Thoughts From Printing Experts

Brian Shakley

The PANTONE® Matching System is Your Friend

If you’ve never worked in the printing industry or had to order any type of printed product, you’ve probably never heard of PMS.  Well, at least not PMS that relates to printing colors.

In our world, PMS stands for “Pantone Matching System®.”  PANTONE® is a world-renowned company dedicated to the art of accurately re-creating color across a variety of platforms and industries.  As their website states, “The PANTONE® name is known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer.”  Which is another way to say, “Everyone uses us.”

As has been discussed on this blog before, digital printers use CMYK color when printing.  The printing industry as a whole utilizes CMYK and the Pantone Matching System® (PMS).  Because it is the most widely used system in the world, printing becomes much more consistent.  PANTONE® even offers books that allow graphic designers to see a color printed and reference it when ordering a product.

The great thing about the PMS is that some of the colors can be reproduced using CMYK inks.  PANTONE® has even created process guides to instruct manufacturers on how to mix specific inks to achieve a desired color.  There is another guide that shows printers how certain colors will look with CMYK values.  And by “CMYK values,” I mean this:

A standard red in the PMS world is known as “PANTONE 186.”  In CMYK values, this color looks like this – C: 12%, M: 100%, Y: 92%, K: 3%.  In order to achieve PANTONE 186 on a digital printer, the file would be setup to match that CMYK value.

This is why the PMS is so valuable.  Whether you are a graphic designer setting up art files for a client or a small business that simply needs something printed, you can reference the PMS when communicating with your local print shop.

One thing to keep in mind is that a specific color will look slightly different when printed on the type of paper or material used.  This is why PANTONE® has created a coding system using the letters C, U, and M.

C = Coated  U = Uncoated  M = Matte

These codes allow you to match a color with the type of paper, giving you the best possible match when trying to determine the color you want to use with your product.  So when you see the color “PANTONE 186 C,” the “C” stands for coated.

For more information, feel free to check out the PANTONE® website.  But remember, next time you’re thinking about printing something, save yourself some time by determining the PMS colors you need.  It will not only help your printer out, but give you more confidence that the finished product will be exactly what you want.


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