From Wikipedia, regarding the greatness that is Pantone:
Pantone, as it is today, was founded in 1962, when the company—at the time a small business that manufactured color cards for cosmetics companies—was bought by Lawrence Herbert, who had been an employee since 1956. He immediately changed its direction, developing the first color matching system in 1963. In 2007, Herbert retired from the position of CEO, Chairman, and President of the company.
The company’s primary products include the Pantone Guides, which consist of a large number of small (approximately 6×2 inches or 15×5 cm) thin cardboard sheets, printed on one side with a series of related color swatches and then bound into a small flipbook. For instance, a particular "page" might contain a number of yellows of varying tints.
The idea behind the PMS is to allow designers to ‘color match’ specific colors when a design enters production stage—regardless of the equipment used to produce the color. This system has been widely adopted by graphic designers, reproduction and printing houses for a number of years now. Pantone recommends that PMS Color Guides be purchased annually as their inks become more yellow over time. Color variance also occurs within editions based on the paper stock used (coated, matte or uncoated), while inter-edition color variance occurs when there are changes to the specific paper stock used.
The Pantone Color Matching System is largely a standardized color reproduction system. By standardizing the colors, different manufacturers in different locations can all refer to the Pantone system to make sure colors match without direct contact with one another.
One such use is standardizing colors in the CMYK process. The CMYK process is a method of printing color by using four inks—cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The vast majority of the world’s printed material is produced using the CMYK process, and there is a special subset of Pantone colors that can be reproduced using CMYK. Those that are possible to simulate through the CMYK process are labeled as such within the company’s guides.
However, most of the Pantone system’s 1,114 spot colors cannot be simulated with CMYK but with 13 base pigments (15 including white and black) mixed in specified amounts.
The Pantone system also allows for many ’special’ colors to be produced such as metallics and fluorescents. While most of the Pantone system colors are beyond the printed CMYK gamut, it is only in 2001 that Pantone began providing translations of their existing system with screen based colors (Screen based colors use the RGB—red, green, blue—system to create various colors). The GOE system has RGB and LAB values with each color.
Pantone colors are described by their allocated number (typically referred to as, for example, ‘PMS 130′). PMS colors are almost always used in branding and have even found their way into government legislation (to describe the colors of flags). In January 2003, the Scottish Parliament debated a petition (reference PE512) to refer to the blue in the Scottish flag (saltire) as ‘Pantone 300′. Countries such as Canada and South Korea and organizations such as the FIA have also chosen to refer to specific Pantone colors to use when producing flags. U.S. States including Texas have set legislated PMS colors of their flags.
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