“Classic Blue is the Pantone Color of the Year 2020.”

This line will most likely puzzle the average consumer. He’ll probably say, “Yup, 2020 is blue, alright,” then drift away to thoughts of COVID-19.

But to craftsmen, packaging designers, fashion experts, and pretty much everyone else who works with color, this statement virtually determines life.

Color perception is subjective. What looks orange to one may appear peach to another. Light pink alone is called by different names—carnation, baby, rosy, bubble gum, etc. Seems pretty harmless until you start working in an industry where a common understanding of terms matters.

That is why we have Pantone colors.

 

Pantone color swatches

 

What Is A Pantone Color, And What Is The Pantone Matching System?

 

When industry people say “Pantone color,” it refers to a color shade belonging to the Pantone Matching System (PMS).

The PMS is a patented color identification system owned by New Jersey-based Pantone LLC, formerly a printing company that now mostly sets international color standards.

Identification is only one of the many uses of the PMS. It also gives different industries a universal language for naming specific color shades.

For example, a baker decides to customize his cookie boxes by coloring them blue. He visits the custom packaging maker, who just hands out box samples, but not color swatches. In the end, the baker got blue boxes of a lighter shade. If the packaging maker only had a Pantone Formula Guide, there wouldn’t have been any confusion about the box color.

Another use of the PMS is to guide ink makers in reproducing different colors. The packaging maker in our example would need to call his suppliers for blue ink. Then again, blue has different shades. With the Pantone Formula Guide, he could just refer to the right shade by its Pantone number, and the right ink would be delivered to him.

Graphic artists also depend on the PMS to get the right colors both digitally and in print. For example, sunny yellow may appear vibrant on a digital image or plastic sticker but may dull down on matte paper. PMS guide books indicate how one can convert Pantone colors in other color systems so artists can maintain image quality in any medium.

 

A graphic designer working with Pantone colors

 

How Important Are Pantone Colors For Packaging And Branding?

 

Pantone colors and the PMS are critical to packaging design and, consequently, branding. The biggest reasons are the following:

 

Universal Interpretation of Colors

 

Instead of referring to colors by arbitrary names, designers can simply show their clients the Pantone color swatches, which the latter can choose from. Regardless of the clients’ color expertise, specifying a Pantone code will precisely get them the shades they want. The PMS eliminates the guesswork from deciding what hues to use on a product or packaging. 

 

Reproducibility

 

Packaging color is vital to branding. Even the slightest deviation can turn away customers because it can make a product look counterfeit or inferior in quality. Since the codes are formula-specific, ink manufacturers can precisely replicate the same color every time. 

 

Unnoticeable Color Variations Despite Substance Changes

 

Ink formulations cannot produce the same color intensity on different materials. This is important for branding, particularly for businesses that use various substances for products and packaging. The PMS is designed to address these media changes.

For instance, when you look at a PMS guide book, you will notice that each Pantone code is alphanumeric. For colors printed on paper stock, codes have a 3-4 digit numeric string followed by a letter suffix. The suffix indicates the paper finish that yields the color displayed on a specific swatch. The following suffixes are used for Pantone colors printed on paper:

  • C – how the color appears on coated stock
  • U – how the color appears on uncoated stock

These designations are for prints made on white paper. Recycled paper, which is typically off-white to brown, will darken the Pantone color.

The PMS uses different designations for other materials, such as plastics and fabrics.

 

coated and uncoated Pantone colors

 

Precise Color Adjustment

 

If an item’s post-printing color is unsatisfactory, the PMS helps designers make precise adjustments. Instead of just saying “two shades lighter,” one can just pull up a guide and point to the exact revision he desires.

 

Easy Digital-to-Print Transitions

 

Since the Pantone guide books also include translations in different color systems, in most cases, image quality can be preserved when switching from digital to print and vice versa. The guide books include codes in the following systems:

  • HEX – or hexadecimal, which is used for digital images.
  • RGB – or “red, green, and blue,” also used for digital graphics.
  • CMYK – or “cyan, magenta, yellow, and key,” where the key color is typically black. Like the PMS, this system is also used for printing.

Media conversion is important for packaging designers and digital artists. We shall explain the HEX, RGB and CMYK systems further in the next blog. 

 

Budget-Friendly Color Printing

 

In some cases, entrepreneurs may want to use their brand colors on both packaging and print ads. The problem is that printing with Pantone inks is usually expensive. Every differently colored portion will need a different ink. It will be impractical to use Pantone inks on real-life photos, which have innumerable transition areas. Additionally, text in print ads does not require very rich or precise shades.

