How Will The New PANTONE Goe System Affect Your Work?

About The GoeGuide

The PANTONE Goe System marks a sea change in how Pantone organizes its swatchbook colors. The PANTONE® FORMULA GUIDE (the PMS swatchbook) is organized by a centerline color, which is the color in the center of every page. These colors are either PMS mixing bases or combinations of bases. The colors above it are tints created by adding PANTONE Clear; the colors below are shades created by adding black. These colors are then numbered sequentially. The downsides to this method is that the numbers don’t necessarily tell you which color you are referring to and the palette is not organized like a spectrum or color wheel.

Goe pages

A single PANTONE FORMULA GUIDE PAGE at left, with five GoeGuide pages at right. Comparing the two will help you understand the Goe concept. Click to enlarge.

The Goe System palette is organized with “full strength colors,” or colors created with one or two Goe mixing bases. This allows the highest chroma values for each color. Full strength colors occupy the bottom color bar of a page and colors above it are given increasing amounts of PANTONE Clear. However, if one page has a full strength color at the bottom then the next page has that same color plus some black, thus creating a shade. That page then adds PANTONE Clear to create the other colors above it. If a full-strength color can have up to seven levels of PANTONE Clear and up to five levels of black added to it, then that color has 35 different Goe colors associated with it across a series of pages.

Full strength colors are organized from series to series in chromatic order so the entire GoeGuide looks like a color wheel when spread out. Because of this new organization, it becomes much easier to use the GoeGuide and the Goe System in general. I personally use my PANTONE FORMULA GUIDE only rarely because I do not like hunting for colors with it. The GoeGuide is organized the way the PANTONE FORMULA GUIDE should be organized.

Numbering The Goe Colors: As Easy As 5, 4, 1

What color is PANTONE 145? How about PANTONE 7469? I couldn’t tell you without picking up a swatchbook or launching Photoshop. The PANTONE Goe System tries to clear things up with a new numbering system. Here’s how it works:

PANTONE (C)-(B)-(W) (P)

C = Full strength color (numbered from 1 to 165)
B = Amount of black (1 = no black, maximum of 5)
W = Amount of white (7 = no white, maximum of 1)
P = Paper type (usually “C” for coated)

Goe color

The GoeGuide entry for PANTONE 4-1-4 C. Click to enlarge.

In the example above, PANTONE 4-1-4 C is a yellow with no black and some PANTONE Clear.

As far as I can tell, the numbers don’t actually say how much of the black or white mixing bases are added to the color. It’s only there to describe where on the scale each color resides. It’s kind of a confusing combination: black increases as its number increases, but white actually decreases as its number increases. Moreover, it’s up to you to know the full strength color numbers. The scale begins at yellow (0) and sweeps around to brown-black (165). 70, for example is a blue. I wouldn’t expect designers or printers to memorize these numbers—more likely, designers will only need to have an idea of what a full strength color might be, and printers will refer to a booklet to know exactly what mixing bases are required.

Can Pantone Successfully Market Both?

I am excited about Goe, because Pantone is doing the right thing in revising an old standard and they are doing it well. Goe has more colors, more consistency, better organization, a better numbering structure, and more new products to support it (look for Samuel Klein’s article about myPANTONE, PANTONE GoeSticksâ„¢ and other Goe-related toys for designers, or see below). I would expect the Goe System to be the de facto standard in ten years.

Goe package

Here you can see the GoeGuide, GoeSticks and the myPANTONE software on CD. Click to enlarge.

However, there’s already a standard—the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM. So do designers and printers need the Goe System if they already have a standard color system that’s been around for almost fifty years? There’s rarely room for more than one dominant product in any industry, and when there is it’s not long before one loses its market share and fades away (Freehand is a prime example). The Goe System has most of the PMS colors in its structure already, so there’s a case to be made for eliminating the PMS and adopting Goe—but Pantone is not advocating that, at least not yet. It’s an interesting debate, and I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Pantone’s decision-makers were discussing what would eventually become the Goe System.

I think that, in the end, one system will have to supplant the other as “the standard.” It makes sense for the Goe System to be that new standard, but for the time being don’t expect Pantone to press that notion. I wouldn’t expect designers and printers to change quickly either, but that remains to be seen.

17 thoughts on “How Will The New PANTONE Goe System Affect Your Work?”

  1. How about the RGB colorspace? Is it based on sRGB? How do you transfer color info from there to AdboeRGB or any other color space.
    ISO for process consistency is fine, but how about printing standards such as ISO 12647-2 or Gracol 7 process control?

  2. Henk, here’s the response from Ellen Pinto at Pantone:

    “The values in the Goe Guide are based on sRGB color space and are intended for Web site design. The myPalette software defaults to sRGB color, but in the Preferences section of the software, the user can change this to Adobe98 RGB for print.

    “The Goe System is a spot color standard. ISO 12647-2 and Gracol 7 are process color standards.”

  3. That’s right. It’s good to read that Pantone changed the documentation (Whitepaper on the site) and allows users to use other RGB-spaces to obtain the proper RGB values for RGB print. How about the use of output conditions such as SWOP or ISOcoated profiles to determine what the CMYK process colors will be?
    Any information appreciated.

