Pantone Color Systems Explained - What are Pantone Colors?

What is the Pantone Color System?

Each day, over 10 million designers and manufacturers work with Pantone to select, communicate, and approve color in design.

We have two color systems. Which Pantone Colors are right for you?

We organize nearly 5,000 Pantone Colors into two Systems, one for print and packaging and the other for product design.

Why? Each system is designed to feature market-relevant colors. Fashion designers need more whites, blacks, and neutrals in their palette, while print and packaging designers need colors that will POP on shelf.

The appearance of color can change based on the material on which it is produced. In fact, some colors are not achievable at all on a certain material. That’s why we organize colors into two systems – to ensure that the colors included are achievable and reproducible based on the materials used.

Let’s take a look!

For print & packaging


Available in the following formats:

  • Paper
  • Plastic
  • Digital
Good for
  • Brand Guidelines
  • Signage
  • Printed Materials
  • Packaging
  • Web & App Design

For fashion & product design


Available in the following formats:

  • Textiles
  • Coatings & Pigments
  • Plastics
Good for
  • Apparel
  • Soft & Hard Home
  • Consumer Tech
  • Beauty
  • Industrial Design

Did you know that our Graphics color

system uses unique coding?

When a C or U follows the color number, you

are using the Graphics System.


Did you know that our Fashion, Home,
+ Interiors system uses unique coding?

“TCX” references textile, while “TPG”

references pigments and coatings.


Why should you update your Pantone Guides & Books?

Handling, light, humidity, and oil will cause colors to become inaccurate and you could be missing the latest market and trend-driven colors. How many colors are you missing?

Why are color standards important?

A brand’s color becomes its calling card, creating associations and expectations, triggering mental images and memories. Studies show that the right color can increase brand recognition by up to 87%.

In product development, the right color is the differentiating factor that can stop someone in their tracks and capture their attention. It is also the most important design element for reflecting mood and style. The right color can sell products and ideas more effectively by 50-85%.

Color management is important and Pantone has the tools to help you achieve perfect color every time.

But, choosing the right color is only the beginning. Keeping that color consistent presents multiple challenges that can be solved through Pantone Color Systems.

Color Interpretation: We all interpret color in slightly different ways. Even something as seemingly specific as Navy Blue can mean noticeably different things to different people. Using a Pantone Color enables you to communicate your precise color requirements in a language that is recognized around the world.

Multiple Materials: The color of your final production material can have a tremendous impact on the appearance of your color – and your satisfaction with the result. Pantone’s digital tools and physical color references allow you preview and adjust these results before production, helping you to avoid additional time and expense.

Multiple Suppliers: Working with more than one supplier can mean variations in processes and equipment, leading to results that can vary significantly. Our cloud-based color tools can ensure that your suppliers are all aiming toward the same target, for consistent results across the board.

Multiple Production Runs: Your color may be consistent throughout a production run, but will it match the run before it? Or the one that follows? Color measurement and evaluation tools from Pantone and our parent company, X-Rite, make it possible to achieve consistent color from run to run, no matter when or where it is produced.

How did we become the world's leading color expert?

It all started in 1963, when Pantone revolutionized color communication by inventing a universal color language. For the first time, brand owners & designers had confidence knowing their printers could understand and achieve the color imagined.

Today, we’re your partner for color in design, offering tools for color-savvy industries from apparel to packaging.

Learn about our Pantone Color Systems for color standardization across print, packaging, digital, textile, coatings, plastics… and strawberries.
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