What are pantone colors?
Subjects covered in this blog:
- What does Pantone mean?
- Pantone TCX versus Pantone TPX
- The difference between RGB, CMYK and PMS colors.
- The difference between spot colors and process colors.
- The difference between offset litho printing, digital printing and screen printing.
- Pantone colors for branding.
- Pantone colors for screen printing.
The basic elements of a good branding are: a catchy name, a recognizable logo, a clear typography and popping colors. A brand’s color is critical to its identity, keeping these colors consistent presents multiple challenges that can be solved through Pantone color systems. Pantone colors are color codes that stand for a specific shade, as more than 10 million designers and producers around the world rely on Pantone products and services to help define, communicate and control color across various materials and finishes for graphics, fashion and product design. Learn more about the meaning of Pantone colors and how to use them in this blog.
What is the meaning of Pantone?
We’ll start with the Pantone definition:
Pantone colors are color codes that stand for a specific shade.
You can communicate about colors by defining the Pantone code. Basically it is the standard language for colors and we are likely to use it as a reference.
Pantone is a standard ‘Color Matching System’ where a code number is used to identify each color. Whatever the color, it is easy to identify any color with the help of Pantone Color Guide, because each color has a different or unique code number. In this guide, a page has more than one swatch for just a single color. This means that the luminance varies from light to dark for any color.
If Pantone colors are provided, every involved party knows exactly what the end product should look like. This allows everyone to guarantee the match between the desired color and the ink color, which can differ if you don't use a PMS color.
Pantone colors are defined by a formula. The formula developed by Pantone results in a spot color. This means that the color is created from a palette of 18 basic colors.
Read on to learn everything about colors and printing.
Pantone TCX versus Pantone TPX
Pantone Guide plays an important role in the textile industry in fabric dyeing and printing and also for shade matching. There are mainly two types of Pantone Guides: TCX & TPX. Both are designed for the Pantone Textile Color System. These guides are used for color matching.
TCX: Textile Cotton eXtend
TCX-colors are pure “Cotton Swatches” in each an individual color. It looks like a passport guide or chip set. Because it is a complete cotton swatch, it can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Since TCX is a color applied on a cotton fabric, its color depth will be higher than TPX.
TPX: Textile Paper eXtend
With TPX-colors, the guide is made out of “Paper Swatches” instead of cotton swatches. Every swatch is colored in a unique color. The TPX Pantone Book is much cheaper than the TCX. Since TPX is a color printed on paper, its color lightness and brightness will be a little higher than TCX. This TPX Pantone book has recently been updated to the TPG Pantone book. TPX & TPG colors are the same, but the TPG is much more eco-friendly. (Textile Paper Green)
Both TCX and TPX are Pantone color standards, but they are designed separately for different purposes. TCX is commonly used as a standard color swatch for reactive and disperse dyeing and TPX is used for pigments, which means that it is used as the color standard for printing.
The difference between RGB, CMYK and PMS colors
Colors are an important aspect of printing, but not all colors are the same. There are different color models (types of colors). The most important color models are RGB, CMYK and PMS.
RGB colors (Red - Green - Blue) mainly occur in digital media. Think of your monitor, tv or the pictures you make with a digital camera.
With RGB, the starting point is 'light'. The more light that is produced, the more color that can be seen. Without any light, there is no noticeable color, also known as black. The easiest example is your monitor.
- If it doesn't produce any light, the only thing you see is black.
- The more light your monitor produces, the brighter the colors will be.
- If the monitor produces Red, Green and Blue at their maximum levels and they are mixed together, you'll see white.
The color consists of a combination of the three (Red, Green, Blue) base colors. The amount of each color is between 00 (none of that color) and 255 (all of the color). In total, you can create 16.777.216 colors.
RGB colors can't be printed since paper doesn't produce any light. Paper absorbs and reflects light that is emitted by another light source such as the sun, your desk lamp or your monitor. In order to print RGB colors we must convert the additive color model (RGB) to a subtractive color model (CMYK).
CMYK colors are composed of four base colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black). Just like RGB, different colors are formed by combining these four base colors. The amount of each color is between 0% (none of that color) and 100% (all of the color).
The first difference is the surface/background. With CMYK it’s white (e.g. the paper). This is why we need the "Key" color to make a beautiful, deep black.
In addition, paper absorbs and reflects light as opposed to a monitor that emits light. Because of this, we use inks that partially absorb the light. Only the unabsorbed light is reflected. This means that the color of the paper itself is also a very important factor in the way colors are perceived.
CMYK colors don't just absorb the light that is reflected by the paper, but they are also influenced by the color of the paper. An identical picture printed on white paper will be perceived differently than one printed on recycled or salmon-colored paper.
PMS stands for Pantone Matching System and consists of 18 base colors that can be combined to 1867 mix colors. PMS colors are a globally used standard.