Meanwhile, CMYK printing, like what we see in inkjet printers, is cheaper. Four basic colors—cyan, magenta, yellow and black—combine in different proportions on paper to produce millions of colors. Since Pantone guide books have CMYK translations, business owners can reduce printing expenses by saving Pantone colors for packaging and making do with CMYK on print ads.

 

A Pantone Color Conversion Guide

 

From these, we can see that the PMS helps establishments color multiple aspects of business and make adjustments simple and budget-friendly. Remember that business colors represent company values and promote branding.

 

Why Is The Pantone Color Of The Year Significant?

 

The Pantone Color Institute is Pantone LLC’s consulting service that studies and predicts international color trends. It also advises companies on how to use color for branding.

Every year, the Pantone Color Institute announces a “Color of the Year,” which is chosen based on social, fashion and marketing trends. The Pantone Color of the Year is a forecast of which hue will be in style in the next year. The tradition started in 1999, with Cerulean Blue as the first trendsetting color for the new millennium.

The Pantone Color of the Year forecasts the soon-to-be-fashionable color for various industries. This is why its announcement every December is much awaited all over the globe.

The following colors have been hailed as Pantone Colors of the Year:

 

The Pantone Colors of the Year

 

Year 

Color of the Year

Why It Was Chosen

2000

Cerulean Blue

Cerulean blue is the color of the sky. Watching the sky calms down the human psyche. It was chosen because people were expected to seek inner peace in a new and uncertain millennium.

2001

Fuchsia Rose

This is a deep pink shade that stands for assurance, assertiveness, power and sensuality. It was chosen to spotlight feminine allure.

2002

True Red

The year 2001 is best remembered for the 9/11 attacks. True red symbolizes power, passion and love. It was chosen to highlight patriotism that was expected to envelop the American society in the coming months.

2003

Aqua Sky

Aqua blue is cool and calming, as it is the color of the sky. It symbolizes hope and serenity after a turbulent episode.

2004

Tigerlily

The Pantone Color Institute describes Tigerlily as a “hip” and “exotic” orange shade. The flower of the same name inspired the choice.

2005

Blue Turquoise

This shade of blue is the color of the sea. It has a tinge of green, but blue’s predominance makes it cool and soothing to the soul. It is a popular art color in many parts of the US.

2006

Sand Dollar

This neutral color resonates with natural environments, particularly the desert. It was chosen because it symbolized neutrality and concern for the economy.

2007

Chili Pepper

This is a deep red hue that stands for boldness, friendliness, personal expression, confidence and diverse cultural influences. It was chosen because of the rising importance of telecommunication and the internet in the global community.

2008

Blue Iris

The color combines the calming effects of blue and spiritual attributes of purple. This meditative hue was chosen at a time when the US had just entered a deep financial crisis.

2009

Mimosa

Mimosa is a warm yellow shade that embodies imagination, innovation and the sun’s warmth. It is the color of both the flower and calming cocktail. It was chosen because it stood for hope, reassurance and optimism in the face of continuing economic hardships.

2010

Turquoise

This hue combines the peace of blue and vigor of green. It evokes thoughts of comforting tropical waters, compassion and healing. It was chosen because it can serve as a talisman inside a turbulent world.

2011

Honeysuckle

This pink shade suits all seasons and embodies courage, vitality and confidence. It is an uplifting, stimulating color that gets rid of the blues so people can face challenges bravely.

2012

Tangerine Tango

Tangerine tango is a red-orange hue that emanates sophistication, energy, drama and seduction. It is reminiscent of the radiant sunset. It was chosen to boost the human spirit to keep going despite the challenges.

2013

Emerald

This green shade embodies beauty and elegance. It was chosen because it related to balance, harmony and a sense of well-being.

2014

Radiant Orchid

This purple hue symbolizes originality and creativity. It is versatile because both men and women can wear it. Leatrice Eiseman, the Pantone Color Institute’s Executive Director, described radiant orchid as a color that inspired confidence and emanated love, health and joy.

2015

Marsala

Marsala is an earthy wine shade of red that reminds people of pleasant meals. It is a hearty, warm and stylish color that is perfect for home interiors.

2016

Serenity and Rose Quartz

Serenity is a blue hue that stands for peace, while rose quartz symbolizes warmth. These two colors were chosen for the year 2016 to blur their gender associations and recognize society’s move toward gender equality and fluidity.

