Matching colors by Pantone number seems the most accurate way to ensure that all of your materials match right?  Not so fast.

The first time I heard my art department explain “RGB” and “CMYK” while examining a tradeshow booth exhibit seemed to me a case of “CYA.”  Then I did some reading and learning.  One process applies colors, the other removes them and remembering which is which is the stuff graphic designers are made of. That’s why there is an art department at my company.

In their corporate training room at Skyline Exhibits (where they produce more large format graphics per day than most of us could fathom) there is a series of printed pieces from 3M Corporation on the wall.  Although individual applications of  the red crisp logo all meet the intended PMS # target, when viewing letterhead, printed labels, business cards, envelopes and a key chain all together, one sees the effect of differing media, papers, inks, production processes.  The Panton Matching System needs to be thought of as a guide and not an absolute.

Specifying details when requesting Pantone color numbers may result in shades off if one process of applying the color to the product uses the RGB method while another product uses CMYK.  Get out your Pantone Color Chart one day and look up a color.  If you have the same card deck as ours, the same Pantone color is listed twice, side by side.  One column says RGB & the other says CMYK.  In some cases, the colors wouldn’t be called the same thing if they were in my box of Crayolas.

Taking the time, effort, and expense to color match is worth it in the end.