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Decoding the Pantone System for Packaging Design

Isn't it confusing to talk about colors for your custom packaging with the manufacturing partner? The color visible on your screen or sample may look different on other’s medium. A simple solution is to use color spaces. Color spaces are a specific organization of colors, where the color swatches are either numbered or structured mathematically. One of the color spaces widely used across the world is Pantone Matching System (PMS) or simply Pantone. Pantone Inc maintains and releases the Pantone guide annually. There are other color spaces available such as ProPhoto RGB, Colormatch RGB, SWOP CMYK, sRGB, etc. Each of these color spaces has specific application and their own range of colors. Pantone is globally preferred in the printing industry. While talking about a particular shade, one can use the color’s Pantone name and number.

Knowing the Pantone Colors

Pantone sells a color guide containing the list of their spot colors. It includes both the coated and uncoated variants. Coated swatches come with a glossy finish and have suffix ‘C’ in the name, whereas uncoated colors have a matte finish and their names end with suffix ‘U’.As of now, Pantone has a list of 1,867 colors in the guide. The guide also describes the formula for each color. The formula specifies the mixing proportion of the basic Pantone colors, in order to get the specific color. The image below shows the colors as represented in the Pantone guide.

Image Courtesy: pantone.com

13 basic colors are used to create all the shades available in the Pantone guide. Pantone has also created a different series of colors by mixing metallic colors.

metallic colours pantone
Image Courtesy: pantone.com


The Pantone guide may fade over time, and matching color between new and old guide can become difficult. Hence, we recommend to replace the Pantone guide yearly with the latest version. Pantone also keeps adding color every year; so refreshing your guide from time to time is a good idea.

Using Pantone Reduces the Room for Error

The same color may look different on your phone or PC then when it is actually printed. Again, screens and printers use different color spaces. There are expensive screen calibration solutions available, but those become redundant once you use PMS to select colors.

RGB color space to CYMK

Pantone assures the final print color appears exactly same as in guide, though the computer screen might show slightly different shade. Many graphic designing software has inbuilt Pantone swatches, thus reducing the need to translate Pantone into sRGB or AdobeRGB.

Getting Color Drawdown As the Second Opinion

The same color may vary from screen to screen and on the printing material. If you have a weeks time, then you can request a color drawdown. Color drawdown is a sample of how the selected color looks on your packaging material.

Image Courtesy: http://cdn2.hubspot.net

Learn more about color selection for your packaging through A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Packaging Colors.

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