Pantone changes PMS

Pantone's changing their color system. Will they finally organize their colors by, well… color?

The venerable Pantone Matching System, aka PMS, is the way designers talk about color. It's so pervasive, that most designers begin to think of colors by their PMS names. There's a movie clip at the Pantone site that illustrates this.

Why is it so ubiquitous?

Because most languages don't handle nuances of color very well. To describe a color that you perceive as 'red, with a little blue in it, but not purple, but kind of dark, not a pastel,' is not only unwieldy, but another person looking at the same color will probably describe it differently. If you've ever gotten into an argument about what color something is, you can see why it'd be useful.

But if you say that same vaguely red color is PMS 200, well, there's a system for not only naming that color, but duplicating it. If you've ever had to try to get a bunch of fabric from the same dye lot, or paint from one manufacturer, you know how tough it can be to match colors. PMS 200 is consistent from use to use. Every printer knows exactly what inks to mix in what proportion to make that color happen on a page. This saves a lot of hassle when sending a job to print, because you never, ever want a printer to guess what you wanted on a job.

As you might imagine, this is crucial in print design… and fashion… and, well… every profession that uses color as a major tool. This is such a major tool that most designers have quite a few PMS colors memorized, and can give you a rough estimate of where a certain number will fall in the color spectrum; e.g., PMS 360-380 is the green-chartreuse range. Such a major tool that I fervently hope I will not have to erase 17 years of knowledge and memorize a whole new numbering system. If I do, I'll join the legion of designers with X-Actos, Bestene, and Super 777 spray mount storming Pantone's corporate headquarters.

(Just found a product shot of the new color book. It seems to mostly match my old one. WHEW. Still, why did they not write an FAQ or make that more prominent in their press release?)

This book, though, looks interesting: it has PMS colors for print AND web, all in the same book. No more guessing at HEX or RGB values!

I should be really excited about this, but I'm already coping with the news of Frank Frazetta's death. That's enough change for one week, I think. Or, far more likely: I'm just too tired to get excited. I took on a freelance pro bono project, and it chewed almost all my weekend. Friday night, Saturday morning, Sunday, and all day yesterday. I'd put in for yesterday off work, months ago, as Sunday was my birthday. It wasn't quite how I'd envisioned spending my day, and I'll leave it at that. If this were a paying job, however? I'd have billed $3k for that many hours.

Note to self: stick to doing this kind of work for 503(c) groups so you can write it off on your taxes, at least.