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Print Marketing, Smartpress News

Pantone Matching System and How to Achieve Accurate Color

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 printers, designers, 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. 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 thus require special inks such as metallics and fluorescents. This is 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 print file, most popular layout programs allow you to reference PMS colors by referencing the name or number. This helps with accuracy 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.

For instance, in Adobe InDesign, it is simple to add a Pantone swatch to the palette. 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. 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 will print the closest match.

Always remember, when doing precise color work, it is best to have a calibrated monitor.  If you would like to print with specific spot colors and test the CMYK process, make sure to order a hard proof. It is the only way you can compare the proof to the exact spot color.


We are here to help you achieve great color in your projects!   More information can be found on Spot Colors and Pantone in the Smartpress Help Center.  Contact us between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. CST and one of our customer service representatives would be happy to help you with whatever you may need!



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