Pantone Color Swatches

Pantone Matching System – A Brief History

Pantone Matching System is a system that has been used to standardize printed colors, predominately in the graphic design and printing industries. The Pantone Matching System, or PMS for short, has also been known to be utilized in colored paint, plastic and fabric manufacturing. PMS colors have many applications in corporate branding and government standards. For example, Canada, South Korea and the State of Texas have all set legislated PMS colors for their respective flags.

To back up just a bit, Pantone Inc. is an actual company located in New Jersey which supplies instruments used for color measurement as well as software. Started in the 1950s as a commercial printing company, M & J Levine Advertising, Pantone officially received its current and notable name after its assets were purchased for $90,000 by one of its first employees and a graduate of Hofstra University, Lawrence Herbert.

Pantone PMS Color Formulas
Pantone PMS Color Formulas

Using an individually allocated number, regardless of their location and the equipment used to produce the Pantone color or PMS color, manufacturers are ensured an exact PMS color match within the Pantone Matching System. While this Pantone color system allows for metallics and flourescents to be produced, there are color translations provided, taking into account computer screen-based colors and other factors. Additionally, the official Pantone color guides are updated annually, due to the fact that they can become yellowish, experience color variance and degrade over time, depending upon the type of paper stock (coated, uncoated and matte) that is used for each edition.

A new matching and numbering system, the Pantone Goe System, was introduced in September of 2007 to assist with the many challenges that arise when reproducing colors on a printing press. This allowed then for a smoother color progression and transition between colors. However, the Goe System was fairly short-lived and was officially discontinued 6 years later, in November 2013.

In 2000, Pantone began selecting a specific PMS Color of the Year. Representatives from several, varying color standard groups get together in the Spring, in a European capital to covertly discuss and debate what color they predict and forecast to be the dominant and influential color for the upcoming calendar year. After a couple days full of debates and presentations, an official “Pantone Color of the Year” is decided upon.

The Pantone Color Institute will then publish the results of this secretive meeting.  Many consumer-oriented companies/individuals, including:

  • fashion designers
  • florists
  • photographers

will turn to these elected PMS colors for guidance and inspiration in their designs and future product planning.

In a two-part interview conducted by BannerBuzz and custom printing company, Signazon, the person behind Pantone’s Color of the Year and Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, Leatrice Eiseman, explains how Radiant Orchid, the 2014 PMS Color of the Year, was chosen:

I look for ascending color trends, colors that are being used in broader ways and broader context than before… In this case, Radiant Orchid descends from the purple family, which is kind of a magical color that denotes creativity and innovation. Purple is just that kind of a complex, interesting, attracting kind of color… [The] back-story to purple is that it inspires confidence in your creativity, and we’re living in a world where that kind of creative innovation is greatly admired. In the world of color, purple is an attention-getter, and it has a meaning. It speaks to people, and we felt that it was time for the purple family to be celebrated. That’s why we chose the particular shade called Radiant Orchid.

— Leatrice Eiseman

The five (6 actually; 2016 [See Video] had two selections) most recent Pantone Color of the Year winners are pictured below, along with their corresponding Pantone Matching System or PMS color reference numbers:

Pantone Colors of the Year
Pantone Colors of the Year – 2012-2016

Listed below the Pantone PMS color names, you can see what a Pantone Matching System reference number looks like (notice Pantone 13-1520 for Rose Quartz and Pantone 18-3224 for Radiant Orchid.) Although there are other PMS color number formats, this is the most common structure/naming convention within the Pantone Matching System.

In closing, for the most accurate information, updates and revisions to the Pantone Matching System and the PMS colors contained within, it is recommended you visit Pantone’s website. Thanks for stopping by!