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Pantone Color Guides Explained

From the Pantone Color Wheel to Pantone Bridge Guides

By Kathy Scott, Online Editor

Color is big business. Not only has it been proven to affect a person’s mood or activate a purchase, color trend forecasting determines fashion, furniture and home décor products months before each season and Pantone color trends are part of the research.

A sense of color responsibility is not lost on the team at the Pantone Color Institute who, earlier this year announced the 2013 Pantone Color of the Year - Pantone 17-5641 Emerald. When asked by Washington Post Home & Garden feature writer Lindsay Roberts about the choice, the Institute’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eisman, hinted about a hopeful economic turnaround citing the rich green color as a force “Conjuring up gems, dollar bills, the ’80s, and the sparkling Emerald City in “The Wizard of Oz,” green is the color of “rejuvenation, something that talks of new life.”


The Pantone Matching System Standard

As children, we learn the basic color wheel, which includes 12 colors beginning with the primary, secondary, then tertiary colors. Fortunately, the world is not built around just a dozen colors, in fact there are thousands, all standardized in the Pantone Matching System. Imagine a world without a Pantone color wheel or a Pantone color palette. Home Depot’s recognizable orange would most likely have different shades of orange on its buildings, marketing materials, aprons and more. Instead, they use Pantone 165, catapulting the color to celebrity status. When Home Depot created their design materials, did they know that PMS 165 would become so ubiquitous?

The designer probably began with a Pantone color chart or a Pantone color book as a reference. They may have even researched Pantone color trends to determine the year’s hottest shades or sought out the perfect color with a Pantone color finder tool. Today, that simple Home Depot Pantone color swatch has been used on millions of surfaces from Nascars to weekly sales flyers. It is no doubt one of the most recognized Pantone Color Codes in the U.S.

Recommended Pantone Products


PANTONE® Plus Series CMYK Guides Coated & Uncoated Set

PANTONE® Plus Series CMYK Guide Set

Visualize, communicate and control Pantone colors.

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PANTONE® ColorMunki Design: Monitor & Printing Calibration

PANTONE® ColorMunki Design: Monitor & Printing Calibration

The freedom to design with any color from the visible spectrum.

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PANTONE PLUS SERIES Formula Guide Solid Coated & Uncoated (with 336 New Colors)

PANTONE® PLUS SERIES Formula Guide Solid Coated/Uncoated

Complete reference for identifying, selecting & controlling color.

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PANTONE® PLUS SERIES Solid Chips Coated & Uncoated 2-Book Set (with 336 New Colors)

PANTONE® PLUS SERIES Solid Chips 2-Book Set

Contains all Pantone colors of the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM®.

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        PANTONE® Capsure Monitor & Printer Calibration

Pantone® Capsure
Match Color to Almost
Any Surface - Instantly!

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Converting Pantone Color to CMYK

If you are fortunate enough to own a Pantone color book reference library, you have access to 5000 Pantone color swatches and the Pantone Color of the Year! A remarkable Pantone color finder tool is the Pantone Capsure, which comes preloaded with 8,000 Pantone Colors! This portable electronic device can extract, display and match up to four dominant colors from any surface.  The Pantone Color Codes in the Capsure show results using paper and cotton surfaces, coated and uncoated. If you’re in need of a Pantone color converter to CMYK, this tool can also help with that.


The Power of Pantone Color

What is the best way for a designer to find the next cool color that defines an entire business? The Pantone color palette is rich with colors many consumers consciously or unconsciously equate to a brand. Why is it necessary to have 8,000 different Pantone color names? Because color is a trigger. One quick browse through the Pantone color wheel, Pantone color swatches, or even a Pantone color guide and I am immediately hit with a jumble of emotions from a craving a McDonald’s hamburger (Pantone 123 and Pantone 485) to an acute desire to buy low-price home products when I see Walmart’s Pantone 285.


        PANTONE® Color Guide

PANTONE® Color Guide
The essential color tools
available at your fingertips.

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Finding a Pantone Color Guide

There are many tools available for designers to access Pantone color names. The Pantone color chart is a good place to start. Then the color hunt will require more advanced tools. One of the most popular is the  Pantone Color Guide. It is portable, offers 2,100 colors, including 175 new colors, and references both Pantone color codes and Pantone color names in a color-on-paper fan deck. Included in the purchase of the Pantone Color Guide is the Pantone Color Manager, online software that provides access to more than 11,000 colors.

Pantone Plus Series Color Bridge Guides Coated & Uncoated Set and Supplements offers side-by-side comparisons of Pantone color codes printed on coated and uncoated paper. This Pantone color bridge product also includes 336 new market-ready hues as well as Pantone color converter values for CMYK, HTML and sRGB conversions. The Pantone Color Manager is also included with this purchase.





        PANTONE® PLUS SERIES COLOR BRIDGE® Guides Coated & Uncoated Set and Supplements (336 New Colors)


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Kathy Scott is Online Editor for, where she actively seeks out new, unusual and innovative design stories to share with the active design community. She regularly contributes to the HOW Design Blog and Editor’s Picks.