Unless you’re a designer, you’ve might have heard of Pantone, but probably have no idea what they actually do. This article has your back.

“They’re the colour guys, right??”

In the 50s, M&J Levine Advertising of New York City hired a young chemist named Lawrence Herbert. Having an unstoppable compulsive need to organise things (I feel you, Lawrence), he set about cataloging and numbering all the pigments in the print shop.

In 1962, done organising, he bought out the division he worked in and called his new company Pantone.

All the colours of the rainbow!

Does Pantone own colour?

Kinda. The company’s main product is the Pantone Matching System (PMS), which is a near-universal system for colour. PMS allowed designers, printers and colour-lovers all over the world to go from “It should be redder, with some muddy brown mixed in” to “It should be Pantone 3523 CP”.

Much like the (much bloodier) move from hand cannons (China, 1271 AD) to precision targeting rifles, it helps designers hit what they’re aiming for.

Pantone share their matching system in small booklets called Color Guides. Each shows a wide rainbow of colours, and printing companies like the one at www.dxprintingperth.com.au/digital-printer/ can exactly replicate each one (on your business cards!).

But then computers came along and messed things up?

Typical! Yeah, when you’re looking at colour on screen it’s got a big ol’ backlight behind it, so it’s bright compared to print.

This means things on screen never look like right when you print them. Our bright and fun CandidSky Blue (#17CDE6) comes out sad and stormy on most printers.

Designers picking colours in 2016 will start by choosing a digital palette first, and then use a Pantone Color Guide to find print colours that feel right.

Unfortunately Pantone Color Guides cost in excess of £100, and need to be replaced every couple of years as the colours yellow over time (not ideal!).

Colour explosions are, sadly, one of the leading causes of designer deaths

Tell me about this app already!

If you’ve ever gone into the menu on a computer monitor, you’ll know it’s a deep hell of fiddly controls.

One of the great things about phones is they do away with that nightmare and just show you your stuff. As a result, colours on phone screens are more standardised and calibrated than the hodgepodge of monitors you see in most offices.

In particular the iPhone 7 comes with a ISP wide-colour gamut that makes colour reproduction more accurate than ever!

This is why the Pantone Studio app is such a strong idea: it enables you to create a digital palette on the device you own that has the best colour rendering.

Tell me some features!

The app has three main features:

  1. Picking colours — the ‘Colors’ area of the app makes choosing colours fun — just hold down on any colour you like and drag it to a ‘stash’ area at the bottom of the screen, until you’ve built a palette that looks (and feels) great
  2. Pull colours from photos — automatically scan images on your phone to build a colour palette (in case you see an inspiring colour when you’re out and about)
  3. See how it looks — use the ‘Studio’ area of the app to quickly see how those colours combine for typography, graphics, home decor, and in fabric (amazingly you can ‘jiggle’ the fabric to see how it flows!)

This isn’t the first app Pantone have made, but it’s the first really great one. It doesn’t fully replace expensive colour guides, but it comes close. Next time you need colours for a project give it a try!

The Panettone Matching System is simpler — if it matches panettone, it gets eaten!!