Goodbye PMS, hello PANTONE PLUS

Today Pantone announced the widely-used PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM® has been discontinued immediately and replaced by the new PANTONE PLUS SERIES®. This is an historic moment for graphic designers everywhere who have used the old “PMS” colors and have many numbers committed to memory.

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“PANTONE PLUS takes what designers and printers know and love about the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM and supercharges it with a host of new features, colors and digital tools,” said Ron Potesky, senior vice president and general manager of Pantone. “The PLUS SERIES provides designers with greater freedom for selecting, specifying and matching color. And, since the PANTONE PLUS SERIES is based on the widely used PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM, there’s no training or new equipment required to start pushing the boundaries of creativity.” Pantone is framing this change as the “next generation” or “modern version” of the PMS but it’s clear to me that the PLUS SERIES is not the same thing—it’s probably better.

A little history: Goe in 2007

In 2007, Pantone released the Goe™ System with 2,058 new colors, chromatically arranged swatchbooks, new base inks and digital and interactive tools to help select Goe colors. I remember a lot of online discussion about this new system when I covered the news that year, but I never did see it used in the field. I work in Iowa so you can take that observation for what it’s worth.

I wondered at the time whether Goe could compete with the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM, which has almost 50 years to entrench itself in the design community. I thought Goe would not have a real chance to emerge with PMS still active. I asked Ron about this and it seems Pantone deliberately made Goe’s release vague, refusing to give it a clear position in the Pantone family of products. The intention was to let customer behavior dictate how Goe and PMS would co-function in the marketplace, but I don’t think this strategy was very effective. From my perspective, without a specific target market Goe was left to find a small niche in the packaging and specialized printing industries, leaving the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM’s position in the design market almost unchanged.

You gotta pull the trigger

I think Pantone has realized the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM had to go in order to make way for the next generation of color tools in PANTONE PLUS. It’s a sensible move because PANTONE PLUS has some features superior to PMS but keeps some elements of PMS to make the transition easy:

  • 224 new solid colors—1,341 total
  • Chromatically arranged swatchbooks
  • Swatchbooks are printed on text-weight stock, not cover-weight (100# text for coated, 80# text for uncoated)
  • Formulated with the same 14 base inks that constitute the PMS
  • Metallics can now be coated and varnished without changing luster
  • Reference numbers for PMS colors are unchanged (new colors begin at 7548)
  • Swatchbooks have a color-checking swatch on the inside back cover that helps judge studio lighting for a proper swatch check
  • The COLOR BRIDGE swatchbook (used for finding CMYK equivalents of PLUS colors) has swatches on the inside back cover, suitable for swatch capture like a Macbeth color checker
  • A PASTELS + NEONS family of 154 pastels and 56 neons is now available for active sportswear markets
  • A free COLOR MANAGER application will be available for updating Quark and Adobe products’ swatches and converting spot colors to CMYK

Pricing

According to Giovanni Marra, Pantone’s Director of Corporate Marketing, there is a small price increase of less than $5.00 per swatchbook. The most common product, the PANTONE FORMULA GUIDE, is $109 for coated and uncoated books; the three PMS books (coated, uncoated, matte) are $125. Other swatchbook sets are anywhere from $79 for the metallics and pastels/neons to $125 for the CMYK set and $209 for the COLOR BRIDGE set for matching PLUS and CMYK colors. Chip packages are $169–175 with the SOLID CHIPS set running $259. All products are available today except COLOR BRIDGE and the public beta version of COLOR MANAGER, which will be available in June 2010.

Beginning last March, Pantone also made Goe slightly cheaper:

  • GoeGuides are $20 less
  • GoeBridge is $10 less
  • GoeSticks are $40 less
  • The Goe Systems are also $40 less

I predict many designers will just go on living with their old swatchbooks and familiar colors (Reflex Blue, anyone?) but Pantone has just made the essential decision that will see PLUS replace PMS within a few years. Sounds good to me, because the chromatic arrangement and new colors makes PLUS a better color family without making things hard for printers.

Sidebar: myPANTONE X-Ref Color Tools for iPhone and online

xrefapp

This has actually been in the news since early April, but Pantone has released the myPANTONE X-Ref Color Tools for iPhone and online. This application is designed to cross-reference PANTONE color libraries and find color matches. The application includes all color libraries so users have full access to the PANTONE MATCHING System, Goe and the new PANTONE PLUS system in June 2010. The online application itself is available for free at www.pantone.com/xref and the iPhone app is available at the iPhone App Store for $1.99 (compatible with iPhone OS 3.0 and higher on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad).