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How do Pantone colours work?

Following up from our previous post, I’ll explain how Pantone actually works. It didn’t even cross my mind that this would be a question as Pantone has become so ingrained in our everyday work.

For us, selecting, referencing and using Pantone colours is as common as choosing what paper size we’ll use for a project. We barely give the background of Pantone a second thought anymore. But I realise from the outside, that it’s still all a bit of an unknown. It gives you more colour choices as a client, but what else? Why are designers always name-dropping these colours and numbers?

Pantone is a colour matching system created back in 1963, that has become a worldwide tool – so if you tell someone in Australia, Europe and Asia a Pantone colour number, they will all be able to reference the same colour, even if they speak different languages. The standardised system gives a name and number to over 1000 colours. A wide range of industries refer to Pantone colours, from designers and printers, through to manufacturers, retailers and clients.

While Pantone originally started their system for printers and designers, their colours are not only used for printing on paper today; other materials include textiles and plastics. They simplify quality control with their standardised system.

Fun fact: in 1963 they started with 10 colours you could match. That number is a lot bigger now!