What is Pantone? Demystifying the World of Color Systems


In a world where color accuracy and consistency are vital for brand identity and recognition, learning “what is Pantone” makes all the difference.

Think colors don't matter much?

Quick, what brand comes to mind when you hear 'primary yellow and red'? How about 'deep green and white' or 'primary yellow and navy blue'?

You see, the way your customers perceive your brand is deeply entwined with color.

It's more significant than you might realize.

By offering a standardized color matching system, Pantone guarantees that the colors you've selected to represent your brand, are precisely matched across various materials, from fashion to graphic design, and even custom sock manufacturing.

Table of Contents

Understanding Pantone: A Color Standard

An assortment of blue, orange, green and magenta macarons with their suffix code and name made on adobe illustrator
Pantone colors help match your brand colors with your products

The Pantone color system was developed for reliable color specification and management and comprises of two main pantone color systems: Pantone Matching System (PMS) and Pantone Fashion, Home + Interiors (FHI).

Through its standardized color reproduction, the Pantone matching system maintains color consistency across production runs, regardless of timing or location by assigning each shade it's own pantone number sequence.

Manufacturers rely on the uniformity of the printing process to ensure color fidelity from initial design to final product, especially when using coated paper or paper stock.

Pantone Matching System (PMS)

The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a collection of 1,867 solid colors, each assigned a unique number and name for ease of identification and color selection.

A Pantone number is a special code from color libraries that precisely defines a color.

It includes letters like "PMS" to show it's from Pantone, then a three digit number like "287" for the specific shade, and a letter like "C" or "U" for the finish – "C" for coated (like glossy paper) or "U" for uncoated paper (like matte paper).

This allocated number acts like a universal language, ensuring everyone agrees on the exact color, crucial for things like logos or graphics where color fidelity matters, no matter what materials they're printed on, applicable even to transparent plastic and opaque plastic and other various materials.

Pantone Fashion, Home + Interiors (FHI)

Pantone Fashion, Home + Interiors (FHI) offers an extensive color palette for the textile and home design industry, providing 2,625 colors on cotton and 21 on nylon, along with swatch cards and spectral color data for precise hue management.

The Pantone Swatch Card, crafted from a double-layered cloth, is the industry standard for the FHI color system, ensuring robust color strength and consistency.

Designers in home decoration, interior design, fashion designers, and graphic designers can rely on Pantone colors, basing their color choices on established, full-size color standards supported by spectral color data, thus eliminating concerns about pigments matching and achieving their desired color.

Pantone Colors in Action: Sockrates Case Study

Custom dress socks by Sockrates to demonstrate how a graphic designer uses Pantone colors to create a logo
Custom dress socks for Campbells Soup by Sockrates

At Sockrates we leverage Pantone colors in the following ways:

  • Dyeing the yarn with Pantone color references
  • Allowing customers to select the precise color they desire for their socks
  • Ensuring vivid and crisp colors that match in all our printed designs from custom socks to sock renderings, sock boxes and sock packaging.

By using Pantone, Sockrates guarantees accurate pigments for all our clients’ brands.

Pantone Color Matching System at Sockrates

Sockrates custom athletics socks printed with specific colors to showcase brand identity using the pantone color system
Get a 3 pack of custom dress socks using pantone color matching

Sockrates distinguishes itself from competitors with our offer of unlimited graphics and designs (including free revisions) using Pantone, with delivery as fast as a 7-day turnaround.

Other sock manufacturers may offer PMS, but not with such a speedy delivery, transparent pricing, Premium Italian materials and manufacturing and an awesome customer service team (If we do say so ourselves).

Why Pantone Color Matching Matters for Your Brand

Color consistency is vital for maintaining brand uniformity and recognition in custom-made products like socks.

Consistency with the right color in branding guarantees that customers can quickly identify and distinguish a brand from its competitors, fostering trust and credibility.

Consistent branding not only strengthens brand values and messaging, but it can also foster increased brand loyalty and customer retention.

Our Socktologist's meticulous attention to detail and color accuracy elevates the overall quality of our custom socks, making Pantone color reproduction an indispensable aspect of our production process.

Pantone vs. CMYK: Choosing the Right Color System

An assortment of color swatches featuring yellow, magenta, cyan, blue and green.
You can use Pantone color matching in any sock style for different locations or events

A frequent question in discussions about color systems is: Pantone or CMYK?

While the Pantone system colors are standardized, consisting of a predetermined palette, CMYK colors are generated by combining cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks to create a variety of hues.

