Marc Primo Warren
3 min readJun 19, 2020

This is an article “The History of Pantone” by Marc Warren

Every designer and marketing expert should be familiar with Pantone and how it uses its color matching system for a variety of industries including fashion, retail, print, and manufacturing, among others. Throughout its history, the Pantone brand has been acquired by X-Rite in 2007 for a whopping $180 million, and then later by the Danaher Corporation in 2012.

Pantone, as the color expert, was founded in 1962 by Lawrence Herbert. The brand started out as a company manufacturing color cards that cater to cosmetic companies. Herbert was a former employee who led the new direction of the brand into a matching color system that helps design industries distinguish specific colors for their marketing collaterals and print materials.

The first matching color system was developed in 1963 as Pantone Guides that are presented in six by two-inch board sheets within a flipbook catalogue that shows similar or associated swatches. To date, it has become the standard of color for industries everywhere and is recommended to undergo annual updates as Pantone’s inks turn yellowish over time, while color variance may also be affected by paper stocks used.

Pantone as a commercial printing company

Brothers Mervin and Jesse Levine founded the commercial printing company M & J Levine Advertising in the 1950s from where Pantone originated. Herbert, then a recent university graduate, was hired by the brothers in 1956. Being knowledgeable in chemistry, Herbert created a system that simplified the firm’s process of stocking color pigments and colored ink productions. Later on, when the company fell $50,000 in debt, Herbert bought the company’s tech assets for $90,000 and named it Pantone.

Today, Pantone is widely regarded as the most trusted color matching system that augments the proximity in color tones for various media regardless of equipment or technology used. PMS Color Guides are highly recommended for every professional that relies on color for design and functionality.

Pantone Color Matching System

More advanced than the basic color matching system that Pantone earlier developed, the Pantone Color Matching System relies on the Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black (CMYK) process for print outputs. Most industries have relied on the CMYK process to get actual color tone results when printed in any media.

The system uses the four-color process in producing spot colors from a specific mix of pigments. Aside from spot colors, the system also enables printers to come up with a wider variety of hues that fall in the metallics and fluorescent categories.

However, not all colors within the Pantone color system can be achieved using the CMYK process. If colors in the swatch book catalogue are labelled as such, printers then rely on the Red-Blue-Green (RBG) color model instead.

Pantone Goe System

Now obsolete in printing circles, the Pantone Goe System was first introduced in 2007 consisting of 2,000 new colors in a different matching and numbering system than the Pantone Color Matching System guide. This system relies on software tools and has even created online communities that exchange information on Goe system color swatches.

The Goe System eventually used lesser base colors and clear coating since it was deemed too difficult to produce in most presses. In 2013, the system was finally discontinued.

The Pantone Matching Color system is a professional tool that ensures proper branding color that’s consistent with global standards. One of the best advantages that Pantone offers is how it greatly cuts cost by utilizing CMYK batch printing. In fact, the system is so accurate that even many of the world’s nations rely on it to determine the right colors displayed on their flags.