Eightyone Design Logo

Are Pantones Dead?

Pantone swatches

We recently designed a logo for a long standing client. The project went well and they were very pleased with the result. The time then came to sit down with a pantone book and discuss specific colour options when our client exclaimed:

“Why do I need a pantone for my logo?”

I politely explained:

“Well, pantone colours are a universal way of ensuring colour consistency. Every printer will recognise your pantone and print the very same colour, the only variation will be the paper stock you print on.”

The client quite rightly pointed out:

“I’m not going to print in pantones, it costs a fortune to get stationary and brochures printed that way. I’m going to print CMYK for everything.”

He made a fair point, but I had a further ace up my sleeve:

“It may well be worth pantoning up your logo regardless? That way you’ll have a cross reference so that you can keep a certain level of colour consistency.”

He trumped me:

“Why can’t I do that with CMYK? I just don’t see the point of pantones (stamp fist on table). I see what your saying about consistency and am happy to get print proofs from printers to ensure the colour is right, but I don’t think I need pantones.”

By now the client was going ever so slightly rosey in the face and I don’t think it was a battle I could’ve won. The client seemed adamant that he wasn’t to have his logo pantoned and that was that.

The Point

This mini battle was turning over and over in my mind and I thought about the problems with pantone colours. I’ve been warned by printers that printing gradiented pantones can be problematic and printing pantoned opacities can get tricky and wondered if my client had a point, are pantones dead? Do we need a pantone matching system anymore? Originally it was a cost effective way of ensuring colour consistency, but as my client proclaimed that simply isn’t the case anymore and pantones do cost a lot more to print.


I did a little research to see what other like minded individuals had to say on the subject and found an interesting article on the Creative Curio website “Is there a new trend in logo design”. The article puts a spot light on the new BT logo which contains CMYK gradients rather than spot colour.

Whilst I was investigating a new theory kept cropping up, that of RGB vs CMYK. So many logos are created purely for online purposes these days the argument online seems to be why provide a client with a CMYK equivalent of an RBG logo? With no mention of pantones it makes me wonder if my client was indeed correct and we are moving away from spot colour?

So what do we think?

After reading these articles and mulling the pantones vs CMYK argument over in my head I think I have to conclude that for us pantones are still very much alive. There still isn’t another system that will ensure close colour reproduction like the pantone matching system and even though we are moving away from this style of printing, we haven’t completely made that jump.

I think one of the main reasons for this decision comes down to actually choosing a colour in the first place. If you don’t have a pantone swatch or guide, how do you know you are both seeing the same colour? We all know computer monitors don’t always display colour correctly leading to a plethora of problems – the colour you are seeing on your monitor could be different to the clients; and the colour on either of the monitors could be different to how it prints. Therefore having a pantone swatch or agreeing a pantone colour¬†together¬†ensures you are both seeing the same printed colour and have a true colour reference you can agree on. And once you have agreed on this colour you know how it will reproduce.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a better understanding for clients who do not want their logo / artwork pantoned, especially for logos used solely for the web. But how do we know we are all seeing the same colour? If a logo is going to be used for print and you are eager to ensure consistent colour reproduction then pantones are still the best way to ensure this.

What are your experiences with pantone and CMYK printing? Do you think pantones are dead or are soon to be?

Posted by Lu

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Posted on Monday, May 10th, 2010 at 9:30 am
Posted In Colour, Logo Design | Tags: , ,

6 Responses to “Are Pantones Dead?”

  • Amanda says:

    99% of my clients choose CMYK over Pantone for cost reasons.

    Although colour matching isn’t perfect with CMYK, you know what, it’s not bad either, thus I can see the reason for the preference.

  • Lu says:

    Hi Amanda,

    Interesting, 99% that’s high. Do you think that your clients choose CMYK because of cost reasons and because (as you mentioned) you can get reasonable colour matching?

  • Gareth Coxon says:

    Interesting post Lu, I get an increasing amount of client who’s work I design for them is pretty much only ever seen online, hence no need for Pantone colour use/references.

    Personally I’ds choose Pantone everytime but many clients either are hugely fussed or disregard due to costs.

  • Lu says:

    Hi Gareth,

    Interesting stuff, so when you design a logo do you present it to the client in just RGB? Or do you also provide a CMYK version as well?

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • Gareth Coxon says:

    Hi Lu, not sure I could have packed many more typo’s into that last comment of mine! ;D

    Yes, I supply a RBG + CMYK version for use online and offline just to cover all bases.

    Good to see you guys keeping the blogging up, I had a spell of not posting for months but I’m now getting back into the swing of things.

  • Lu says:

    Hi Gareth,

    We’ve been trying to keep up with the blogging the best we can, but as soon as we get really busy it’s the first thing that slips. We try to write loads of ‘back up’ posts which we can publish when we are busy, but even they ran out on our recent crazy spell. We’ll have to come up with a better back up plan!



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