PMS colours are the heart and soul of any branded product design process. If you have ever worked on a logo or design and been tasked with asking a promotional products company to get that design on a product, you will be well aware of this! But what is a PMS colour?
Looking for a PMS Colour Chart
PMS stands for Pantone Matching System and was devised by a company called Pantone. Basically, it is a standardized colour reproduction system that has been universally accepted within the graphics and printing industries. By standardising the colours, everyone has access to the same reference points when talking about colours and shades, ensuring consistency in the printing and design process. In the same way that we expect a Big Mac in Miami to taste the same as a Big Mac in Paris, consistency is paramount!
Viewing PMS Colours
The best way to determine a desired PMS colour is to use a PMS guide. Produced annually by Pantone, the PMS guide, consists of many 15cm x 5cm strips of cardboard bound into a small ‘fan deck’. On each of the strips are several colours, varying in shades, and with a PMS reference underneath it. Pantone recommends that new books are purchased annually (of course they would, so would we!), due to the tendency of the colours to veer towards a yellow hue over time. The PMS guide is a great reference to have nearby when you are working on branded products.
PMS colour inconsistencies
Many people view PMS charts on their computer, via a range of sources as they are published in quite a few places. The problem with viewing PMS colour charts on a computer monitor is that everyone has different settings on their screens. Whilst a PMS colour might look red to you, on another monitor it could appear maroon, or certainly a different shade of red. And when it comes to PMS colours, especially with regards branding, choosing colours that are 4-5 shades off is the difference between a good job and a bad job!
When you need to match a PMS colour to something in your hands, it is always advisable to track down a proper PMS Guide Book.
PMS colours for wristbands
When it comes to wristbands, the key consideration is the printing method, because not all wristband suppliers can generate wristbands in the PMS colour of your choosing. Most will supply a range of stock colours that are then overprinted with your desired artwork, logo, message etc.
Wristband base colours (certainly for Tyvek wristbands) should be manufactured and printed on a flexographic printer, as this also allows for the production of fluro or neon colours, which are crucial within the wristband industry when it comes to identifying youths, or people at night time events. So any wristband supplier who actually manufactures their own wristbands, like AAC ID Solutions, will have the capability to produce wristbands using a specific PMS colour, but this is limited to high quantities.
For small quantities of wristbands printed with a specific PMS colour, only a screen printed or digitally printed wristband will be able to get close. A digital wristband like a photo image adhesive wristband is printed on a commercial-level digital printing press and can produce any PMS colour almost perfectly, though it will not be able to produce true fluro colours. With screen printed wristbands, PMS-matched ink colours can be ordered, so this can incur an additional cost for the consumer. Alternatively, the supplier may be able to mix an appropriate match for the desired ink colours using the existing inks at their facility.
An added consideration when PMS matching ink colours on wristbands is the curing process. Lacquer based inks cure via evaporation and so are sent through a dryer/heater after printing. The curing process can darken the ink colour a little. UV inks (commonly used to print plastic or vinyl wristbands) are cured under UV lamps, and the effect on the print colour is less pronounced.
PMS colours for promotional products
PMS matching on wristbands is pretty uncommon. But PMS matching on promotional products is central to almost every production run or every product you can imagine. For many promotional products, the customisation method uses screen or offset printing in which case reproducing the correct PMS colour is quite straightforward. The tricky part comes when the product available can be produced using a series of available colours, which a PMS colour then has to be matched to.
Take, for instance, sweatbands. Sweatbands are made from a polyester thread, of which there are a specific range of colours available. The threads are pre dyed and held in stock ready to be used on customised jobs. Whilst the range is very good, it does not match the 1,000+ colours in a PMS Colour Chart. In these cases, it is often necessary to compare the thread samples alongside a physical PMS Colour Guide in order to closely match the PMS colours.
And this is where problems can occur. it takes a good judge of colour to really match a thread to a PMS colour, as we all interpret and see colours slightly differently. This is also where using a computer monitor to view PMS colours becomes problematic. We have many customers who have seen a colour they like on a custom bag or woven wristband, for instance, and held this product up to a monitor to match a PMS colour. In almost all cases, it is not as close a match as they thought.
Did you know that every year a Colour of the year is selected. Rather then influence design and fashion, the colour though normally reflects existing tastes.
In case you were wondering, your current colour of the year is apparently Radiant Orchid!
So there you go.
Working with the right supplier
The key to all this is working with the right supplier. If you have been provided specific PMS colours from your branding and design teams, then fair enough, but if you have had to guess PMS colours based on old files or products, please tell your supplier so that they can work with you to ensure the PMS colours care correct. This way, your wristbands and promotional products will arrive at your office and look exactly like you expected them to!
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