2017

Greenery

This shade of green is reminiscent of the start of spring when nature’s colors return. It stands for vitality and passionate pursuits. It was chosen at a time when modern life was starting to fuse with nature, as seen in urban planning and people’s lifestyle and design choices.

2018

Ultraviolet

This hue embodies ingenuity, originality, experimentation and visionary thinking. David Bowie, Prince and Jimi Hendrix used violet shades to express individuality. Ultraviolet was chosen because it stood for nonconformity and technological advancement.

2019

Living Coral

Coral symbolizes nourishment, warmth, optimism, joy, playful expression and sociability. It was chosen to highlight the importance of digital technology in society, as it enables connection and intimacy between people.

2020

Classic Blue

This blue shade is reminiscent of the dusk sky and embodies confidence, peace, focus and resilience. It was chosen to symbolize the need for stability as the world moves into the new decade.

 

So what do you think will be the 2021 Pantone Color of the Year? Will it be another blue shade for hope? Or a warm hue to symbolize bravery amid the trials? We’ll find out soon enough.

 

How Can I Use Pantone Colors For My Business?

 

Pantone colors and the PMS are integrated into many business areas. The most obvious ones include the following:

 

Fashion

 

In the fashion industry, Pantone Colors of the Year influence consumer trends as products reflect the chosen hues. We see this done on cosmetics, clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry and many more. French beauty retail giant Sephora is one of Pantone LLC’s most notable fashion collaborators.

 

Sephora's 2020 Pantone Color of the Year cosmetic ad

 

Retail 

 

Precision in product coloring is also a must, not just to follow a trend, but more importantly, to promote branding. Office supplies, electronic gadgets, signage, cakes, vehicles, etc. have to be made in the original color every time they are reproduced.

Pantone Colors of the Year have an occult following among certain crowds. They mostly belong to the millennial demographic, which currently dominates the American labor force. Apple released the coral iPhone XR almost as soon as the Pantone Color Institute announced living coral to be 2019’s Color of the Year. Rose Quartz, 2016’s hue, resembles millennial pink.

 

The coral iPhone XR

 

Packaging

 

Precision is also needed in coloring packages and labels. Like we pointed out previously, inaccurate reproduction of packaging materials is enough to drive customers away.

For example, if you were a long-time Pepsi drinker, wouldn’t you think that something was wrong if you found it in a light blue can? That’s exactly how your customers would feel if the same happened to your packaging.

 

A faded Pepsi print

 

Likewise, companies like Starbucks, which use both paper and plastic containers for their beverages, need to ensure their brand colors’ prominence on any surface. The PMS helps them to do that effortlessly. 

 

Digital Marketing

 

Many online sellers use the Pantone Colors of the Year to enhance their websites’ youth appeal. Pantone colors can be applied to the fonts and graphics. Digital artists need the PMS to ensure that their art is converted into print looking as attractive as they do on the computer screen.

 

A website is designed with blue as the predominant color. Blue is 2020's Pantone Color of the Year.

 

Architecture

 

Pantone colors also inspire architects all over the world. Color is an element that should not be neglected, as it enhances the mood and appeal of an architectural design. Reliance on the PMS in choosing façade hues helps ensure that the masterpiece delights the clients.

 

Many Greek houses and tourist spots have blue and white façade

 

Interior Design

 

Colors will appear differently inside a home or office than they do outside. And stylish individuals often match architectural hues with interior design and tones. Doing so adds appeal and value to the property. The PMS helps interior designers coordinate façade and interior colors seamlessly.

 

A predominantly blue living room

 

Landscaping

 

Pantone colors are also used to liven up the outdoor space. Matching color palettes are used on garden plants, grills, patio furniture, swimming pool lights, and other recreational sites. Enhancing various areas around a home or building does not just add value but also boosts the ambiance.

 

A palm beach garden with blue furnishings

 

The business applications of Pantone colors are wide-ranging. Pantone LLC’s digital presence makes it an influential force on the internet. Try incorporating the PMS and Colors of the Year into your business to see how they complement your brand.

 

Conclusion

 

In summary, we have just explained the Pantone Matching System and how it is used in various industries. Pantone LLC created this unifying language of color, which is useful for both digital and print applications. When used in packaging, it ensures color consistency, which promotes customer retention and branding. It can help your brand if you use it wisely.

 

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