How To Use Pantone Colours for Textile Design & Manufacturing


This Post covers:

  • What Pantone Guide is right for you

  • How to use your guide for print design & with manufacturers

  • How to check colours On your printed samples & Swatches

    Colour is hands down the funnest part when planning out your collection! However there are some technical things to consider in order to get those colours right from development through to production. This all starts with using Pantone Colour Guide! This tool is essential for any fashion biz and in this post I’m going to take you through what you need to know about using Pantones when developing your prints and collection. 

Intro to Pantones…

Thanks to the Pantone Colour Matching system developed in 1950, your designers, manufacturers and other suppliers in different locations can all be across your specific colour needs. So instead of saying, ‘let’s make this a light peachy creamy colour’- which is of course going to be interpreted differently by each individual- you can actually make reference to a Pantone Colour Code like, ‘Peach Fuzz 13-1023 TPX’. Much much easier!

What Pantone book is right for you…

There are actually several types of Pantone Colour guides available as Pantone caters to many different industries and materials such as packaging and printed materials, product design and plastics, digital design for web and app design, fashion and home for fabrics and print design. To avoid confusion here you should be using a guide labeled ‘Pantone Fashion, Home + Interiors’ and there are two options you can choose from to suit your needs and budget;

  • Cotton Swatch Books (TCX): These are actual cotton swatches dyed to each individual colour. There are a few different format options such as the passport guide or chip set. However, these can be quite costly and range from a few hundred to even a few thousand dollars for the full cotton swatch library! 

  • Paper Version (TPX/TPG): luckily, there’s a much more cost effective option, which is to go for Pantone’s paper version of the cotton colour system. This is the TPX guide or just recently updated to the TPG guide. (Textile Paper Green- all lead and chromium content from the TPX products have been removed for an environmentally friendly update!) Most of my clients and I use a Paper Version. I currently use the fan deck version but the chip set works really well when matching each colour in your artwork as you’re able to take out each individual chip and hold it against your design to get a perfect match. Take a look at the fashion Pantone range here.

Pro Tip: The Pantone colour inks can fade over time. Depending on how heavily you use your guide and the amount of sun exposure it’s had, Pantone recommends you replace your book every year. There are also new colours that Pantone adds to their guides every so often. You can also buy these new colours in a separate book! 

Using Pantones in your artwork 

Pantone colours are super neccessay when it comes to designing and producing a print design that will be screen printed. This is because, during the screen printing process, each screen is cut for each individual colour in a print design, so you’ll want to give your manufacturer an exact colour and ink to be prepared for that screen. If you want to know more about this process you can read my previous post about screen and digital printing.

When working with a textile designer, you can implement the use of Pantone colours in two ways.

  1. You can pre pick your Pantones to suit your collection and give these to your textile designer at briefing stage. 

  1. You can give your designer an idea of the colour palette and number of colours you would like in your print design and then once you’re happy with the colours in the artwork at the final stages, the Pantones can be picked out to match what you see. 

With the process of option two; matching the chosen colours to Pantone codes, we usually match to what we see and like on our own screen. Some clients prefer to colour match themselves from their own screen or some trust their textile designer’s visual eye to do this for them. 

Another important point is that colours on our screen reflect more light than the colours in our Pantone book, so here you may need to use your own discretion when making colour choices. So for example, your colour on screen may look similar to two or three Pantone colours in the guide, so you’ll just need to make that decision based on what you personally prefer. When these situations occur, I personally go for the Pantone that looks the least ‘dull’ to avoid the colour coming out looking too ‘dirty’ in production/sample.

Assessing print swatches and samples

So, you've worked with a textile designer to select your Pantones and given them to your manufacturer… Now it’s time to asses the sample or swatch they’ve printed to make sure the colours match back to the code you referenced. Doing this in natural light is your best bet. You’ll need to make the decision to either approve the colours or request changes. Although, it’s ideal for your colours to be an exact match to you chosen Pantones, there are many factors that influence the ink/colour preparation process in the factory, such as the lighting it took place in and of course your manufacturers individual perception of the colour. Sometimes you’ll need to weigh up how ‘off’ the colour really is and if it’s worth the time and cost to re print another sample. 

Pro Tip: Always ask your manufacturer what Pantone guide they’re using first! If they are using a significantly old version, it can be a good idea to buy them the guide you’re using or intend to use also! It’s an extra expense but often worth it! It can also score you brownie points with a new factory!

If the colour is only five or ten percent off from your Pantone code, then it’s usually not worth the hassle! Ask a friend or colleague what they think of the colours and over all look of the design without showing them the Pantone codes. Often we can get too caught up on things being perfect when in reality your customer won't be able to notice that your pink isn’t an exact ‘Almond Blossom 13-2006 TPX.’ 

Christina xx