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Over the years, I’ve found myself getting flush when talking to customers, especially woman, about PMS colors. Most people hear the letters PMS and think of (dare I say it?) pre-menstrual syndrome which, although a natural biological function, is still kind of taboo. This blog though has nothing to do with that kind of PMS, but relates rather to colors used in printing.
In the 1950’s, a commercial printer hired Lawrence Herbert, a recent graduate with knowledge of chemistry who simplified and systematized the company’s ink and pigment colors. He eventually purchased a division of the company, renamed it Pantone and began developing PMS, or the Pantone Matching System. The idea behind the system is to allow anyone to match a specific color by numbering each color in their guide and providing the ink mix used to match that particular color. Specific spot colors, of which there are 1,114, are created by mixing certain percentages of 14 standard base ink colors.
For example, if your company chose baby puke green as their corporate color you might choose PMS 3975C from the fan chart of colors updated each year. To insure this color is the same on your printed materials, promotional marketing materials and signage the formula mix for this color is 32 parts of Pantone yellow, ¼ part process blue and 1 part black; kind of like a recipe for a cake. If mixed correctly, the resulting color should always look exactly like the swatch included on the fan chart.
Beware though that printed colors may not always look like colors you see on a computer monitor. The reason is every computer monitor is different and most are never calibrated so the shades you see on a screen could be far different than the actual color. Additionally, monitors use only red, blue and green light (RBG colors) to give you the colors you see on the screen, but that doesn’t translate the same on paper.
Also know that colors look different when printed on different kinds of paper or materials. Inks printed on a coated stock will be more vibrant and true to life vs. the exact same inks printed on newsprint or uncoated paper. The PMS guide takes this into account and has either a C after a number for coated or U for uncoated so you can see what that color will look like using either kind of stock.
You may also hear the term CMYK which stands for the four colors used to create four-color process printing. The colors are cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black) and are applied in the order of their abbreviation and are usually printed on a white or light background. These colors, when combined, will provide a full-color print which recreates the look of a color photograph.
This article is a very basic introduction to the colors used for imprinting promotional products and other marketing materials. So many customers don’t understand how ink colors come to be and my hope is this gives at least a basic understanding of PMS colors and how to insure your corporate colors remain consistent each and every time you use them.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, the PMS color of 2011 is Honeysuckle, PMS 18-2120. The pantone site says “honeysuckle emboldens us to face everyday troubles with verve and vigor and elevates our psyche beyond escape.” Wow, I remember when it used to just be called pink and real men didn’t wear it. Guess I need to buy some honeysuckle shirts and pants so I can “meet the exhaustive challenges that have become a part of everyday life.”
Glad I missed last year’s color which was a shade of turquoise. Not sure how I’d look in turquoise pants!Write by phanmemgoc