WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

…As in the PANTONE® MATCHING SYSTEM®. Yeah, that’s an unfortunate acronym (and an excess of copyright symbols), but you can blame the fine folks at Pantone for that. So what’s PMS, and why should you use it? Let’s first take a quick sepia-toned (477 C) trek through history…

Old timey printers who didn’t use Pantone. Amateurs.

Pantone was originally a struggling commercial printing company in the 50s. Deep in the red (179 C) by 1962, they were fortunate to have a golden (7548 C) goose in the form of recent Hofstra graduate Lawrence Herbert. Herbert was a young chemist running the ink and printing division, the sole profitable division within the company. He bought Pantone and refined his color management system into the Pantone Matching System we know and love today.

Those are some nasty looking colors. Should have chewed Pantone Gum.

So why is PMS so important? Well, let’s take a look at a world in which Lawrence Herbert never existed, shall we? Say you pick a random shade of light green (?) for your shirt design. You pass the design to an art director who views it on a monitor that makes it look more yellow (?) than you intended. They’re not sure if it will look good on the shirt color you chose, but have no way to verify it. The art director then hands it off to a printer in another state. The printer has to put what he or she sees on their monitor onto an actual shirt. Three people seeing three different colors, trying to make the jump from digital to cotton while keeping the artist’s vision intact. Come back Lawrence Herbert!

That’s more like it.

Now let’s try it again with some full-fledged Pantone action. This time you choose an exact shade of Pistachio (577 C) among the 1341 available colors. You flip through your PMS Formula guide to see what it will look like in print. The art director gets your design and verifies that it looks great on the shirt using their own PMS Formula Guide. They pass on the PMS number to the printer who knows the exact mix of ink to use (Yellow 18.70, Ref. Blue 3.10, Trans.Wt. 75.00) to recreate it. Now you can rest assured that the green in your hilarious “Key Lime Pi” design will be viewed as you envisioned it, all creamy and infinite like.

The best part about choosing PMS colors? If you’re using Photoshop or Illustrator, it’s pretty easy to do…

In Photoshop:
1. Select the color box at the bottom of the Tools window to bring up the Color Picker.
2. Click the Color Libraries button and under the Book menu select “Pantone Solid Coated”
3. Switch to the color picker and choose a color. When you jump back to the Pantone Library it will automatically choose the nearest Pantone that matches that color.

In Illustrator:
1. Go to Window> Swatch Libraries>Color Books>Pantone Solid Coated.
2. The Pantone library will be loaded in its own window for easy browsing and selecting.
3. Choosing a random color and getting its closest Pantone equivalent after the fact is a little trickier in Illustrator. This is a great tutorial on how to pull it off.

Now, this is by no means a perfect system. We’ve found that you can do a side-by-side comparison of the same Pantone Swatch in Photoshop and Illustrator and see two slightly different colors. We think Photoshop is the more accurate of the two, but even it struggles with certain color ranges, such as blue (285 C) and green (7724 C).

It’s also important to remember that, while you are choosing Pantone colors on your computer, the colors you are seeing are technically not Pantone—they’re your monitor’s interpretation of Pantone. To fully make use of the Pantone Matching System as an t-shirt designer you need to scoop up the same PMS Formula Guide we use here at the Woot dungeons studios. Yep, they’re a little pricey, and they get updated yearly. Big Color’s got us all by the… well you know. Fortunately you can find some used formula guides on eBay.

So what are you waiting for? Get PMS like us! Not only will it help you design like a pro, your friends and colleagues will be left green (354C) with envy. OK, so that one was pretty lame, but admit it; you’re all excited about Lawrence Herbert now, aren’t you?

Photos (top to bottom):

Men with printing press, circa 1930s by Flickr User Seatlle Municipal Archives
Gross gum! by Flickr user paulbalcerak
Pantone formula guide by Flickr user jepoirrier

kevlar51


quality posts: 43 Private Messages kevlar51

Thanks for that Wootbot! I've got a couple Pantone color books with pages of matching ideas. It's come in handy here and there. But maybe I should pick up one of those expensive swatches.

SkekTek


quality posts: 17 Private Messages SkekTek

Good tips, and helps avoid weirdness in prints. I recall the BreakfasTopo disaster a few years ago where RGB colors, when converted to Pantone, made the colors day-glo bright.

I always wondered, however, why solid coated over the other Pantone solid versions... is it the type of inks Woot uses? I assume so...

odysseyroc


quality posts: 32 Private Messages odysseyroc
kevlar51 wrote:Thanks for that Wootbot! I've got a couple Pantone color books with pages of matching ideas. It's come in handy here and there. But maybe I should pick up one of those expensive swatches.



