Pantone is Dead – Why We’re Taking a Stand Against Pantone

Design | |

Since the early 1960’s, Pantone has ruled the roost when it comes to colour printing and design, but as it teeters on the edge of restricted rather than exclusive, we could soon see the death of Pantone, and Ballyhoo is here to witness it. 

We’ve decided to shun Pantone, but here’s a look why…

What’s the Fuss with Pantone?

When we think of the colour green, we think of all various shades that green could be. And chances are, the colour green you think of, is different to other people. There’s an endless list of colours to choose from, which can make graphic design hard. This is where Pantone comes in – it is a colour matching system that gives consistency for designers and printers, allowing designers to colour match specific colours, regardless of the process used to produce it. Pantone colours ensure that users can send their desired colours such as logo or assets to a printer, along with the Pantone number, and they will be printed in the exact colours. 

Pantone colours show the exact ink colour to use, assisting in colour matching and identification, with each colour consisting of three or four digit identification followed by the letters U, C or M – uncoated, coated or matte. 

This is often used in brand design as it allows businesses to assign an exact colour to their brand, safe in the knowledge that it will match perfectly across every application that it uses.

Pantone and Adobe

Adobe has recently announced that colour swatches from Pantone will be removed from a number of Creative Suite professional design products for free, and will instead require payment from users to continue to use Pantone. There has been some debate on whether this is due to Pantone’s cost to Adobe, or whether Adobe is just fed up with keeping up to date with Pantone’s new shades, but it could all boil down to Pantone not being needed as much as in the past.

The biggest issue this has caused, however, is that Adobe files regardless of when they were produced will not include the Pantone shades they were created with. Instead, the file will just include blank sections of black and will in effect be unusable.

Ballyhoo Boycott

We’ve decided to boycott Pantone colours until they become more equitable in their approach, and will no longer be including Pantone shade numbers in the brand guidelines that we create, or use Pantone shades in the designs we create in Adobe products. 

We feel that colour shouldn’t be something that big corporations can hold a monopoly over and that it’s small businesses and freelance designers that will suffer. By including Pantone colours we are potentially causing issues and higher costs for clients as well as future designers who need to work on the same files. 

And we’re not the only ones who think so. Artist Stuart Semple, who famously made his own affordable blackest black paint in defiance of another artist buying the exclusive rights to Vantablack, has also taken issue with Pantone. In protest, he has created Freetone, a free colour library plugin for Adobe – the colours are distinctly Pantone-ish, it’s uncanny.

CMYK to the Rescue 

There are lots of other colour systems for printing, the main one being CMYK. CMYK uses 4 plates (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) to print out the desired colour. Although this used to come out slightly different in the past, technology has come a long way and printers are now set to perform CMYK printing well.

Are you going to take a stand against Pantone? Let us know and follow us on Instagram 

Alison Chaffey


Alison is our Creative Director*. She has worked alongside Anthony to build the business since it was founded in 2009. Her passion is design and UX, and she has a laser eye-for-detail. In other words, she’s a web developer’s worst nightmare.