The Language of Colours


The Pantone Colour System was invented in 1963 and since then it’s impossible to imagine the industry without him. Besides its importance for corporate designs, the colour system is known for one thing in particular: The colour of the year.

Colours are true science. There are countless different colours with different shades, which make different impressions. That’s clear for almost everyone. But describing different colours and the different shades is a complete other topic. It’s much more complex and sometimes words are simply not enough to describe all the beautiful colours.

The Pantone Matching System

That’s why Pantone LLC, a American company from New Jersey, brought the Pantone Matching System on the Market in 1963. It is a worldwide colour matching system based on 14 colours. This system is offered for different graphic fields such as print, packaging and even fashion design. That system built an international language, which made it possible to express different colours understandable and precisely. The colours are presented in two different forms: The Pantone Formula Guides and the Pantone Solid Chips Books printed on two different types of paper: coated and uncoated.

In the different colour fields you cannot only find the colour itself, but also the special recipe out of the 14 basic colours. You also often find a shortcut for the types of paper so you can make sure it looks exactly the way you want it to on the final printed material.

The Revolution: Pantone Plus Series

Print is in constant change and so is the diversity of Pantone. In May 2010 Pantone LLC brought out an updated version of the Matching system: The Pantone Plus Series. The new version was based on 18 instead of 14 basic colours and had a higher variety of colours due to that.

In 2012 Pantone brought the “Pantone 50th Anniversary Edition” on to the market, which had a slightly even higher variety of colours. But due to a lack of communication back then, the Pantone Plus Series from 2010 is still much more popular that the Follow-up model. Today even Adobe Programs are only on the stand of 2010: The colours 2001 until 2336 are not available in the Adobe creative cloud. But don’t worry, you can still download them in a separate download.

Pantone Colours for Corporate Identity

But what is so special about the Pantone Matching System compared to other printing systems? It simply extends the achievable colour space of Four-Colour Printing. While the Four-Colour Printing system creates a colour impression by combing Grid Points out of the colours Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (= Black), the Pantone System is printing flat full colours.

Pantone’s special colours are often used to create a company’s corporate identity and their logo. So, for example, the colour 485c is special for Puma and 3425c is characterizing for Starbucks. The German chocolate brand Milka from Mondelez has even created a special Pantone-Colour just for them.

But Pantone is not only a great solution for corporate identities. Since 2000 the company from the US creates the colour tone of the year. They are analysing the trends and influences of the year and choose one tone, which fits best in their opinion. In this year it’s Classic Blue 19-4052, a darker blue tone which is supposed to transmit calm and balance. we are already curious which colour it will be in 2021. With a bit of luck it’s drupa red!

What are your opinions on the Pantone System and the colour of the year? Tell us more in the comments!