If you buy the expensive swatch book, you have to handle with care. Paper starts to yellow, ink fades, and colors don't stay true forever.





zekecatz


quality posts: 201 Private Messages zekecatz

Reminds me of the good old days (2009) when I worked for a printer. We had several Pantone formula guides.

kerrymax


quality posts: 0 Private Messages kerrymax

Bah, don't buy into the whole Pantone new book every year crack. I can assure you your printer doesn't. But yeah, if you're final product is printing using Pantone inks, then certainly get thee a Pantone book and use it. OTH, if you are using 4C process printing, please get it through your skull that most of that pretty Pantone book you bought is just not possible to achieve with process inks, and you need to get over yourself and deal with it.

odysseyroc


quality posts: 32 Private Messages odysseyroc
kerrymax wrote:Bah, don't buy into the whole Pantone new book every year crack. I can assure you your printer doesn't. But yeah, if you're final product is printing using Pantone inks, then certainly get thee a Pantone book and use it. OTH, if you are using 4C process printing, please get it through your skull that most of that pretty Pantone book you bought is just not possible to achieve with process inks, and you need to get over yourself and deal with it.



I"m not saying you have to buy a new book every year. I'm just saying if you spend the money, make sure you take care of it. The last printer I worked for didn't take care of the books, left them out in the light or whatever and you could definitely see a difference between the colors in those and the new set he eventually bought. The book is only worth something if the colors are accurate.





ochopika


quality posts: 25 Private Messages ochopika

I am using Gimp until I magically come across a bunch of monies.

I often use rgb to pantone color conversion charts online. They are often pretty close (I cross-checked the colors with someone who has Photoshop). It does take forever to sift through all the colors though.

roofoo


quality posts: 0 Private Messages roofoo
ochopika wrote:I am using Gimp until I magically come across a bunch of monies.

I often use rgb to pantone color conversion charts online. They are often pretty close (I cross-checked the colors with someone who has Photoshop). It does take forever to sift through all the colors though.



The problem with doing that is that no 2 monitors will display an RGB value exactly the same, especially when it's not calibrated right. So making color choices based off of what you see on screen will not translate into PMS colors you would like. That's what the swatch book is for.

thatrobert


quality posts: 26 Private Messages thatrobert

I'm going off to work on Key Lime Pi...


omnitarian


quality posts: 15 Private Messages omnitarian

My tip: http://www.wolframalpha.com/ lets you lookup pantones: just stick in the hex code (por exemple). Good way to get pantones if you don't have photoshop or illustrator. You'll still want a book of swatches to double-check against, though.

lkackman


quality posts: 2 Private Messages lkackman
kevlar51 wrote:Thanks for that Wootbot! I've got a couple Pantone color books with pages of matching ideas. It's come in handy here and there. But maybe I should pick up one of those expensive swatches.



Look into getting a full Pantone chart printed at a sign shop.

Most have the abilities to print onto vinyl or paper. Typically (if they are a good shop)they will have the printer calibrated and calculated to print colors correctly on the material chosen. They can print on gloss or matte finishes to simulates coated vs non coated material colors.
It may not be an exact match for all of the colors, but 95% will print too close to tell. The true down side, won't get the metallic or florescent ink swatches, but who needs those anyway.

Plus, 10-15 smackaroos for a poster size Pantone chart sure beats a couple hundred for the flip book kind.

rglee129


quality posts: 27 Private Messages rglee129

Great post, Travis!

I just got my PMS book about 5 days ago. Blew my mind.

jasneko


quality posts: 30 Private Messages jasneko

Nice post! A slightly more specific question: if anyone has recommendations for pantone colors in the red family that work on cranberry, or reds that work on red, I'd love to hear them. I struggle everytime trying to pick shades for those (that are in the shirt color family), including this past red derby...

MacTheHero


quality posts: 0 Private Messages MacTheHero

I'd think it be cheaper to get the Pantone monitor calibrator

rayray099


quality posts: 6 Private Messages rayray099

Great post, Travis. I'm glad you're posting this stuff. I'm still in the 'learn how to use Corel or some sort of program' stage. Eventually I'll get to actually designing shirts. I knew I shoulda taken at least an intro design or graphics class in college, but nooooo! I was all 'I'm a painter, I don't need computers!' Phooey.

nathanwpyle


quality posts: 37 Private Messages nathanwpyle

Great post. Hilarious title.
GRACIAS

Josephus


quality posts: 25 Private Messages Josephus
MacTheHero wrote:I'd think it be cheaper to get the Pantone monitor calibrator



while the pantone monitor calibrator definitely helps, it is less than ideal. it lets you change the look of the screen output depending on what kind of work you're telling it you are using the monitor for. Now, this means that it is NOT giving you what the pantone colors look like, it's giving you some sort of color screen that your eyes like to see. When I compare the colors on my screen to my Canon printer-included alleged Pantone set of chips (a mini-poster), the colors on the poster are very much darker than the colors on the monitor (which is set to 'graphic design').

twain101


quality posts: 0 Private Messages twain101

Helpful (to me) Illustrator tip:

After opening the Pantone swatches in Illustrator, click the options menu at the top right of the panel (the little list icon with the down arrow) and select "Small (or Large) List View." This will display all of the little swatches as well as the Pantone name/number. I find this much easier than just looking at the mass of swatches and hovering over one to find the name.

Works for me, thought I would share.

amreli


quality posts: 8 Private Messages amreli

After taking half and hour to remember how I'd set it up previously, thought I'd share how to get the Pantone color swatches into Photoshop Elements (doesn't come pre-loaded like full Photoshop). You can download the libraries free, then put the .aco file(s) into the Presets/Color Swatches folder. Still depends on how accurate your monitor is, but at least it's something.