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Changing colours

Last autumn Pantone launched a new colour system, Goe. Now that the inks are shipping, Rob Carney finds out whether you need to make the jump

It was over 45 years ago that Pantone introduced the now universal Pantone Matching System (PMS) - a system that every single designer and creative professional has to be familiar with. And with Goe (it's not an acronym by the way), introduced last September, Pantone has released a colour specification system to complement the standardised PMS.

It's an important distinction - Goe doesn't make your existing reference books and swatches redundant, it simply offers 2,058 colours compared with the 1,114 colours in the original spot-colour system. Goe could replace the PMS in your workflow, but there's absolutely no guarantee that a PMS number can be precisely colour-matched to a Goe number. Around 40 per cent of the PMS colours are in the Goe system (though with a new reference number) and you can use the myPantone Palettes software to determine the best match.

In short, it's very likely that you'll need to buy both systems, at least until Pantone decides whether it can standardise Goe and phase out the PMS.The Goe System bundle, which comes housed in an orange cube, costs £401 and includes the GoeGuide, GoeSticks and myPantone Palettes. The GoeGuide and myPantone Palettes bundle costs £104. So for a small studio, it's quite an outlay if each of your designers is going to have the full bundle.

Know your numbers
To avoid confusion, Goe has a new three-part numbering system. While you may know certain PMS colours by heart, the numbering system was rather arbitrary - for instance, can you work out what colour Pantone 908C is? The Goe system is much more logical, separating the three numbers by hyphens in order to locate the colour in the GoeGuide (which is arranged chromatically and can be fanned out like a colour wheel).

The first number refers to the colour family - anything from one to 165. At the head of the colour family is a 'full-strength colour' made up of one or two Goe mixing bases.

The second number is the page within the colour family (some families have only one page, while others have between two and five).The second number therefore ranges from one to five, and determines the amount of black in the colour.

Finally, the third number refers to the colour position on the page (and indeed the amount of Pantone Clear in the colour) ranging from one at the top to seven at the bottom. The C, like before, stands for printing on coated stock.

Spotting the difference between a Goe and PMS reference is really about hyphens. For example: Pantone Goe 4-1-4C is a yellow found in colour family four, page one and in the fourth position on the page, while Pantone 414C is a grey found on page 48 of the coated formula guide. So how does the Goe system fit into your workflow? And more specifically, how can you guarantee accurate colour reproduction? Well, at a desktop level, those using QuarkXPress will find the Goe coated swatch library within the 7.31 update at www.quark.com. It's simply a matter of specifying a spot colour as normal. And similarly, the Goe digital colour swatch library installs directly into Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign - just specify a swatch in your document. Finally, you can export your colour palettes directly from the myPantone Palettes software, included when you buy a GoeGuide, GoeStick or GoeSystem bundle.

What you can't currently do is easily determine how a Goe colour will look when printed with CMYK inks. There's no Color Bridge Guide such as that in the PMS. In fact, Goe colours are not CMYK-referenced at all in the GoeGuide. Because it's positioned as a cross-media system, they are referenced as RGB (or actually sRGB - which was, to much uproar, not originally specified on the GoeGuide).

Achieving perfect output
To ensure accurate reproduction (rather like the PMS) you supply a colour reference number and Pantone Palette Card with Goe Chips attached. Naturally, your printer will need the Goe Ink Mixing Bases or get the ink in pre-mixed. While the PMS has 13 mixing bases, the Goe system has just ten, plus a clear ink. They are (and are the same as the full-strength colour mentioned earlier):Medium Yellow, Medium Purple, Bright Orange, Dark Blue, Bright Red, Medium Blue, Strong Red, Bright Green, Pink, Neutral Black.

As we've said, Goe isn't supposed to replace the Pantone Matching System you're familiar with. What it does do is add more colours, and offer an intuitive way of creating colour palettes and sending them for review to printers and clients. Whether you adopt this new technology depends on your printer's flexibility, the size of your wallet and your desire for more special colours. Put it this way, there's a lot of life left in your old Pantone books yet.

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