Pantone colour names – where do they come from?

The Pantone Plus Graphics colours have always been known simply by a three or four digit number followed by a suffix to denote if they are printed onto shiny coated paper (C) or matte uncoated paper (U).

However the Fashion, Home & Interiors range of colours which are produced by dyeing fabric (although a coated paper version of the colours also exists) is different.  This range has a numbering system of two digits, a dash and four digits followed by a suffix denoting the material used (TCX for Cotton, TN for Nylon and TPX for paper) but the colours are also known by their descriptive name.






Photo Credit: emilychang via Compfight cc

The 2121 colours in the Fashion, Home & Interiors range are chosen from LCH colour space and the numbering system used reflects this e.g. 17-1664, the first pair of digits refers to the lightness scale which in Pantone’s case runs from 11 (white) to 19 (black), the second pair of numbers specifies the hue, and the third pair of numbers describes the chroma level.

The hue circle is divided into 64 sectors with 01 containing yellow-green through to 64 which contains green-yellow. The 64 sectors cover all of the pure colours with 00 being the neutral point. The Chroma level is divided into 65 steps staring with 00 a neutral and ending with 64 being the maximum chroma of the colour.

Thus the number 17-1664 denotes quite a dark, orange/red which is very saturated (bright), 17-0000 however is a very neutral grey but is the same lightness as the red colours.

Pantone colours are chosen by the Pantone Color Institute which is headed by a team of five people led by Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman. More than 40 global color experts work for the Pantone Color Institute with expertise in diverse industries including Fashion Clothing, Accessories, Footwear, Beauty, Home and Interiors, Consumer Electronics, Industrial Design and Graphic and Digital Design.

The inspiration for the colours came from all around the globe, in different natural environments and cultures as well as street fashion trends.

The origins of the colour names are fascinating and in some cases confusing - they come from common language terms, plants and flowers, animals and minerals and even the whimsical imagination of the designers.

Food is a common theme for the names particularly those in the yellow, orange and red hues. It can make us quite hungry when we are packing the individual SMART swatches and we see names such as Caramel Cream 13-1022 TCX, Popcorn 12-0824 TCX, Decadent Chocolate 19-1625 TCX and Ginger 17-1444 TCX!  However not all of the food names are unhealthy as there are a significant amount of fruit names including Grape 19-3728 TCX, Blueberry 19-4021 TCX, Banana 13-0947 TCX, Super Lemon 14-0754 TCX, Lime Green 14-0452 TCX and Strawberry Pink 16-1731 TCX and vegetables haven’t been forgotten with Celery 14-0647 TCX, Cherry Tomato 17-1563 TCX, Harvest Pumpkin 16-1260 TCX, Peapod 14-6324 TCX, Endive 13-0632 TCX and Sprout Green 12-5303 TCX


We are also envious of the luxurious opulence conjured in our imaginations with names such as Stretch Limo 19-4005 TCX, Caviar 19-4006 TCX, Emerald 17-5641 TCX, Dark Sapphire 19-4020 TCX, Crown Jewel 19-3640 TCX, Purple Reign 19-3620 TCX and Antique Bronze 17-1028 TCX.

Perhaps we can also imagine bathing in one of the seas named as colours - did you know that Adriatic Blue 17-4320 TCX is lighter and greener than Aegean Blue 18-4320 TCX? Or visiting one of the exotic locations although you may prefer to visit Monaco Blue 19-3964 TCX rather than Alaskan Blue 15-4225 TCX or Andorra 19-1327 TCX (which is a rich brown) rather than Outer Space 19-4009 TCX (inky black).

If you need to invest in Pantone Textile colours VeriVide as the only UK stockist can supply individual Smart swatches which is the economic way of buying just a few colours for a range. We also stock books with the complete range of colours for design inspiration. For more information email pantone@verivide.com or to place an order follow the link to our online Swatch shop

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