Fun Fact Friday: Pantone - 50 Years of Color

  • Author: Mark
  • Posted: Friday, May 17, 2013
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Country Line Hardware paint department

Paint Department Image by Country Line Hardware


Our Fun Fact Friday this week is dedicated to COLOR. The time has come to paint your house; whether you are brightening or calming the wall color, the first step to colorful transformation is a stop at the paint department. The Skittles Rainbow (though tasty) is lackluster when compared to the walls of color cards. You collect an overwhelming amount of color cards - some actually hold your interest while others are simply out of the question. I tend to ponder wall colors I would have never given a second thought after visiting the paint department at my local hardware store. Still, a question remains ... where do all these colors come from? Most paint companies have color specialists or consultants. But the history of color is very interesting....

Here are some awesome historical color charts:


Richard Waller 1686 color table

A 1686 Color Table quantified by Richard Waller
Image from


Moses Harris' 1766 Color Wheel

Color Wheel curated by British entomologist Moses Harris in 1766
Image from


German naturalist:inventor Jacob Christian Schaffer color system 1769

German naturalist and inventor Jacob Christian Schäffer created the above
color system that placed hierarchy on the primary colors in 1769.
Image from


This year, Pantone (the world's color authority) celebrates it's 50th year of business. But how did they attain the color authority position that they hold so well? The answer: serendipity.

In the 1950's Pantone was a commercial printing company. It wasn't until a part-time hire in 1956 that the color and ink division took off. Lawrence Herbert, a newly graduated college student who worked for Pantone, was acquainted with chemistry - which became a paramount skill when systematically producing and matching colors. Herbert's technique was deemed The "Pantone Matching System." It standardized colors using ratios similar to the way a baker measures out ingredients to come to a consistent result every time. Today the Pantone Matching System is used by painters, fashion designers, graphic artists, and countries (to standardize the color of national flags).



Pantone's extensive color chart


An annual practice of Pantone is the unveiling of a "Color of the Year." Pantone hosts an international gathering with color specialists from foreign nations to pick the color of the year. In 2012, the color of the year was Tangerine Tango, which birthed cosmetic lines by make-up heavyweights like Sephora. The 2013 color of the year is Emerald, which just so happens to be the birthstone of May. Check out Catharine's post to read more about the 2013 Color of the year: Emerald. And now to share a kismet experience from this morning: Caroline (our sales wizard) and Karen (our creative director) both walked into the office wearing virtually the same outfits, with Caroline in Emerald! Weird....



Caroline and Karen looking posh in Emerald!


For more on Pantone, check out their website, where they have an awesome infographic to celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, and the ever-fruitful Wikipedia.