What does PMS mean?

I was at a Christmas party this week and some of us started talking shop. (I know, shouldn’t do that in a social setting. But these were all business colleagues.)

It seems that one of my colleagues was complaining to our printer that his logo he had gotten from HP looked vastly different when printed on press from what he saw on screen and was able to see when printed from his desktop printer, which was an HP by the way.

A two color job has to be printed in mixed inks, like ones from Pantone or Toyo. The ink manufacturer or the printers themselves actually mix varying colors to achieve one that matches what the client wants. This is why designers and printers use PMS. It stands for (no, not pre-menstrual syndrome) Pantone Matching System. The key word here is “matching”. The Pantone system is the one used the most in the US.

When I, as a designer, tell the printer I want to use GREEN #385, I know that the green I am going to see is warm and not too blue. Or if I ask for PMS #299 it will be a true blue, not a green or purple blue. Because they have had the color mixed to MATCH the color I want. It’s consistent and it works.

Each time I want something printed it will be THAT true blue because I specify that number which is a match to what I did before. And I know I cannot get that with a desktop printer . . . only when it goes on press. I have learned, when speaking to clients, to specifically say Press vs. Printer so they do not get confused thinking I mean their desktop printer.

It is a restriction that exists and designers and printers need to work with it, not simply around it.

Please understand that this is for two, sometimes three, color printing. The process is quite different when printing in Full Color. That is really a misnomer since it is not full color . . . it just looks like it. Someone way back in time came up with a unique way to fool the eye into thinking it is seeing full color by simply making dots for yellow, blue, red and black. The term CMYK comes from that. C=Cyan, a rather bright blue green or turquoise. M= magenta, a bright cool red similar to a hot pink. Y=yellow. And the K=black. (Don’t ask me why. I said, don’t ask me!)

When you see a printed page that has a lovely full color photo or artwork, you aren’t really seeing full color. You are seeing all those dots I just mentioned. Really good commercial printers can manipulate the dots so that an image has a bluish cast or is far warmer than the original piece of art. But . . . I digress.

Printing is a very cool media. It will be here for a while but many peopleĀ  are using electronic devices now that have no need for printing. I will address that in another post.

5 comments to What does PMS mean?

  • Hiya, I am really glad I’ve found this info. Nowadays bloggers publish only about gossips and web and this is really frustrating. A good website with exciting content, that is what I need. Thank you for keeping this web-site, I will be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Can’t find it.

  • I am still learning what I can and can’t do with Worpress. You are 100% correct. I need more images. After all, that’s what I do for a living! Hopefully you will see a difference between my older posts and more recent one. Thanks for writing.

  • And just what is your problem? I would love to help more if you want. GINNY

  • I created the design. Because that’s what I do. I am a Graphic Designer. Want help?

  • Yes, that would be fine for you to reference my blog with credit and sources.

    Thanks for asking. GINNY

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