.
If you are a designer who is using PMS colors for the first time, there are
several things you need to take into consideration when preparing your design
for printing. If you are using a desktop publishing program such as the four
mentioned above, you must:
1. Open the Color window and observe the default color that is currently being
used. Typically, the default color is not a PANTONE color, and is a CMYK color
instead. You can find the color window in any of these programs by choosing
Window, and then Color.
2. To make your default color a PANTONE color in QuarkXPress, right-click your
mouse on the Color window and select New. A box will pop up, asking you what
model of colors you wish to add. Different types of PANTONE colors are listed
beneath this option. Simply choose the type that you wish to add. If, on the
other hand, you are using an Adobe program such as Photoshop, Illustrator, or
InDesign, you must get rid of the default CMYK colors first. Under Window,
select Swatches. Then click Select All Unused. Choose which swatches you want to
delete, and then click Delete Swatch. If some swatches do not delete
automatically, then you must click on each one to delete it manually. To add
PANTONE colors, select Window, and then Swatch Libraries. Then click on the
PANTONE color that you wish to add. You will then be ready to use PANTONE colors
in your document.
Design firms and print shops like ours depend on PMS colors to get jobs done
accurately and flawlessly. Don’t underestimate their importance, for these
colors have the ability to bring life to an otherwise black-and-white world.
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