Creating Pantone Formulas Part 2

February 22, 2018 at 5:50 am 1 comment


How2Pantone 4

Here is part 2 of a rare behind-the-scenes look of how International Coatings creates formulas of our color mixing inks to create Pantone® color matches. This article was recently published in Impressions Magazine’s February 2018 edition.

To formulate the colors, we start by using a color spectrometer form X-Rite (Pantone®’s sister company) to ‘read’ each color and give us a basic starting formula.  We then carefully weigh out the starting point formula colors, using the particular color mixing series we are formulating for (such as the 7500 Color Mixing series).  Then we let the sample go for a ride in a centrifugal mixer that homogenizes the mixture.  Next, we create a “drawdown” of the color (spreading the mixed color on a white and black Leneta card and curing it), then look at it in a light box using D65 (daylight) and CWF (cool white fluorescent) lighting.

So far so good, but we rarely get an exact match just by using the color spectrometer. This is where our lab techs’ experience comes in.  Each color has to be adjusted to ensure that it matches the Pantone® chip as closely as possible. This requires an experienced color matcher and precise record keeping of the adjustments made (what was added and in what amounts).  After each trial, another drawdown is made and examined.

Once we feel the Pantone® color is true on the drawdown, we have one final test to confirm the color match.  We print the mixed ink through a 110 mesh screen, single pass, onto a 50/50 white garment.  Once we confirm the exact match, we then check the color sample for metamerism (color shift under different light sources) to make sure that the formula is stable.

How2Pantone 3Though the color spectrometer is a great tool, it doesn’t beat the human eye for detecting color differences.  Our experienced color matchers give each color match the final okay.

Even though we may match the Pantone® swatch as closely as possible, an exact match may not always be possible in printed form. There are many factors that can affect the final color of a print, including the type of substrate, curing temperature and time and so forth. Be sure to communicate this to the customer in advance or better yet, show them a test print for approval.

Do other ink companies go through the same steps we go through to arrive at their formulation?  We can’t answer for other companies of course, since we are not privy to the workings of their labs; but we assume that they probably go through the same or similar steps to arrive at their formulations.

We often are asked how we compare against other Pantone® color matching systems, since many other ink companies have similar systems. We generally prefer to focus our time on improving our own products, but several of our distributors asked us to do a blind comparison test, so we finally complied.

The results?  See for yourself in the photos below. We chose a popular competitor’s ink system and used their formulas to mix five randomly chosen Pantone® color values. Then we did side-by-side drawdowns of the resulting mixed colors onto a Leneta card and photographed the card with the corresponding Pantone® color chip in a light box all at the same time, so the light exposure is uniform.PMS 2212 C

Read Part 1 of this article.

Mark Brouillard is International Coatings’ product manager and has considerable experience in formulating and manufacturing industrial compounds.  For the past 16 years, his focus has been on the formulation and product development of textile screen printing inks.

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International Coatings manufactures a complete line of Centris™ non-Phthalate screen printing inks, including a wide variety of whitesspecialty inksspecial effects inks,color matching systemsadditives and reducers.  In addition, International Coatings also manufactures a line of AXEON™ non-Phthalate, non-PVC printing inks and special effects inks. For more information on our products, please visit our website at


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