Pantone Inc. is a corporation headquartered in Carlstadt, New Jersey. The company is best known for its Pantone Matching System (PMS), a proprietary color space used in a variety of industries, primarily printing, though sometimes in the manufacture of colored paint, fabric, and plastics.
X-Rite Inc., a supplier of color measurement instruments and software, purchased Pantone Inc. for $180 million in October 2007.
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Pantone began in New York City in the 1950s as the commercial printing company of M & J Levine Advertising. In 1956, its founders, advertising executives brothers Mervin and Jesse Levine, hired recent Hofstra University graduate Lawrence Herbert as a part-time employee. Herbert used his chemistry knowledge to systematize and simplify the company's stock of pigments and production of colored inks; by 1962, Herbert was running the ink and printing division at a profit, while the commercial-display division was $50,000 in debt; he subsequently purchased the company's technological assets from the Levine Brothers for $50,000 (equivalent to $400,000 in 2016) and renamed them "Pantone".
The company's primary products include the Pantone Guides, which consist of a large number of small (approximately 6×2 inches or 15×5 cm) thin cardboard sheets, printed on one side with a series of related color swatches and then bound into a small "fan deck". For instance, a particular "page" might contain a number of yellows of varying tints.
The idea behind the PMS is to allow designers to "color match" specific colors when a design enters production stage, regardless of the equipment used to produce the color. This system has been widely adopted by graphic designers and reproduction and printing houses. Pantone recommends that PMS Color Guides be purchased annually, as their inks become yellowish over time. Color variance also occurs within editions based on the paper stock used (coated, matte or uncoated), while interedition color variance occurs when there are changes to the specific paper stock used.
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Pantone Color Matching System
The Pantone Color Matching System is largely a standardized color reproduction system. By standardizing the colors, different manufacturers in different locations can all refer to the Pantone system to make sure colors match without direct contact with one another.
One such use is standardizing colors in the CMYK process. The CMYK process is a method of printing color by using four inks--cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. A majority of the world's printed material is produced using the CMYK process, and there is a special subset of Pantone colors that can be reproduced using CMYK. Those that are possible to simulate through the CMYK process are labeled as such within the company's guides.
However, most of the Pantone system's 1,114 spot colors cannot be simulated with CMYK but with 13 base pigments (14 including black) mixed in specified amounts.
The Pantone system also allows for many special colors to be produced, such as metallics and fluorescents. While most of the Pantone system colors are beyond the printed CMYK gamut, it was only in 2001 that Pantone began providing translations of their existing system with screen-based colors. Screen-based colors use the RGB color model--red, green, blue--system to create various colors. The (discontinued) Goe system has RGB and LAB values with each color.
Pantone colors are described by their allocated number (typically referred to as, for example, "PMS 130"). PMS colors are almost always used in branding and have even found their way into government legislation and military standards (to describe the colors of flags and seals). In January 2003, the Scottish Parliament debated a petition (reference PE512) to refer to the blue in the Scottish flag as "Pantone 300". Countries such as Canada and South Korea and organizations such as the FIA have also chosen to refer to specific Pantone colors to use when producing flags. US states including Texas have set legislated PMS colors of their flags. It has also been used in an art project by the Brazilian photographer Angelica Dass which applies Pantone to the human skin color spectrum.
Pantone Goe System
On September 5, 2007, Pantone introduced the Goe System. Goe consisted of over 2,000 new colors in a new matching and numbering system. In addition to the standard swatch books (now called the GoeGuide), the new system also included adhesive-backed GoeSticks, interactive software, tools, and an online community where users were able to share color swatches and information.
The Goe system was streamlined to use fewer base colors (ten, plus clear coating for reflections) and accommodate many technical challenges in reproducing colors on a press.
The Pantone Goe system was discontinued in November 2013.
In mid-2006 Pantone, partnering with Vermont-based Fine Paints of Europe, introduced a new line of interior and exterior paints. The color palette uses Pantone's color research and trending and has more than 3,000 colors. In November 2015, Pantone partnered with Redland London to create a collection of bags inspired from Pantone's authority on color.
Pantone also produced Hexachrome, a patented six-color printing system. In addition to custom CMYK inks, Hexachrome added orange and green inks to expand the color gamut, for better color reproduction. It was therefore also known as a CMYKOG process. Hexachrome was discontinued by Pantone in 2008 when Adobe Systems stopped supporting their HexWare plugin software.
Color of the Year
Since 2000, the Pantone Color Institute declares a particular color "Color of the Year". Twice a year the company hosts, in a European capital, a secret meeting of representatives from various nations' color standards groups. After two days of presentations and debate, they choose a color for the following year; for example, the color for summer 2013 was chosen in London in the spring of 2012. The color purportedly connects with the zeitgeist; for example, the press release declaring Honeysuckle the color of 2011 said "In times of stress, we need something to lift our spirits. Honeysuckle is a captivating, stimulating color that gets the adrenaline going - perfect to ward off the blues." The results of the meeting are published in Pantone View ($750), which fashion designers, florists, and many other consumer-oriented companies purchase to help guide their designs and planning for future products.
In 2012, the color of the year, Tangerine Tango, was used to create a makeup line, in partnership with Sephora. The product line, named Sephora + Pantone Universe collection, features Tangerine Tango-embellished false lashes; nail lacquers, cream, glitters, and high-pigment lip glosses.
The person behind Pantone's Color of the Year, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute Leatrice Eiseman, explains how 2014's Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid, was chosen for a two-part interview held by custom printing company Signazon and BannerBuzz:
I look for ascending color trends, colors that are being used in broader ways and broader context than before... In this case, Radiant Orchid descends from the purple family, which is kind of a magical color that denotes creativity and innovation. Purple is just that kind of a complex, interesting, attracting kind of color... [The] back-story to purple is that it inspires confidence in your creativity, and we're living in a world where that kind of creative innovation is greatly admired. In the world of color, purple is an attention-getter, and it has a meaning. It speaks to people, and we felt that it was time for the purple family to be celebrated. That's why we chose the particular shade called Radiant Orchid.
Pantone has said that color "has always been an integral part of how a culture expresses the attitudes and emotions of the times."
Pantone asserts that their lists of color numbers and pigment values are the intellectual property of Pantone and free use of the list is not allowed. This is frequently held as a reason Pantone colors cannot be supported in open-source software and are not often found in low-cost proprietary software. Pantone has been accused of "being intentionally unclear" about its exact legal claims, but it is acknowledged that "the simplest claim would be trademark misappropriation or dilution towards someone who produced a color palette marketed as compatible with Pantone's". Pantone palettes supplied by printer manufacturers can be obtained freely, and usually do not come with usage restrictions beyond a sales ban on hard copies of the palette.
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