Let’s not beat around the bush with jargon or fancy openings. The biggest mistake I watch even the most seasoned designers make it NOT selecting every single color they use from the Pantone Matching System (PMS). Even some creative directors I’ve worked with (during my days in-house) would never consult or use the Pantone book. What is even worse however is that universities don’t have the basic Pantone Coated book on their supply lists.
Before I worked in-house I had never even laid eyes on a Pantone book. You can spend six-figures on a graphic design degree and you still never come across this holy bible for color printing. So why is it important to get this expensive bright booklet?
Only 55% of spot Pantone colors are achievable when printing in four-color process (CMYK). This means if your client or project ever needs to use a Pantone you are most likely shit out of luck. You’ll end up having to pick something semi-close and the color consistency has gone out the window. Designs can become dull and look misprinted hurting their success as a result.
Brand consistency drives sales. Part of that equation is color consistency. Do you really think you buy Starbucks because the coffee is just oh so awesome? You are buying into a brand that knows how important consistency is. That Starbucks cool green is iconic through high quality printing processes and color consistency. The details don’t matter when you only fudge a few things here and there but continue down this path and after half a dozen minor mistakes… you’ll brand will look like it was designed by someone off Craigslist. The details add up and that is where creatives are crucial to a company’s success.
The Pantone swatch books have HEX (HTML) PMS, RGB, CMYK, Spot references for every single color. This way you can ensure a consistent color experience from print to web to mobile apps. If you start every single color swatch selection process with this book – it’ll save you massive headaches later squabbling over proofs that have funky colors, the cost to reprint signage, and all that fun jazz adds up really quick.
Purchase a Pantone Coated and Uncoated Solid Book for around $135. Graphic design majors please don’t hesitate to purchase this. I also truly believe that every company that can afford Pantones should own a full set of these swatches. They are a worth while investment.
Another quick color tip is to purchase a $6 color mixing wheel. These wheels have charts on them to help you quickly decide on different color harmonies (analogous, complementary, triad, etc.). I use this wheel in conjunction with my Pantone books daily.
This color matching process cannot be done digitally. Even though you can open Pantone swatch libraries in Adobe software – you cannot possibly review and select Pantones from a screen and expect them to look accurate upon printing. My Pantone books were hands down one of the best purchase I’ve made as a freelancer and creative entrepreneur.
I personally find it hard to take any seasoned graphic designers in the industry seriously when they don’t own at least the Pantone coated book. Design is as much about function as it is about form. Granted these books are not cheap to buy new. If you can only afford to buy one go with the Pantone coated book. Coated is the most common type of Pantone used in commercial and project printing worldwide.