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PANTONE PMS colors: Bringing life to a black and white world

By: ron bercume at SeeMore Media

Submitted on Sun, Apr 15th, 2007 12:00 am

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.

PMS colors
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 PANTONE Q270–2–4

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 other surfaces.

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.

About the Author

ron bercume
SeeMore Media
SeeMoreMedia Graphic Design, Adirondack Mountains, NY Real world design product for large to small business, with a common sense approach and focus. We specialize in business identity development, producing everything from general print medias, to full blown websites. Staying abreast of the latest in contemporary design and technology, we provide our family of clients with a accessible products and services to successfully promote their business

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