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About PMS Colors

The Pantone Color Matching System, or PMS colors as it is well known as, is an industry accepted color standard that help designers, architects, artists, printers and yes even promotional product distributors keep colors consistent across nearly any type of print medium.

The Pantone company has invested years of research and development to produce a collection of vivid color swatches that have been scientifically designed to be reproducible no matter the medium. Whether it's a poster or a t-shirt, PMS colors assure that your colors remain consistent and true thanks to the color formula guide that accompanies each color swatch.

Why use Pantone Colors?

PMS colors are used by corporations and organizations to ensure that their brand's color remain consistent across all kinds of advertising mediums. In fact, large corporations can afford to pay Madison Avenue marketing and advertising firms millions just so they can receive professional advice on colors. Think about it, if you're going to be spending millions of dollars on a new logo and image, wouldn't you want to make sure that your brand's colors came out looking as vivid on TV as they do in a magazine ad. So remember, you don't have to have deep pockets to take your logo's colors seriously and give it a little more attention and love.

Spot Colors vs. PMS Colors

Spot colors and PMS colors are sometime interchangeable terms that are used to describe solid color application and printing. However, the term Spot Color is mostly reserved for offset printing presses and digital printing machines. In the promotional product industry, we use the term PMS colors since we have found it creates less issues when communicating with our vendors.

PMS Naming Conventions Explained

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) use a series of codes and naming suffixes to identify the type of color. The suffixes are meant to give PMS color users an idea of what the color will look like printed on different print surfaces.

For example, if your logo's PMS color contains a C at the end of a number, i.e 0001C, it means that the color selected reflects what the color would look like on coated or glossy paper. If the same color ended in say U, i.e. 0001U, this means that the color reflects what the color would look like if printed on uncoated or matte paper.

In the promotional products industry, the PMS colors most often used end in C for coated paper. This is because the surfaces most often imprinted on are plastic which tend to be glossy surfaces. For t-shirts and apparel, one can use PMS colors that end in U for uncoated or matte surfaces.

Quick Suffix Overview:
  • U = uncoated paper
  • C = coated paper
  • M = matte paper
  • CV = computer video (electronic simulation)
  • CVU = computer video (uncoated)
  • CVC = computer video (coated)

Importance of Color

Color plays such an important role in branding and a company's image that the colors themselves can often become synonymous with the logo itself. For example, when you hear someone refer to one of the world's most well known brand's as "Big Blue", what company comes to mind? Well, unless you've been living in cave for the past 100 years, you would have probably said IBM. And how about the now famous "What can Brown do for you?". Did you guess UPS? Color is such an important part of branding that it can even go beyond the logo itself and extend into popular culture. For example, what computer company comes to mind when you see someone wearing little white earbuds?

So the next time you're getting your logo imprinted, remember that color selection and color accuracy are as important to your corporate image as the logo itself.

Tips for Selecting New Logo Colors

Developing a new logo can be a great undertaking as it will be representative of everything your company stands for, your product, your corporate culture, service etc. This is why it's important that you give plenty of thought into the colors that you will be utilizing in your logo.

Here are a few things you may want to consider when choosing logo colors.

a) Reproducibility - Are the colors that you are looking at reproducible on letterheads, stationery, business cards, billboards, t-shirts, pens etc. If you use too many colors in your logo, you could be setting yourself up for a costly brand. In printing as is in the promotional products industry, the more colors your logo or graphic has, the costlier it will be to reproduce. For example, in the promotional products industry, you may be charged for every single color you imprint, per item! If you want 100 t-shirts and you have 3 colors in your logo, you will be charged for each color 300 times! So think it over carefully.

b) Complexity - Sometime simpler is better. In terms of getting your image across, simpler can have more impact and resonance than a highly complex and ornate logo. Think of some of the most well known brands and notice how simple and recognizable they are - McDonald's golden arches, the Nike swoosh, Apple logo, IBM, etc. In fact, most of the logos mentioned above have simple color schemes that makes their logo easily recognizable while keeping the cost of reproducing the logo down.

Remember, try to stay away from color gradations, shades of colors, and full color images and you'll end up with a much stronger logo.

Q & A Section

So now that you have some of the basics down about color use in logos, let's see if we can answer some common questions.

Q: What if I already have a logo that has many colors and gradations?

A: There are many graphic design services that can take your logo and simplify it by reducing the number of colors used to your primary brand colors. In fact, Sharper Brand offers free artwork reproduction for the first hour, so go ahead and take advantage of the offer, it's free.

Q: My logo has PMS colors, but I don't want to pay for the PMS matching?

A: While we advise our clients to try to stick to their corporate colors for consistency in the brand and image, we also understand that there can sometimes be budgetary constraints that may keep you from realizing your logo's true potential. At Sharper Brand, we can take your PMS colors and match them as close as possible to stock colors that require no PMS matching fees. It's that simple.

Q: I have a logo that is very complex and has many gradients?

A: Logos that utilize photography or gradients can be the costliest to reproduce for obvious reasons, there are just too many colors. These logos are also the toughest to reproduce since you are limited by the imprinting and printing methods used by printers and promotional products vendors. Here at Sharper Brand, we can take your complex image and recreate your logo so that it can be reproduced using less colors. While some graphic design companies charge you hourly for this work, we give you the first hour of artwork recreation free.

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