In design, picking the right color can be a tricky business. There’s a lot to think about, from the brightness and color of the material your printing on to translucency and glossiness, to how the color will translate from your screen to the substrate. Each of these factors will affect the look of your printed results. Luckily, to help you avoid a host of off-color surprises, there’s the Pantone Matching System.
A Color by Any Other Name
The Pantone Matching System is the global go-to for communicating color. You may have also heard of it referred to as ‘PMS.’ There are other systems as well, such as GCMI for corrugated boxes. Paint manufacturers at your local home improvement store have their own color systems as well, helping you ensure perfectly matched results from room-to-room and project-to-project. But when it comes to the printing world, Pantone reigns supreme. It is the closest thing we have to a source of ‘truth’ when comparing colors around the world – and how you communicate colors is a big deal…
Think about how hard it is to describe any particular color: Is it easier to describe this color as a nice, light leafy green? Grass green? What kind of grass? Bermuda? Kentucky blue? Or simply avoid all color confusion by identifying it specifically as Pantone 15-0343? Pantone 15-0343 means the same thing in every state and every country in the world.
Each shade and every nuance within a color family can hold an entirely different meaning…
- Tones of Red
- Danger! Watch Out!
- It’s a girl!
- Tones of Green
Most projects start out on screen, and relying on on-screen colors, such as those above, as indicative of printed results is a prime color matching pitfall. Why? Your design will look different on every screen it’s viewed on – even with the help of fancy color calibration techniques. Luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid surprises and ensure the exact color you want: Use your screen to produce a color that looks exactly like you want, then use your Pantone Matching System book to find the exact swatch, saving time and the likelihood of error by ‘trusting the book’ – your Pantone guidebook. Because whatever the swatch looks like in the PMS book is what you’re going to get with your final printed results.
The Pantone system encompasses thousands of swatches and tons of applications, from paper to fabrics and plastics. In the print world, however, the biggest thing to be aware of is the ‘C’ and ‘U’ on your swatches. These stand for coated (C) and uncoated (U). Coated means the ink is going onto a glossy surface, which will look very different than ink printed onto a matte surface.
See the difference? This is why it is essential to tell your printer whether you’re using coated/uncoated color and stock. Also essential: Substrate specifics. Material color, thickness, and texture will also affect printed color, changing the hue (as with colored substrates), washing it out (such as with vellum/translucent/thin substrates), and changing the character of the tone (such as with varying brightness qualities). This is why choosing a printer who can provide you an accurate, reliable proof is essential to helping you get as close as humanly possible to your desired results. Because no matter how many calibrators, fancy machines, and ink mixers are used in this process, at the end of the day, someone with a Pantone book must match colors by eye to the shades you’ve selected.
Color = Quality
Pantone books are a little pricey. Pantone puts out these books every year, at $155 for a set of uncoated and coated swatch books. But as explained above, these can save you a lot of time. Replace them regularly. Swatches can fade/shift with time, making them irrelevant. Remember, your printer is working off of this exact same book, so you want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, and looking at the exact same shade as your printer.
Color conundrums? We’ve got an eye for perfection, from pre-press to print. Discover the difference our map printing expertise can make in your design. Contact MapPrinter today.