Precise Color with PMS

by Maverick Label | March 21, 2019

It's All About the Color

Spring just sprang and we’re surrounded by lovely colors again, instead of the grays, whites, and tans of a Pacific Northwest winter. So we thought we’d talk about color today.


Pantone color guide fan

It’s impossible to talk about color in printing without talking about Pantone and the Pantone Matching System (PMS). The company has been defining colors since the 1960’s. In 1963, they introduced the Pantone Matching System, a standardized color “language.”

They create high-quality color guides, with numbered colors and "recipe" or formulas for creating them. These color guides are used by designers, manufacturers, printers, and others worldwide. With the guides, we can accurately identify, specify, and reproduce color variations.

Using color standardization, different manufacturers in different locations all refer to the same system, making sure colors match without direct contact with one another. The guides we use come in fans (and flipping through them can be a nice way to take a color break on a gray day, I hear).

PMS numbers have gotten longer as the years go by. The first sets of standardized colors were 3-4 digits long; current colors, like the 2019 Color of the Year, Living Coral, are 6 digits long. (Living Coral is 16-1546.)

Pantone & MaverickLabel

Pantone colors on quoter page

We use Pantone colors. Many of our pricing pages or quoters include the PMS number for that product's available colors (and we are adding more as we update each product's pricing page).

The beauty part of using PMS numbers is that the color will not vary, because we always follow the same "recipe."

If you order labels with PMS 1375 (Mango), when you come back next month or next year and order more with the same color code, the color formulation will be the same. If you need to order some from a supplier in Europe for your location there, PMS 1375 there is the same recipe as here.

Note: The on-screen color may look different from the finished product, because of variations in the way computer monitors present color.

Color Samples

If you don’t have access to a Pantone guide or Adobe palettes, you can always request samples of the colors you are interested in by clicking the Free Samples button on any product page. In the comments section, list the colors you want samples of and we’ll see that you get them.

Because material surfaces vary, PMS colors may vary from one surface to another as well. Glossy material doesn’t absorb as much ink and reflects more, so PMS colors printed on it may appear deeper than colors on matte materials. This is not generally a concern, especially when ordering only one product type.

Most people don’t mind that PMS 347 is very slightly different on their parking passes than it is on their integrated labels, for instance. What matters is that one batch of parking permits matches the next ones ordered. Except maybe for the ones that may have been displayed in the Arizona sun for few years. Those are probably going to be a bit lighter after that amount of time!

Fun Stuff

If you want to know more about Pantone and the Pantone Matching System; they have a great website, full of all sorts of resources. You can order Pantone Color Guides, there, too. Or take their Color IQ Test (I scored a respectable four, but our pre-press and production staff do even better).

If you’re interested in taking a hue and saturation test, there’s a pretty cool one at Color Method. Although they don’t explain it very well, the object is to match the color that appears in the center before the timer runs out. Move your cursor around the outside rings till you find what color you think matches best, and click on it.

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