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The Dictionary

Many times those of us who work with (and for) Pantone on an everyday basis, slide into a vernacular that is unique to Pantone users.

Some of those terms are product specific, some are more scientific or technology derived terms and some are used industry-wide but with a shade of difference for our use.

This "dictionary" was developed as a simple and quick reference guide to help understand these terms. Definitions are brief and to the point.

It is also meant to be a living document. If you come across a term that you don't understand then please let us know and we can add it to our list.

As always, if you need more insight into any of the Pantone-related terms or concepts, we're here for you. We are Pantone experts with vast knowledge of the products, process, color workflow, and in general, what is right for your project.

In the meantime, here's our quick reference guide known as the Pantone Dictionary.


Print the Pantone Dictionary PDF or view the definitions below.

General Terminology

1 Analog

A completely non-digital process of evaluating color visually

2 BHT(-free)

BHT is an additive in plastic that has a yellowing effect on the color of objects that it is in contact to.

3 Brand Manager

The person responsible for maintaining the brand integrity externally through messaging, advertising, color, etc...

4 Calibration

Usually refers to setting your computer monitor to a specific standard (White space, etc...)

5 Coated

Common finish applied to paper for a slick and bright finish

6 Coatings

A colorant that is applied to the surface of an object (much like paint)

7 Color of the Year

Once a year event in December that forecasts what the main color of the following year will be.

8 Color Specification

The color instruction for a garment or a product

9 Colorfastness

The ability of a garment to retain it’s original color after machine washing

10 Cotton

The most widely used fiber in the world and the fiber type used in the main FHI system

11 Delta

The quantity of difference between two things.

12 Digital Printing

Digital printing is a method of printing from a software generated file of a digitally-based image directly to a variety of media.

13 Dyeing

The process of coloring fiber, yarn or fabric

14 Dyestuffs

Synonymous with dyes.

15 Fabric Construction

How a fabric is formed, e.g., woven, knit, felted, brushed, corduroy, etc...

16 Fashion Designer

A designer who creates apparel. Could be menswear, womenswear, outerwear, athletic apparel, etc...

17 Fashion Week

Major fashion show week highlighting big-name designers

18 Flexographic

Flexography is a form of printing process which utilizes a flexible relief plate.high speed rotary functionality, which can be used for printing on almost any type of substrate, including plastic, metallic films, cellophane, and paper

19 Graphic

Type of design used in packaging, printing, signage, etc...

20 Graphic Designer

A designer who works in printed formats or on-screen

21 Hand-Held Spectrophotometer

A “smallish” spectrophotometer device that is capable of being held in one hand

22 Humidity

For our purposes, the effect that the percentage of relative humidity has on the color of a fabric

23 Inkjet

Inkjet printing is a type of computer printing that recreates a digital image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper and plastic substrates

24 Interior Designer

A designer who works to create room, office or house design.

25 Lithographic

Lithography is a printing process that uses a metal plate on which the image areas are worked using a greasy substance so that the ink will adhere to it, while the non-image areas are made ink-repellent.

26 Non-Contact Spectrophotometers

A spectrophotometer type that does not need to touch the object it is reading. Suitable for food, cosmetics and paint.

27 Off-Set

Offset printing is a commonly used printing technique in which the inked image is transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface.

28 Opaque


29 Packaging

Box, bottle or bag that contains product for sale. Usually is printed directly on or has has paper printing in.

30 Palette

The colors chosen to work together for a specific season.

31 Pantone Color Institute (PCI)

The color-consulting and color trend forecasting division of Pantone

32 Polyester

A synthetic fiber used in many applications. For Pantone’s purpose it is used mostly for performance apparel.

33 Polypropylene

also known as polypropylene, is a thermoplastic polymer used in a wide variety of applications.

34 Polystyrene

is a versatile plastic used to make a wide variety of consumer products. As a hard, solid plastic, it is often used in products that require clarity, such as food packaging and laboratory ware.

35 Printer

A commercial business that produces printed materials. Could also be a physical printing device in the home or for commercial use.

36 Product Designer

A designer who specifically develops products. Also known as an Industrial Designer.

37 RIP Software

“Raster Image Processor” software that interprets the data from a design program and sends to a printer 

38 Solid

When 2 or more inks are mixed to make a solid ink color. Also known as spot colors

39 Substrate

The surface that is being colored, will vary by fiber, paper type, construction, finish, etc...