Though CMYK is utilized to accurately replicate a selection of Pantone colors, Pantone printing is optimal for large projects requiring consistent, pure colors.

Essentially, Pantone provides consistency and reliability for large-scale printing projects, whereas CMYK is better suited to a range of different printing tasks.

Pantone Products and Tools for Designers

An image of color guide used by graphics designers to identify and match colors accurately.
Pantone color matching technology is a best practice in our sock manufacturing

Pantone offers a wide range of products and tools for designers, such as:

  • Color guides
  • Trend Books
  • The Pantone Formula Guide, which contains a variety of market-driven spot colors presented in a fan deck format, as well as new and trend colors to keep up with the latest color palettes
  • The Pantone Color Institute, which provides a consulting service that offers color expertise and solutions to designers, collaborating with clients to anticipate global color trends and advise on color in brand identity.

Pantone Color Manager software is another valuable color model tool that ensures consistent and accurate color communication in design projects.

Pantone's Influence: Color of the Year and Custom Colors

An assortment of fabric and pantone color coded swatches
Our graphic designers are experts in the pantone color matching system

Pantone’s influence goes beyond industries and even sets trends through its annual Color of the Year selection.

The Pantone Color Institute has set this trend since 2000, with 2022’s Color of the Year, Very Peri 17-3938, a custom hue designed to commemorate humanity’s resilience during the pandemic.

Additionally, Pantone creates custom colors for famous brands, such as the undisclosed blue hue created for Jay-Z.

The selection process for the Color of the Year considers yearly color trends, taking into account factors like:

  • fashion
  • marketing
  • social media
  • politics

This makes Pantone LLC a genuine trendsetter in the realm of color.

Practical Applications of Pantone Colors

A graphic designer using Pantone colors to create a logo
Our team of sock designers are ready to help you

Various industries, ranging from fashion and home design to graphic design, make use of Pantone colors.

In graphic design, the Pantone color system eliminates discrepancies in both print and digital media when it comes to color.

In fashion, Pantone colors assist professionals in keeping up with trends and ensuring their collections connect with consumers.

This universal color language facilitates critical color decisions throughout the workflow for brands and manufacturers.

Similarly, in the cosmetics industry, Pantone Beauty Bundle, Pantone SkinTone Guide, and Pantone Colors of the Year are pantone guides commonly used to create a cohesive and on-trend color palette.


Pantone’s standardized color reproduction system is great news for industries aiming to maintain color fidelity and consistency.

From its two main systems, PMS and FHI, to various products and tools available for designers, the Pantone system continues to be an invaluable asset in ensuring that colors remain true to their original intent.

Whether you’re a fashion designer, graphic artist, or even a custom sock manufacturer like Sockrates, Pantone empowers you to achieve your desired colors with confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of Pantone color?

Pantone is an internationally-recognized standardized color reproduction tool used by designers to accurately specify and control colors for printing projects.

It is widely used across the world and allows for the specification of colors that cannot be mixed using the traditional CMYK color model.

What is Pantone LLC?

Pantone LLC is a U.S. corporation headquartered in Carlstadt, New Jersey.

The company is best known for its Pantone Matching System, a proprietary color space used in a variety of industries such as printing, paint, fabric, and plastics.

Pantone LLC is recognized globally for its standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer.

What does Pantone actually do?

This color reproduction system enables artists to perfectly match specific colors from different manufacturers using its patented Matching System (PMS).

It allows companies to assign a color that will stay consistent in every application like different mediums, materials and printers.

This ensures that whether printers uses it in various prints or different types of inks, the graphics will print uniform and true to its original specification.

Why is Pantone so famous?

Pantone's proprietary color selection system revolutionized the printing industry and has become the industry standard for pigment selection, communication and reproduction.

Their innovative fan format color catalog is used globally, simplifying the print, design and production process.

What is an example of a Pantone color?

An example of a Pantone color is PMS 205, which is pink.

There are over 1,000 colors identified in the Pantone System, including metallic and fluorescent colors, and the solid palette is also identified by a suffix following the color.

What industries benefit from Pantone color systems?

Pantone color systems offer a reliable source of consistent colors to many industries, such as fashion, home design, graphic design and custom sock manufacturing.

To stay updated on all the latest sock styles and Pantone matching system tips, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn.

Article Written By
Samuel Moses

We offer custom socks of all types and sizes (baby to adult) and lengths (no-show, ankle, crew, knee-high, and over the knee). We pride ourselves on being authentic Italian custom sock manufacturers with the highest level of quality and service for our customers. Try us out today!

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