This allows everyone to guarantee the match between the desired color and the ink color, which can differ if you don't use PMS color.
The difference between process colors and spot colors.
Next to RGB-colors, CMYK-colors and PMS-colors, we speak of spot colors and process colors for printing. What is the difference and which color code do you need for what?
First of all, we have process colors. Process colors are used for process printing (also called 4-color process printing or CMYK-printing).
Process printing refers to the technique of printing a full spectrum of colors using halftones of only 4 ink colors layered over each other: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (or, CMYK). With process printing, the colors are not mixed. We use separate inks that are layered onto the paper.
A spot color (or solid color) is any color generated by an ink (pure or mixed) that is printed using a single run, whereas a process color is produced by printing a series of dots of different colors.
A spot color is printed using one single ink, often made by physically mixing different base color inks to a formula from a Pantone guide book - a bit like the same way you'd mix some base paint colors to get a new color.
Spot colors have a wider gamut than CMYK colors. There are spot colors which have no equivalent in CMYK, think of metallic colors or fluorescent colors. Reflex blue is for example notoriously difficult to reproduce in CMYK.
The difference between offset litho printing, digital printing and screen printing.
Offset litho printing
Offset printing, also called lithography, is the most common kind of printing for high volume commercial jobs. Ever seen videos of newspapers running through big rolls? That’s offset printing.
Typically, CMYK colors are used (cyan, magenta, yellow and black (key), but offset printing also allows for custom ink colors (most notably Pantone colors) to be used instead. We use Pantone colors if we want a specific color result. (explained above)
With offset printing the design is transferred from the plates onto rubber rolls.
The design is divided into the four CMYK colors. For each color, there exist a seperate roll. The paper goes through all of the rolls which means that the colors are layered onto the paper with the final image as a result.
The process is called offset because the ink is first transferred from plate to a rubber blanket rather than going directly on to the paper. Because of the time and costs required for set up, plates and ink before anything is actually printed, offset isn’t cost effective for smaller amounts and is usually only used when very large volumes are required.
Digital presses use powdered toners instead of traditional inks. With the digital printing process, your artwork goes straight from your pdf to print.
This technique skips the proofs, plates and rubber bed and applies a design directly to the printing surface, either with liquid ink or powdered toner. The inkjet or laserjet you hook up to your computer at home? That’s a digital printer. Large printing companies have ones that are bigger, faster and more precise, but it’s the same concept.
Screen printing is the process of pressing ink through a stencilled mesh screen to create a printed design. It’s a popular technique used in a whole range of different industries, so even if you've never heard of the term before today, it’s likely that you’ve worn or used a screen-printed product at some point without even realising. The process is sometimes called serigraphy or silk screen printing, but all of these names refer to the same basic method.
Screen printing is an effective technique for creating bold canvases, posters and artwork, but the method can also be used to print fabrics and textiles, so it's great for creating all sorts of custom clothing and products.
The screen, also called a mesh, is used to transfer ink onto a substrate, except in areas that are made impermeable to the ink by a blocking stencil. As discussed before, each color can look different when printed on a particular material.
So without color codes (CMYK, RGB, PMS), it’s a big challenge to match the right colors to customers’ branding. Therefore Pantone screen printing exists.
Pantone colors for branding.
The basic elements of a good branding are: a catchy name, a recognizable logo, a clear typography and popping colors. These can be applied both online and offline. Before you begin a brandbook, it is important that your brand tells a clear story. Think about what you want to mean to consumers and what you want to radiate. Only after this phase we start working on the brandbook.
The brandbook is often used by companies to give their staff a uniform corporate identity. The staff must be able to identify with your brand and that starts with clarifying the visualization of the brand.
Your brand can be extended online. Think of a clear website, ads, campaigns and social media. Be sure everything matches your brand book. This makes sure your company is recognizable and visible for people whom you'll otherwise never reach.
Next to that, don't forget to pay attention to your offline branding. Think of flyers, banners and merch. With custom quality clothing, you can turn your employees into real brand ambassadors. Be sure to include Pantone colors to your corporate identity. If PMS-colors are provided, your clothing can truly reflect your brand which can only be beneficial for you visibility.
Pantone colors for screen printing on textile.
Using pantone colors is ideal for non-fabric materials. The result can differ depending on the material and its color that is printed on. With textiles, this can be very challenging because the color of the textile influences the color of the ink.
It’s always safe to print on white textile. With colored textiles, we add an undercoat to make the colors pop. But why use Pantone colors to screenprint? What are the benefits? If Pantone colors are provided, every involved party knows exactly what the end product should look like. This allows everyone to guarantee the match between the desired color and the ink color.
Looking for a partner to take your branding and visibility to the next level? Then be sure to contact us at Sunday.