Andrew English

Posted on 17th March 2023
by Andrew English

Don’t let your brand colours run away from you

At the helm of the creative industry is the Pantone Color Institute™ the international authority on colour. Their swatch-style Pantone books are never far from our designers. In February, Pantone’s scientists and trend experts completed a regular review of their Pantone Matching System. This hit the news as it added 224 mixed colours and five base ink colours to the system.

You may ask, “well, that’s just more colours to choose from, isn’t it?” It is, although there are new formulations to some colours – that’s the specific recipe of base inks used to create spot colours.

Why are there new base inks?

The five new base inks have a lower environmental impact. They contain soybean and other vegetable oils, have no reportable hazardous and a low migration of VOCs, (volatile organic compounds), where indirect food contact occurs. That is certainly an honourable goal!

Also, Pantone have also reduced their number of base ink colours from 18 to 11. For some spot colours this has led to more base inks being used in the recipe, although sometimes at very low levels (0.1%).

What does this mean for my brand and print jobs?

The way that a business visually presents itself – across all marketing channels – should be unified. Inconsistent brand colours can lead to a lack of cohesion and diminish the brand’s overall impact. This is a cornerstone of marketing as it’s key to maximising brand recognition, reputation and trust. You don’t want let your brand colours to run away from you!

According to Pantone, the new base inks have not changed how existing Pantone colours look and the Pantone Master Standards’ digital values remain the same.

Printing in full colour (CMYK) remains unaffected by the Pantone update. However, to retain brand consistency you still need to ensure that you are communicating the CMYK values from your brand guidelines to the designers.

Comparison of U155-159 in the legacy and current Pantone Matching System.

Reflex Blue has changed

This is a popular colour for logos, a familiar royal blue with a deep blue-violet hue. Up until February, Reflex Blue was supplied as a base ink, so would come ready mixed. However, Reflex Blue was a challenging colour to print as it could easily appear purple, dried slowly, was easily rubbed, and could cause marking on a printing press. Reflex Blue is now formulated from a better-behaved combination of the pigments Carbazole Violet and Phthalo Blue. Even though this and other colour recipes have changed (because there are new inks) the appearance of the Pantone colours according to Pantone should remain stable. However because there is a change in its formulation it is possible you could see a subtly different in shade in your brand assets, i.e. logo.

Reflex Blue is now formulated from pigments Carbazole Violet and Phthalo Blue rather than being supplied as a base ink

Getting colour correct

We know that colour accuracy is important. It is however somewhat of an art because beyond Pantone’s pigment values, there are many factors that influence how colour is perceived:

Indeed, the Pantone swatch-style guides themselves are printed, so intrinsically reflect all of these variables too!

What do you need to do to stay on top of colour developments?

Want to talk about your brand colours?

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