For those of you not in the know, Pantone is a color pallette containing 1,757 unique and individually numbered colors. These were directed to help designers and printers specify colors for printing projects.
Pantone is sometimes referred to as PMS – Pantone Matching System, and it also sometimes called 'Spot Colors'. It's important to know all the different names so you do not sound stupid when talking to a printing firm (joke!).
They are often described as 'spot colors' because of the way they are printed. For example if a printing job required the use of two different Pantone colors from the pallette, the printing firm involved would make two sheets of film for the printing plates. Each pantone color has it's own printing plate.
Now Pantone is the ONLY color printing system available that completely guarantees color accuracy. If you print in CMYK instead (a mix of four colors, and it's the method that your own bog standard office printer users), while there is a good chance that colors will certainly well match up from printed item to printed item, there is no guarantee of exact accuracy from job to job.
What is particularly special about Pantone is that colors such as metallics and flourances are available, and not even close to the same can not be reproduced with CMYK process color printing.
It should be noted that actually most Pantone colors can not be reproduced in CMYK, and that the CMYK color printing system is actually quite narrow and restrictive by comparison. I guess what can you expect when you only have four colors to mix together to produce different shades from!
Regardless of this most SMEs opt for printing in process colors (CMYK) and the reason for this is that when you print in multiple shades of Pantone, the cost of printing is far higher than compared to printing the same number of shades in CMYK. SMEs do not have bottomless pockets like corporates, and the risk of non exact color consistency is not enough of an issue for them to warrant to paying far more for their printing on a regular basis.
The History of Pantone
Pantone was founded in 1962 when purchased as a small business by Lawrence Herbert. Herbert had been an employee of Pantone since 1956, and once in charge immediately changed the company operations from manufacturing color cards for cosmetics companies to developing the first color matching system. This was launched in 1963.
Although Herbert had an early interest in printing, he graduated from Hofstra University with a double major in biology and chemistry and with aims to attend medical school.
In 1956 although he joined the salary at Pantone on a part-time basis, and became so interested in the industry he decided to continue on at Pantone rather than pursue a medical career.
In 1977, with sales at $ 2million Herbert took the company private, and although sales volumes were no longer public, it was estimated that by the mid 80s the Pantone TM appeared on around $ 500million art supplies, inks and other printing products in over 50 countries worldwide.
By 1990 Pantone had entered into licensing agreements with the worlds major graphic and design software manufacturers for both Mac and PC. By 1992 major players such as Adobe, Bitstream, Quark, and Ventura had all announced support for the Pantone color system.
To date Pantone, based in Carlstadt New Jersey, has amassed 1,757 shades on the Pantone Matching System and its name is essentially synonymous with color management on a global basis.