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Pantone Matching System and How to Achieve Accurate Color

by Abbey Fitzgerald | August 3, 2013

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What are PMS Colors?

PMS stands for Pantone Matching System. This color system is a standardized way to reference colors and do a “color match” on specific colors. Litho printers, digital printersdesigners, and manufacturers all use the PMS to ensure color accuracy.

You have probably seen Pantone swatch books before. These are used to reference different colors and give you a base of comparison when choosing a color. These books resemble a thick, skinny deck of cards that are bound at one edge, giving it the ability to be a “fan” of colors.


Pantone Swatch Book Example

PMS Color Reference With CMYK Breakdown

Some of the Pantone colors can be reproduced with the four-color CMYK printing process (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). These are labeled with the color breakdowns. These colors are most popular since they do not require additional spot colors.

A lot of the Pantone colors cannot be simulated with only CMYK digital printing and require special inks such as metallics and fluorescents. These are typically for specialty printing since there is the added cost of having a special spot color to achieve the perfect color.

Pantone References and Numbers

When setting up your digital printing file, most popular layout programs allow you to reference PMS colors. You simply reference the Pantone name or number and find the color that matches. This helps because the color may not look right on your monitor.

Also, since you will most likely be using Pantone colors that can be reproduced with CMYK, you can find the breakdown of each color and create that specific color.

For instance, in Adobe InDesign, it is simple to add a Pantone swatch to the pallette. Open the Swatches Palette, go to New Color Swatch > Color Mode, and you will see Pantone options. The Color Type is very important. If it is a spot color that you will be using, make sure Spot is chosen. If you will not be using any spot colors, make sure all the colors in your document are Process Colors.

PMS Colors and Online Printing

Typically, spot colors are not printed here at Smartpress.com. However, if a spot color is noted, we will simulate that color using the CMYK process. Bright or metallic colors can only be digitally printed with specialty spot colors, so Smartpress.com will print the closest match.

If you’d like to print with specific spot colors and would like to test the CMYK process, make sure to order a hard proof. That way you can compare the proof to the exact spot color.

We are here to help you achieve great color in your projects! Contact us with any color related questions. More information can be found on spot colors and Pantone in the Smartpress.com Help Center.

Fun Pantone References

PMS colors are primarily for printing, but don’t limit your Pantones to just paper. See them in action on products and out in nature:

Cool Pantone Phone Cases

Pantone Phone Cases

Pantone Fun by Erica Smith

Pantone Fun by Erica Smith on Pinterest

Color of the Year – 2013

Color of the Year 2013

Always remember, when doing precise color work, it is best to have a calibrated monitor. Also, getting a hard proof before your final job is printed is the best way to be certain that you will be getting the desired color. With that said, go ahead and find your unique color!









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