Pantone Colour Systems Explained

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

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

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

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

Learn about our Pantone Colour Systems for colour standardisation across print, packaging, digital, textile, coatings, plastics… and strawberries.

We have two colour systems. Which Pantone Colours are right for you?

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

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

The appearance of colour can change based on the material on which it is produced. In fact, some colours are not achievable at all on a certain material. That’s why we organise colours into two systems – to ensure that the colours 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 colour system uses unique coding?

When a C or U follows the colour 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 colours to become inaccurate and you could be missing the latest market and trend-driven colours. How many colours 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 colour can increase brand recognition by up to 87%.

In product development, the right colour 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 colour can sell products and ideas more effectively by 50-85%.

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

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

Colour Interpretation: We all interpret colour in slightly different ways. Even something as seemingly specific as Navy Blue can mean noticeably different things to different people. Using a Pantone Colour enables you to communicate your precise colour requirements in a language that is recognized around the world.
Multiple Materials: The colour of your final production material can have a tremendous impact on the appearance of your colour – and your satisfaction with the result. Pantone’s digital tools and physical colour 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 colour tools can ensure that your suppliers are all aiming toward the same target, for consistent results across the board.
Multiple Production Runs: Your colour may be consistent throughout a production run, but will it match the run before it? Or the one that follows? Colour measurement and evaluation tools from Pantone and our parent company, X-Rite, make it possible to achieve consistent colour from run to run, no matter when or where it is produced.