Pantone Colour Matching for Screen Printing

Tips with Pantone for Screen Printing.

Now, we ought to begin by giving a quick outline of what is meant by Pantone. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a standardised method of specifying colours. It’s used across the world and in many industries. And screen printing t-shirts is included amongst them. In basic terms, with Pantone for screen printing we have a way of matching our ink colours to those in your artwork. In some instances, a precise match may not be a big deal. But in many cases, it is an important factor. For example, consistency of branding with your logo or company colours accurately repeated on the garment fabric. So, let’s start with an often asked question about pantone coated or uncoated for screen printing.

Pantone coated or uncoated for screen printing.

Pantone charts come in more than one version. For our needs, we’re considering those which are applicable to screen printing. Namely, the uncoated (U) and coated (C) types. To explain, coated Pantone books have a gloss finish to the colours that are printed on the paper. In contrast, there is no glossing with uncoated. Because of this the colour swatches look different when the two are compared. Specifically, coated has a shine and a more ‘saturated’ feel. Whereas uncoated colours are duller, more matt in appearance. Either can be used for screen printing purposes but coated Pantone guides are favoured. They offer a closer representation of the plastisol ink which is most commonly used for printing tees. Below, we’ll explore further the ins and outs of matching Pantone for screen printing.

Pantone coated or uncoated for screen printing.

Pantone coated or uncoated for screen printing

Best practice with Pantone guides when screen printing.

As mentioned, the idea with the Pantone Matching System is for separate parties to be able to agree on a specific colour or colours. So, ideally both customer and printer are looking at copies of the same Pantone chart. Preferably ones that are relatively current and in good condition. Because books can fade with age and therefore become less reliable. It’s worth noting that Pantone themselves recommend that books are regularly replaced.

The cost of Pantone books.

Clearly, any printing company worth their salt will have physical copies of Pantone books. However, it has to be said, they aren’t cheap. But Pantone and screen printing go hand in hand. So, for us, they’re simply another piece of equipment. That’s to say, part of our kit and a necessary expense. And some customers may feel that acquiring one is justifiable. If for no other reason that it’s such a significant part of their design concept. Understandably, others will not. That’s not the end of the world because there are other options which we’ll have a look at below.

Alternative approaches.

There are work arounds when you don’t have a Pantone chart but still want a close colour match. The most obvious is to actually send us an example of the shade you want. For instance, a previously printed garment. Or something with your business branding. We can compare this to our colour guide to find the best option. Incidentally, a physical item is preferred due to the potential for variance when looking at a screen. How a colour appears on one monitor can be a lot different to how it shows on another. Plus, the RGB and HEX systems used in web design cannot be reliably replicated when mixing ink. It’s a similar story with CMYK images insofar as they are somewhat hit and miss as far as matching goes.

Of course, nowadays there seems to be a digital solution for nearly everything. Hence, no surprise to find that there are Pantone converters. You know, software that offers an answer. On the whole, they’re not dependable or a substitute for the established methods of matching print ink to your design.

Pantone for screen printing.

Pantone for screen printing

Ink, print and other factors with Pantone.

There’s no doubt that Pantone colour matching for screen printing t-shirts and customising clothes helps achieve highly satisfactory results. But, for all its benefits, there are limitations. By which we mean other factors which have to be considered. One of which is the ink itself. Needless to say, there are numerous ink suppliers and different systems used to create inks. And a lot of them are very good, But from time to time it’s inevitable that there will be variations in what’s produced.

Also, certain screen printing techniques have an inherently unpredictable side to them. Discharge printing is a good example. How the dye of the base shirt discharges is not always consistent. In practice, this means that the print run can produce a colour which varies a little from that which is expected. There’s no getting round it, that’s simply the nature of discharge printing.

Shirt colour and Pantone screen printing.

There’s another point worthy of note when it comes to using Pantone for screen printing. And that’s the base shirt being printed. Broadly speaking, high quality blank t-shirts make for better results in terms of customisation. And that’s true whether or not you’re working to a Pantone reference number. When we’re talking about colour matching, white shirts will generally produce the most predictable finish. After all, the Pantone is printed on white paper. A fact which is echoed, at least to some extent, when screen printing a white textile.

Underbase and print colour.

In some instances, print can be applied direct to the garment surface. But tees, particularly coloured tees, can change the colour of printed ink. Consequently, and especially with darker fabrics, you often need to first print an underbase. The latter is a layer of white ink which acts as a base upon which to print artwork. Even then, the printed ink can be lightened slightly by the underbase due to a slight natural transparency in inks.

Well, there we go, some food for thought when matching design to ink. All being well, it offers an insight into Pantone and custom t-shirts. Whether to use Pantone coated or uncoated for screen printing purposes as well as other aspects of the process. It’s worth remembering that we can still bring your design to life without you giving us a Pantone reference. It’s all part of the discussion at the start of your project.

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