  4. Here’s Pantone’s response:

    “Pantone supports the precepts of color managed workflows. As such, any application that supports ICC profiles would be able to translate our color data into a properly defined ICC space (either color or device space) for further use. One caveat… the transforms used in ICC profiling are not necessarily the “best” results that are obtainable in print. Rather, the transforms make a number of assumptions in the creation of CMYK data that should be validated before trusting the output for final CMYK printing. As an example, our research into the area of gamut mapping and our extensive licensing of digital print devices and creation of hundreds of device specific look up tables (LUT’s) has shown us that a direct mapping of ICC profiles to a basic CMYK space typically needs 3 to 7 iterations or additional adjustments to achieve Pantone’s quality level of results. Generic SWOP profiles do not necessarily achieve this result in and of themselves. In addition, the mapping of spot colors into the CMYK space early in the production cycle presents other potential drawbacks to achieving the highest possible quality of PANTONE Colors. When PANTONE Colors are converted to CMYK they may lose their named color identity. As such, any further downstream processing that understands PANTONE Colors (e.g. Artworks / PitStop or EFI RIP’s) would not be able to apply a tuned look up table (LUT) to achieve better results. Rather, the entire page would be treated as one generic CMYK image. This would mean that any changes by the pre-press or press operators to do global color changes (e.g. bump up the magenta) would move ALL the colors – including Pantone’s. Pantone highly recommends that applications retain spot colors in their output formats and we support a “late binding” approach to CMYK generation where the final separations and transforms into CMYK space happen as late in the process as possible and with known device specific print conditions rather than “generic” transforms into a middle-of-the-road CMYK space.”

  5. This is the kind of information designers need to have. Why is this kind of info not part of the Whitepaper on Pantone Goe?
    We have had a lot of troubles with different versions of color scales. different substrates, different printing conditions etc. Plus American and Euro versions. Pantone must be generic and international applicable. Goe can have an important role but it’s essential that Pantone provides the proper information to designers and printers. The fact that PMS and Goe will be used simultaniously forces Pantone to provide solid information on both systems. Plus an in-depth expanation how the optimal color quality can be obtained. If they don’t provide the right info it – most probably- will increase the number of chapters in the book “Pantone Nightmare?”

  6. I think we’ll find that—eventually—the problems associated with having to maintain two color systems will make the phase-out of the PMS more likely. Goe already contains many if not all of the PMS colors.

  7. What I find a little hard to grasp here is that they only provide RGB equivalents.

    Do they expect people to print in RGB? And is the ultimate goal to rule out CMYK printing to get a better work flow between screen and print? Thanks in advance.

  8. I’m getting the RGB/CMYK question from everyone I talk to about Goe. If you read Pantone’s comment above (posted by me on 9/18), they think that simply converting the RGB color to CMYK (1) late in the workflow, and (2) with a good color management framework supporting it, is enough. After hearing people talk, and thinking about my own work, I’m starting to wonder if it is more complicated than that. At the very least, there’s times I need to work with a particular PMS color translated into CMYK numbers. With InDesign, I just select the PMS color and make the swatch process (not spot) and that must be the kind of workflow Pantone is thinking about. But I know it will not be this easy in all situations. I think the print community would benefit if Goe had a spot-to-process guide as PMS does.

  9. Thanks Jeremy. I do the same as you or output spots to CMYK when I output a PDF for printing. What I find hard to believe is that the RGB values will cross across gracefully. I know if I shift an images colour space (from RGB to CMYK) in PS that it dulls noticeably, this may make people adjust the CMYK values themselves which could result in inconsistency. All seems a bit strange but then u humans don’t like change and sometimes it helps. Thanks again. :)

  10. The problem with RGB and CMYK is that some PMS colors (and now Goe colors) will never convert gracefully and without color shifting. CMYK is a more restrictive gamut, and Pantone can either live with some not converting exactly—or throwing them out altogether and leaving us with a limited, CMYK-friendly set of colors. PMS colors have CMYK conversion numbers, but even those don’t work all the time because CMYK is just too limited. So I think a Goe spot-to-process guide would be helpful for designers, but it wouldn’t allow all the colors to translate perfectly to CMYK.

  11. It sounds like the new Goe system is geared primarily for Website design and on screen applications. However, many of us still print on old fashioned presses. For color selection it is imperative to have some idea what the color will look like early on in the conceptual phase of the design, not at the point where proofs are typically pulled. Pantone should provide CMYK equivalents… doesn’t they realize we still have to get approval from our clients?

  12. How long will it take for the industry to begin using the Goe system? Do printers still need to buy the new “specially engineered presses”? I cant find swatch libraries for the CS3 apps and Quark 6 (library is available for Quark 7.3). It would have been helpful for Pantone to have an area to download libraries off of their site.

    Geo will still need the spot to process guide (now called color bridge) and the 4 color process guides in coated, uncoated and matte cant go away. Converting spot to process does not always generate the best results, I have picked different color mixes than what the color bridge or the application suggests. Plus, coated and uncoated stocks often require different color mixes for consistent color.

  13. I happened to see the comment from Brad (above) about downloading the Goe library for CS3 and Quark. Visit and you’ll find links for both. However, the Quark link seems to go to a Quark 8 trial download.

    The download for CS3 works well, it installs coated and uncoated libraries for InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator.

  14. If PMS isn’t going to be replaced by Goe then how can you say that printers are going to have to carry fewer inks in inventory when they’re adding 11 colors to our shelves plus all of the ink that we save after mixing and running the job?

    Let’s not forget the hundreds of dollars we’re going to have to spend on the “Goe Guides” for each of our presses.

    Just how many colors do designers need? This is just a gimmic for Pantone to make more money.

  15. Hi,
    I’ve recently started to do some work involving print, after only digital work, and wanted to know what kind of Pantone guide (out of all the ones available) I need. After reading a lot on the subject, including pages on this site, thank you, there’s still something a bit unclear.
    I’m only going to print full colour myself, so I need the CMYK values (and corresponding RGB values for the digital part), but I also have to give my costumers the corresponding PMS colours for future use. So I wanted to purchase the Pantone Color Bridge (that is the right choice here, right?), but there’s also this GoeBridge with new colours and I’m wondering if I need both, or if one of the two would be sufficient?
    I hope I was clear in my explanation (not being a native speaker) and am already very grateful for any answers.

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