Understanding Pantone’s Color Changes
“With Pantone swatch books, you can see a sample of the actual ink on paper. This way you don’t have to guess when you select colors in your projects.”
As a graphic designer, the name Pantone should be familiar to you. Most designers and virtually all printers use Pantone color guides as a reference tool. The color you see on your monitor screen or printout might be quite different from the color that ends up printed on paper by a printing press. With Pantone swatch books, you can see a sample of the actual ink on paper. This way you don’t have to guess when you select colors in your projects. Although the swatch books might seem somewhat pricey, they are a worthwhile investment.
Pantone has swatch books that show inks printed on coated and uncoated papers. The process book gives you the cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) values used in four-color process printing. Pantone also offers swatch books for spot colors or Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors.
Unlike CYMK process printing, PMS colors are printed with single ink. If a client specifies PMS 320 blue for a logo, he is talking about a solid color ink. In fact, many times designers are told to use a specific PMS color in a printed document, and then run into problems. One of the realities of printing is that not every spot color can be matched exactly using CMYK inks. If a color needs to match absolutely perfectly because of corporate logo standards, you might need to use the PMS color. However, this means that the printer actually has to run a separate plate for that single PMS ink color. Obviously, adding that extra plate incurs extra charges. You should proof your separations to make sure that you have specified colors correctly. It’s all too easy to inadvertently add unintended spot colors into your job.
For years, Pantone offered another guide called the Pantone Solid to Process Guide, which showed the CMYK equivalents of many PMS colors. Pantone replaced this guide with a system called Pantone Color Bridge in an effort to make the spot color to CMYK breakdown more accurate. Unfortunately, this change hasn’t been particularly well publicized and people don’t necessarily update their swatch books or their software very often.
Many people still use the old swatch books and the old spot-to-process formulas remain in many software applications. It’s important when you are designing to make sure all your applications are using the same color specification. For example, if the marketing department is doing the cover of an annual report and the editorial department is working on the inside pages, you need to make sure everyone is specifying the exact same color using the same color system to avoid color shifts. If one person or department uses Color Bridge, everyone needs to follow that lead. Similarly, if you have exported an EPS graphic with the old color values and then import it into InDesign, which uses the new Color Bridge values, the colors won’t match correctly.
Fortunately, Pantone has made it easy to get everyone on the same playing field. The company offers a Color Bridge installer as a free download from their Web site at http://www.pantone.com (click Support and then Color Library Updates). You need to become a “member” of the site first. After you download the new libraries, the installer loads the Color Bridge CMYK library into your graphics programs. When you select the colors from the library, the CMYK values will be consistent with those in the new Pantone Color Bridge guides.