A Question of Colour and a Pantone Coloured Bridge [AQFG]

[AQFG] – A Question For Graham

Gav Cooper asked me about colours and how one should approach it given the various options open to us when designing a logo.

There are a myriad of colour systems such as: Pantone, CMYK, RGB, HEX as well as trying to work out which system you need for each project. 

The management of colour is a huge, and often times complex, business to get your head around.

I spent over 20 years of my working life working in commercial print and prepress reprographic departments trying to ensure accurate colour reproduction. Even with all this experience I still get caught out.

I can’t possibly answer cover everything to do with colour, but I can tackle the specific question that Gavin asked about managing Pantone, CMYK and RGB breakdowns for logo and brand identity projects.

I will also keep this brief and to-the-point, but on the understanding that my answer is just one method to keep things relatively controllable, and your sanity intact.

I will also not assume that we all have the knowledge, practical experience and resources to ensure that our equipment is expertly calibrated with each client and printer we might deal with.

A Typical Scenario

So let’s assume we have a logo and identity project where we are having to design stationery that will be commercially printed as well as well as for screen.

Let’s also say that the client has been tempted with using a Pantone colour plus black for print applications which makes it mostly a 2 colour job. We also know that the client needs the Pantone colour to be able to convert, as reasonably as possible, to CMYK as well as the Pantone looking good on the website.

Some people would argue that having to make sure a Pantone colour can convert to CMYK is pretty much pointless. Surely we use Pantone colours for the large selection of hue’s that cannot be achieved through CMYK? That is true for sure, but we can also use Pantone to ensure consistency of ink application, and appearance, from printer to printer.

When we are printing CMYK, and we have a large area of a recurring solid colour, the results can vary a great deal from printer-to-printer due to any number of circumstances.

So one of the questions that needs to be asked: is consistency of colour just as important as a distinguishable colour for the brand identity? I would say this is a yes for most people, and if it isn’t then I would question why.

Assuming we have designed the logo, and are now looking at the main brand colour to which to build the identity upon, which is a good way to find the best colour? You may have a kind of colour in mind so it now just comes down to fine-tuning it.

We need a colour for the logo that is available as Pantone, that can be converted to CMYK when needed, and will also work in RGB/HMTL.


An Easy Answer

There is an easy answer to this particular situation, and that would be get yourself a copy of the Pantone Color Bridge guide.

Out of all the various Pantone colour books, the Colour Bridge guide should be your go-to-guy for any print/screen colour requirements.

  • An Essential Guide for Designers, Pre-press and Printers
  • Bridge solid PANTONE Colours for process printing or Web design
  • The new PLUS SERIES COLOR BRIDGE provides process colour simulations of all solid PANTONE Colours – including the 224 new solid colours – in a convenient side-by-side comparison format, on coated stock
  • An invaluable multi-use colour reference tool, the COLOR BRIDGE can be used to select and specify solid PANTONE Colours, to determine how a PANTONE Colour will appear when reproduced in CMYK, or to create optimal display of PANTONE Colours on monitors and Web pages
  • HTML and sRGB values are provided, for applying colour selections across media
  • Includes colour index, lighting evaluation tool, digital image colour-correction tool, and design software

Not only does it list Pantone colours, it also shows you how each Pantone looks when converted to CMYK, for process printing, as well as the exact CMYK values needed.

Also, it provides the colour values for RGB and HTML.


With this book you are able to accurately, and confidently, determine which Pantone colour can be used that will degrade nicely to CMYK.

This will ensure that whatever print process your client needs they should have the tools in place to ensure output is consistent as possible.

You are then also provided with RGB/HTML colour values that will allow you to create screen only versions of your precious logo design, and in the process know that you have built in a solid level of consistency.

We will rarely have complete control: each monitor will display slightly differently as well as not being able to control the lighting environment which all contribute to colours being discerned differently.

What we can do, and provide out client with, is a level of predictability and consistency we can feel good about.

I used the Pantone Colour Bridge book in a recent project for Abacus Insurance. I knew the client needed a nice green for the logo design which would appear on: the website; various external building sign gage solution; and printed materials like stationery and brochures.

Given this wide selection of needs we had to ensure the green we used was of a hue that would work well as a Pantone colour as well as converted to CMYK for cheaper process printing.

An Example

As you can see from the logo specification sheet for the Abacus logo exterior signage we settled on Pantone 377C.

This was damn close to the green we had envisaged from the start, but also gave us a much needed sense of control with ultimate flexibility. You can see from the photo that Pantone 377 converts quite nicely to process CMYK.

I then created a two colour version of the logo, a process colour version, RGB and HTML versions. With each version I had this lovely sense of confidence knowing how the logo “should” look regardless of the colour system used.

There are many many Pantone colours that just look plain awful when converted to process CMYK, so the Colour Bridge book will help you work out which system you can afford to work with, or ignore.

You might only need to worry about printing with Pantone, and not process CMYK, in which case you have a much healthier selection to choose from whilst still having an accurate idea of how the colour needs to be specced for RGB and HTML.

I can’t stress enough the confidence this book will give you when next having to choose such an important single colour for your next logo job.

To be able to choose any colour, and confidently know how it will work and look across various platforms is too good to pass-up.

As with all Pantone color books they are not cheap. Expect to pay around £110 or so for the Pantone Color Bridge Coated edition, or around £190 for the Coated and Uncoated versions.

I got my Pantone Color Bridge from the London Graphic Centre which is where I buy most of my Pantone colour stuff.

Intro image via PSD Tuts


Written by: Graham Smith: The Logo Smith
1st Posted: 2011/12/21 & Post Updated: 2017/07/14
Filed In Categories: Resources, Tips & Advice

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