Pantone: an introduction

Sunday, January 07, 2018

There's a lot of talk in design circles about Pantones.  We're pretty obsessed with them ourselves, and they're incredibly important to understand when you're designing and printing custom packaging. So what's all the fuss about?

veuve cliquot branded champagne packaging

Veuve Clicquot famously states that it's been "yellow since 1877." Their signature shade of yellow is technically known in the industry as Pantone 137.  Whenever they print bottle labels, make bottle cases, mini fridges, or parasols, it's so important that the shade of yellow is consistent and accurate.  If the bottle labels turned out a little paler, or a little more orange, or a little greyer looking, they wouldn't achieve the consistency that's essential to great branding. 

For a long time printers would do their best to match previously printed items or a swatch of material, but there was no simple way to communicate the exact colour you wanted printed. Enter Lawrence Herbert and the invention of Pantones - a universal colour matching system. Now there are thousands of Pantones, and each one is mixed using a specific formula, just like house paint.  Printers across the world have identical formula guides and the swatch books needed to blend and match any Pantone colour you specify.

Pantones can't be precisely chosen on a computer screen because each screen glows and is tinted differently. The colour you see on screen may look warmer or colder than the actual Pantone, so the precision is lost.  When choosing your brand's colours, it's critical to use a physical, printed, IRL Pantone book.  A good designer should have one for you to look over in person.

veuve cliquot

At Georgette, we print using Pantones.  This means that we can hit the fluorescents, beautiful fresh pastels, and subtle jewel tones you chose so carefully for your brand. Rather than hitting a Pantone precisely, many printers try to save money by printing in "CMYK", which are the tiny cyan, magenta, yellow and black dots that combine to make a colour that's close to your Pantone.  It can be a cheaper way to print, but you'll never achieve the rich, stunning colours that result from mixing fresh inks.  Anytime you're printing something, be sure to get a clear answer on whether your items are being printed using Pantones or in CMYK 


Photo credit: Pinterest