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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Pantone?
PANTONE® is the standard language for color identification and communication and the worldwide expert on color...
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What does PMS stand for?
PMS stands for PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM®...
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What is CMYK?
CMYK refers to four-color process printing, using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks. When a client references CMYK, they are referring to the Process palette.
More info on the Pantone Process products.

What is SWOP?
SWOP is an acronym for Specifications Web Offset Publications. These specifications usually refer to web offset four-color printing (Process colors).

What is the different between Spot and Process color?
Solid or "Spot" colors are printed with a single color, using a Pantone solid color ink.
Process colors are printed using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks, on a four-color Process printing press or digital press.
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Where can I find the Solid to Process Guide?
The Solid to Process Guide has been replaced with the new PANTONE color bridge.

Why can't I view Pantone colors online?
Color is very subjective, which is why the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM® works so well. It takes all the guess work out of color identification. Every computer monitor is different, and most aren't calibrated even weekly. This means that the color depicted on your screen will not be accurate and could be many shades off from what the color actually looks like.

What is the difference between fan guides and chip guides?
Fan guides have "fan out" pages, and contain a color sample of the specified Pantone color.
Chips books are in three ring binders, and contain a color sample of the specified Pantone color, with six tear out chips of each color. View both products here

What kind of guide do I need?
That depends on how you need to use it. Pantone offers four different color palettes.
Solids, also known as Spot colors, or PMS colors. The Solid numbers appear as three or four digit numbers and may have a C (coated), or U (uncoated) after the number.

The Solid palette is offered in a fan guide format or in a ring binder format with six tear out chips per color. Order here.

Metallics is part of the Solids palette but has its own guide. The numbers are of the 8000 series. Order here.

Pastels is part of the Solids palette but has its own guide. The numbers are of the 9000 series. Order here.

Process, also known as 4-color process, or CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black).
The Process palette is offered in a fan guide format (coated and uncoated) or in a ring binder format (coated only) with six tear out chips per color. There is a Color Bridge conversion guide. The Solid colors are listed down the left side of the page with their corresponding
4-color Process formulas down the right side of the page. This way, if you are specifying a Solid color but the print job will be ran in 4-color process, you can see what the end result will be. Some Solid colors translate well into 4-color process and some do not. This guide allows you the option of choosing a different color if you are not going to like the end result.The Color Bridge is only offered in a fan guide format and only on coated paper. Order here.


Textiles, which is divided into two different divisions, Pantone for Fashion and Home, and Pantone Architecture and Interiors.The textile numbers appear as two digits, a hyphen, and then four digits, and may be followed by a TP (textile paper), a TPX (textile paper-latest edition), or a TC (textile cotton).
The Textile palette is offered in a fan guide format or a ring binder format with six tear out chips per color in paper, or a ring binder format in cotton with either non-removable cotton chips or removable cotton swatches. Order here.

Plastics, which offers two types of chips, opaque or transparent. Plastic numbers will have either a Q (opaque) or a T (transparent) in front of them and appear as three digits, a hyphen, one digit, a hyphen, one digit. The Plastic palette is offered in ring binder format with removable plastic chips. Order here.

Where do I get Pantone paint?
PANTONE PAINTS are available at www.pantonepaint.com, by calling (866) MY-COLOR, and at authorized PANTONE PAINT partners nationwide including Janovic, Ricciardi, Cox Paints and Creative Paint. Prices will vary by store. Paint pricing on Pantone’s Web site will range from $7.00 to $95.00.

You can also take a Pantone color guide to the paint store, and have them read the color on their color computer, which will allow them to match that color in any paint system. This is what most people end up doing.

How do I find out which Process color corresponds to the Solid color I need to match?
You can try to eye ball match it by comparing your Solids guide to your Process guide and finding a close match, but the system is not designed that way. There are 3,000 Process color variations and only 1,114 Solid color formulas. The Color Bridge guide gives you the 4-color process variation of the Solid color but there is no guide that works backwards to match a Process to a Solids. There are three times as many Process colors as there are Solids.

I ordered a job in Solids (for instance, 185C, and a 347C) but when I got it back, I was very disappointed. The colors appeared dull and washed out. What happened?
Communication with your commercial printing company is very important. You can order a job using Solid colors but if the job is going to be run as a 4-color job instead of a Spot (Solid) color job, you could very well be disappointed. Before specifying a color you need to find out from your printer whether the job will be run as a Spot (Solid) color or as a 4-color Process.
Some printers print in 4-color Process, some in Solids, and some in both. Some Solid (spot) colors translate well into 4-color Process work and some do not.
Pantone offers the Color Bridge guide for that reason. Down the left side of the guide are the Solid colors with their corresponding 4-color Process formulas down the right side of the guide. That way if you are specifying a Solid color for a job but you know that job is going to be run as a 4-color job you can anticipate the outcome. More info on Spot vs Process printing.

Does Pantone ever change their color numbers?
No, which is why the Pantone color matching and identification system works. It is consistent. Once a number has been assigned to a color, it is never changed. Once in awhile Pantone may add or discontinue colors, but they will never change a number on a color.

How often should I replace my guide?
Pantone recommends replacing the guides once every year or so. The ink on the guides is subject to fading over time. Of course, this depends on the type of usage your guide receives. With heavy usage and exposure to light, yes, once a year is not too often. With lighter usage and not much exposure to light, most customers replace their guides every couple of years. You can identify which Pantone® guide you have, and how old it is here.

Which guide do I need for silk screen printing?
The palette most often used by silk screeners is the Pantone Solid palette. Pantone Formula Guide Coated/Uncoated, Item #GP1301. This guide contains 1,341 Pantone Solid colors (examples, 185, 327, 485, 7543). Order here.