PMS: it’s not what you are THINKING!

Ok, now that I have cleared that up, what is it? PMS stands for Pantone Matching System, sometimes referred to as Spot Color or just Pantone, used to specify colors of ink with a number that is universally used by software, printers, graphic designers, ink houses, and clients.

Yes, three names all the same meaning. Why you ask? Why not? If there is anything I have learned about this industry, if there is one way to say or do something there are three ways. This stands true for most everything print or graphic design related.

Enough rambling, why am I bringing this up?

I bring this up because I find myself explaining to clients why their job is not separating into the appropriate spot colors. This seems like a common concept to me but not to everyone so I thought I would address it.

A spot color in a nutshell is an ink color that isn’t cyan, magenta, yellow or black (CMYK). On a full-color (CMYK) job, a spot color would be the 5th color, such as a corporate color, a metallic accent, or anything else outside of the norm. Technically, a spot varnish, or an extra bump of color counts as spot colors, because they involve extra inks, and extra press units to print.

Reasons to use spot colors.

Consistency, a corporate identity, keeping the look

Save money, in some cases, by going with say two spot colors is cheaper then paying for cmyk.

Special effects, like a varnish, or a metallic color.

Spot Colors in Adobe

Adobe offers a cool way to double-check your document to make sure it separates into your spot colors.

Indesign offers a separations preview.

PMS Thinking Image 1

Window>output>separations preview. From here you can turn off the eyeball for the spot colors and everything that you call out into those colors should disappear. If not you need to go back and figure out why.

Illustrator (CS4) New to CS4, basically the same concept except you can go straight from Window to separation preview.

PMS Thinking Image 2

Acrobat PRO depending on which version of Acrobat Professional you are using it may be in a different location, but in the more current version you can go Advanced>Print Production>Output Preview. Why it is called something different, who knows! Also, I don’t think you can do this in reader.

PMS Thinking Image 3

Things to Consider

Think about a few things before you jump into PMS Bliss.

What is the cost, your budget?

Expertise, can you or your designer handle it?

Software, can the software you have accomplish this? You are only as good as the software you use!

Proofing, it may be impossible to get an accurate proof. But, that’s ok because they make PMS books that will show you exactly the color it will be!