Pantone LLC is a limited liability company 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 notably graphic design, fashion design, product design, printing and manufacturing and supporting the management of color from design to production, in physical and digital formats, among coated and uncoated materials, cotton, polyester, nylon, and plastics.
X-Rite, a supplier of color measurement instruments and software, purchased Pantone for $180 million in October 2007 and was itself acquired by Danaher Corporation in 2012.
Pantone began in New York City in the 1950s as the commercial printing company of brothers Mervin and Jesse Levine, M & J Levine Advertising. In 1956, its founders, both advertising executives, 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 $90,000 (equivalent to $6,000,000 in 2019) 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 the 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.
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.
British passports were colored blue using the 5395 C classification to celebrate Brexit, the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union.