40 Temperature

For our purposes, the effect that temperature has on color

41 Texture

For our purposes, the actual surface of a fabric and the effect it has on color (reflection) and hand.

42 Transparent


43 Trend Forecasting

Color palettes put together prior to the season. Can be for specific markets, e.g., childrenswear, activewear...

44 Uncoated

paper stock with no finish for a dull appearance

Pantone Products

45 Capsure

A handheld device that reads any surface and give you the Pantone equivalent in any of it’s color libraries.

46 Chip (Chicklets)

Assorted sizes of cotton fabric backed with a stiff card stock. Used for design boards and other internal communication.

47 Chip Book

Binder type books that have 6 tear-away perforated chips per color, 7 colors per page. Generally refers to the Solid Color Chip Books, however both the Graphics and Fashion systems have multiple Chip Books, including the FHI Speci er Chip book.

48 Chip Set

Three volume, binder-style desktop reference with 35 1” x 1” removable cotton fabric chips per page. Part of the Fashion system.


Four color ink set used in printing; C=Cyan, Y=Yellow, M=Magenta and K=Black. Also known as 4 color process. The CMYK Guide contains CMYK process colors and values.

50 Color Bridge

A fan deck showing PMS Solid colors on one side and their closest, industry-standard CMYK color equivalent on the other.

51 Formula Guide

The iconic color reference tool used around the world by Graphic Designers (for inspiration and communication) and Printers (for mixing color recipes). Available in Coated & Uncoated versions.

52 Guide

Portable handheld fan deck (similar to a paint book). Pantone has several guides for both the Graphics and Fashion systems. The most popular is the Formula Guide for Graphics and the Color Guide for Fashion.

53 Library

Seven-volume, six-ring binder desktop reference with removable 2” x 2” unbacked cotton fabric mini-swatches for each FHI color. This is the largest set in the system.

54 Lighting Indicator Sticker

A small sticker that has two colors that match under D65 lighting but not under others. Acts as a way to check the lighting conditions that you are working in.

55 Metallics

Trendy, modern and luxurious colors mostly used in packaging and signage for their eye-catching flair. Products include the Guide, Chip Book, and Replacement Pages.

56 Munsell

A legacy color system that denotes color by scientific notation, using Hue, Chroma and lightness

57 Munsell-Farnsworth Hue Test

Industry standard for visually checking the eye’s ability to determine color differences

58 Neons

Colors that have a glowing effect ( uorescent). Products include the Guide, Chip Book, and Replacement Pages.

59 On-Demand Prints

These products are available via special order;Super Swatch, Simulator Sheets, Sticker Chips, Super Chips

60 Pantone Connect

New web application that enables one to make palettes, check colors cross-reference from any computer and/or mobile device

61 PantoneLIVE

A X-Rite web application that simulates what a PMS color will look like on one of 35 substrates, e.g., brown carton, white toothpaste tube, etc...Primarily for printed materials.

62 Passport

Portable folio-style book with 65 small 0.6” x 0.4” cotton chips per page. Can view of all FHI colors when fully opened.

63 Pastels

Very light colors. Products include the Guide, Chip Book, and Replacement Pages.

64 Planner

Single-volume, three-ring binder desktop reference with 35 individual 5/8” x 5/8” cotton chips per page. Pages can be removed, but not the individual colors.

65 Replacement Pages

Individual pages you can add into Solid Chip books (PMS) or Color Specifier books (FHI). Each page includes seven colors with the ability to tear out six individual chips per color.

66 Shimmer

Metallic and pearlescent coatings colors for hard product development. Products include the Color Guide, Color Speci er, Replacement Pages, and TPM Sheets.

67 Simulator Prints

An approximation of what a PMS color will look like on any of the 35 substrates in PantoneLIVE

68 Specifier

Refers to the FHI Color Speci er (TPG) chip book with removable paper chips of all FHI Colors.

69 Sticker Chips

Customizable, on-demand peel-able sticker chips for PMS spot colors. Each sheet has up to five colors with seven stickers per color.

70 Super Chip

Large, customizable, on-demand reference "chips" for PMS spot colors. Up to six of the same or different PMS removable chips.

71 Super Swatch

One larger 8” x 7” representation of a PMS spot color printed on a wide-format printer by request.

72 Swatch Card

A 4” x 8” double-layered, unbacked fabric that is the color standard denoted by a Pantone name and number. Available in cotton, nylon and polyester.

