The color seen on a printed page depends on many, many variables, from the equipment, process and ink(s) used, to the properties and color of the paper itself. It is often extremely difficult to get the exact color that you want.
Companies large and small depend on accurate replication of ‘their’ colors for ‘their’ Logos, Trademarks and Service Marks. The Pantone Color Matching System® (PMS) is a standardized color matching system that uses proprietary, standardized pigments and mixing formula. This allows designers, printers and end users anywhere in the world to see what a specific color should be and match it exactly. The Pantone system defines over 1,100 spot colors based on precise mixing formulas of 13 base pigments plus white and black.
PMS Colors are almost always used to define colors in corporate branding as these colors are most accurately reproduced.
To stay competitive, businesses need to show up now in more ways and more places than ever before. They need to reproduce their logo and colors on stationery, business cards, flyers, Web pages, a storefront sign. Each is produced differently using different processes – e.g. PMS, CMYK and RGB each defined & reproduced by different systems, chemistry and physics. Each has its own range of colors called Gamut (example chart at left.) None can reproduce all the colors that the human eye can see, the largest area of the chart. Many colors can not be reproduced by any system. The ability to accurately represent a color from one Color Space in another Color Space is limited to areas that overlap (e.g. where the RGB and CMYK overlap at left.)
Now days, with modern graphics programs, it is easy to convert PMS colors to CMYK (for full-color printing) or RGB (for the web.) It is, however, difficult or impossible to convert from a CMYK or RGB value to PMS value for something that is best printed in one or two spot colors. Many PMS colors – including many bright reds, blues and greens can not be accurately replicated in either system as they are outside the CMYK or RGB Color Spaces.
You want to both pick colors that are emotionally consistent with your brand image, but that also look the same – and that are most accurately reproduceable – in all three Color Spaces, PMS, CMYK and RGB. When picking your colors, it is always best to start with PMS colors and then check to see how they look in other color spaces and a wide variety of media.
You will be stuck with your decision a very long. What you choose will reflect on who you are as a company, your perceived attractiveness and professionalism. First impressions are important. Image is everything! It is important to work with a knowledgeable designer who routinely works in a wide range of media, products and processes to help you pick the perfect colors for your business. Businesses who do not – particularly those who start out with pixel-based web logos – usually regret it later.
A Chart of PMS Colors in a PDF format can be useful in visualizing and selecting colors. It is important to remember, however, that when you look at it on your computer you will be seeing a RGB simulation of a printed surface. It will not be accurate. A final decision should be made from standard Pantone ink chips or Color Guide.