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Free Pantone Colour Chart

Updated on November 12, 2011

Downloadable PDF Pantone Colour Chart

  • Free to use Pantone coated colour chart!


  • Easy downloadable PDF.


  • Fully customisable - easily add your logo to it.


  • Quick and effective colour matching.

For everyone who is involved in medium and large format printing the single biggest problem is colour accuracy. Wouldn't it be great if you could stop wastage, speed up your workflow, increase efficiency and accuracy? One way of doing this is to print your own Pantone colour swatches.

What are Pantone Colours?

Pantone Matching System (PMS)

Pantone colours are an industry standard used by printers, designers, artists, manufacturers and advertising agencies all over the world for accurate colour, design and quality control. There are many swatches available but the most common swatch is Pantone coated colours. Pantone coated colours allow easy matching of corporate colours and ensure accurate identity is preserved with every print run.

How Pantone Printing Should Work

Colour Matching

Any professional printing company will not only have their cameras, scanners and monitors calibrated but also their printers. Most often, the printers are run either by dedicated drivers or a RIP (Raster Image Processor). RIP's are far more accurate than using the dedicated drivers as you are able to load specific profiles for each media that you are using. As most print runs consist of photographs, text and graphics combined it is important to get the colours right with them all.

The way in which a RIP will treat photographs and graphics is different, however. RIP's will use embedded profiles within the photographs to determine the colours that should be printed whereas with graphics the colours are determined by look up tables. Unfortunately, graphics can appear quite different from what you can see on the monitor and what comes out of the printer. There are a number of reasons for this but it ranges from your monitor can display more colours than the printer can print, the design software is not displaying the colour accurately on the monitor and even different medias printing differently.

To improve this many design agencies will specify Pantone colours to enable better colour matching and it is up to the printing company to ensure this.

How Pantone Printing Actually Works

Colour Matching

The chances of having an inkjet printer that matches the professional Pantone coated swatch system is getting better over the years but in reality a lot of Pantone colours are still not accurate: Software bugs, RIP errors, printer operator errors (you have calibrated recently - haven't you??), design agency errors, different media, inks etc. The list is endless.... The bottom line is the printer operator usually has to step in and alter the design files in order to make things work by choosing colours they know are closer. Likewise there are just some Pantone coated colours that some printers just cannot achieve as the printer gamut is just not big enough. Many solvent printers suffer from this problem.

Free Pantone Colour Chart
Free Pantone Colour Chart

Colour Accuracy

An Easy Way to Match Colour Pantone Colours - Download Your Own Pantone Colour Chart

As all printers print differently and it is often difficult to describe colours accurately, Pantone coated charts enable printers to get accurate colours but only if your printer is capable and calibrated properly. Quite often a customer will specify a particular colour, whether it is a logo or type of branding and it is vital to get the colour correct. Colour management can help to improve results but it is never perfect and there are always issues. An easy way to get around this problem is to print out a Pantone colour chart and select a colour closest to your customer's requirements and manually alter the files for the best result. Alternatively, print the Pantone colour chart out and give it to the customer to let them choose. In addition, this is a handy way to check how well your printer is set up as you can compare Pantone colours from your printer with a professional coated swatch book.

A fully customisable and free Pantone colour chart can be downloaded from this link or click the image above.

How to use the Pantone Chart?

Print Your Own PDF Pantone Swatch

1) The simplest way is to print it out and keep it as a reference. Compare a customers Pantone colour reference with the printed chart from the PDF and see how your printer "interprets" and prints it. If it is a good match then you know that everything will be fine. If on the other hand it is not a good match then choose a colour closer to the Pantone swatch and change this in the file prior to printing.

2) When most clients get print runs done they usually turn up with a complement slip or business card and magically expect this to be a perfect reference for printing from! Use the printed PDF that came out of your own printer to match the colour you require as it will replicate the same as the customers printed reference.

3) Involve your customer as much as possible by letting them decide which colour to use by getting them to choose from the printed PDF Pantone Swatch. I fully recommend this method as there is no "come back" if the colour is not quite right as they chose it. Just make sure they choose the colour with decent lighting (as near to daylight as possible and definitely not halogen).

4) Stick the Pantone chart on your wall near the printer. Just like the Starship Enterprise has more flashing buttons and things beeping that most ordinary people understand, the same is true of Pantone charts. To the untrained eye they look impressive stuck on the wall. They give an impression of professionalism (even if you never use it!)

Printed Proofs

Accurate First Time

Lastly, always remember that a printed proof from your own printer will accurately show how the colours will look. You may have to apply a heatseal to it in order to show the truly finished product but it is worth it. Although this is quite time consuming it is better than a redo! I once had a boss that used to say to me "There is never enough time to print the job but there is always enough time to reprint it!" This was his unsubtle way of making sure all jobs were right first time even on tight deadlines.

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