73 View Color Planner

Published twice per year, it is the spring/summer and fall/winter color palette forecasted roughly 18 months in advance.

74 View Home

Published once per year, it is is a color forecast strictly for home goods (soft and hard)  in advance of the upcoming year by about 9 months.

75 View Point Colour

Color magazine published twice per year with color palettes and articles regarding color.

Concepts to Understand

76 Achievability

The ability of a color to be replicated on a certain fabric or fiber type.

77 Base Inks

The set of fundamental inks that are used in combinations to make all PMS colors

78 Color Management

The steps taken to reduce the variability of the color process to ensure predictable results

79 Cross-Reference

A tool that converts from one Pantone system to another, e.g, TCX to PMS

80 Daylight

For our purposes, usually described in terms of Kelvin degrees, e.g., D65 equals Daylight 6500 Degrees Kelvin, standard for apparel

81 FHI

Stands for Fashion, Home & Interiors - used for any product development

82 Formulation

The percentages of the dyes used to produce a particular color

83 PMS

Stands for Pantone Matching System - ink colors used for printing

84 Profiling

Software & Hardware-driven adjustments to make your printer’s output more accurate

85 Reproducibility

The ability of a color  to be consistently replicated on a particular fabric 

86 Standard

An object or system that defines the accepted norm.

87 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

A step by step process written out and posted so that the procedure is consistently followed.

88 TCX

Stands for Textile Cotton Extension (Extension was when the system was extended in 2011)

89 TPG

Stands for Textile Paper - Green. Green for ecologically friendly coatings, when lead was taken out of formulas.

90 Work Flow

A step by step mapping of individual processes that lead to a product, idea, etc...

Color Science

91 Color Space

The gamut defined by a specific color system, e.g., L*A*B*, CMYK, etc...

92 Cones

Small receptors on the retina that read color, besides black and white

93 Constancy

The amount that one color may shift in color due to a lighting change

94 Cool White Fluorescent

a fluorescent type of bulb that produces a medium to high temperature often adding blue wavelengths

95 Digital Master Standard

The official spectral data for a Pantone color and is sold in QTX format.

96 Drimaren

Class of fiber reactive dyes developed by Clariant (now Archroma)

97 Extended Gamut

CMYK plus OGV (Orange Green Violet) expands the gamut (the range of colors) greatly over regular CMYK.

98 Fluorescent

a low-pressure mercury-vapor gas-discharge lamp that uses fluorescence to produce visible light. An electronic current in the vapor produces short-wave ultraviolet light that causes the phosphor coating of bulb to glow.

99 Fovea

A small concave part of the retina where most of the cones are found.

100 Gamut

The range of possible colors within a system.

101 HEX values

A color space notation used widely in describing colors for the web

102 Incandescent

An incandescent light bulb is an electric light with a wire filament heated until it glows. The filament is enclosed in a bulb to protect the filament from oxidation. Current is supplied to the filament by wires embedded in the glass.

103 L*A*B*

Color notation system. L* is where a color falls on a scale of lightness and darkness, A* is where a color falls on the red and green axis. B* is where a color is on the yellow blue axis.

104 LED

A light-emitting diode is a semiconductor that emits visible light when an electrical current passes through

105 Light Box

A booth containing several types of standardized light sources, e.g., D65 or D50, CWF, Inca, UV. Used to evaluate color.

106 Metamerism

Two color samples that may match under one light sources but do not under one or more others

107 Nanometer

One billionth of a meter

108 Optical Brighteners

OBs are added to a wide range of product to make them appear whiter, e.g., white clothing, paper, toothpaste, laundry detergents. Fluorescent brightening agents

109 Photons

An elementary particle that represents a quantum of electromagnetic force (light).

110 QTX File

A simple file containing the spectral data of a particular color

111 Reflectance Curve

A curve that illustrates the reflectance of light from a surface, wavelength by wavelength throughout the visible spectrum, as a means of determining the color of that surface.

112 Rods

Small receptors on the retina that read black and white colors

113 Spectral Data

A series of numbers that shows reflectance data at different intervals of the visible wavelengths

114 Terasil

Class of fiber reactive dyes developed by Huntsman

115 TL84

A narrow band of tri-phosphor fluorescent light

116 UL30

a narrow-band tri-phosphor fluorescence used in commercial settings due to energy-saving properties. Often is in the yellowish-red energy space.

117 Visible Spectrum

The nanometers from 400 nm to 700 nm. The range of what a human eye sees.

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