Pantone Colors in Office

How can you use Pantone Color names in Word or other MS Office documents?

Sometimes you’re given a specific color using the Pantone color scheme.  Most commonly this happens for a corporate logo.  The Ford car company specifies ‘PMS 294C’ for their blue logo.  McDonald’s uses PMS 123C and PMS 485C (yellow and red).

How can you translate that PMS code into something Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint understands?

Strictly speaking you can’t.  Windows and Office don’t directly support Pantone colors.  But you can get near matches and we’ll show you how in this article.

On-Screen vs. Print

Unless you went to art school or paid attention in high school art classes, you probably think colors are simple, Red, Purple, Green etc.  Believe me they are a lot more complicated, add computer graphics and they get even more complicated.

Microsoft Office lets you specify colors using either RGB (a mix of Red, Green, Blue) or HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) which are color systems for on-screen use.

Pantone Color 1

That works for on-screen use but printing is different.

You’ve probably noticed that the color on a printed page is different from what you see on the screen.  There can be several reasons for that but mainly because the color is made on screen differently from the ink for the page.

Commercial printing is mostly done using CMYK, a mix of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, to make the required color.  Your color printer probably comes with a set of CMYK ink/toner cartridges.

On-screen colors are made with RGB –  a mix of Red, Green and Blue. They are also the main colors the human eye distinguishes.

Pantone is a system of color specification and matching so that printed material have the same colors in different places or times. That’s important for consistency but also legally.  Many corporate logos and designs nominate specific Pantone colors and woe upon any company or printer who gets it wrong.  Whole print runs have been scrapped and even sides of trucks repainted just because the color wasn’t exactly right.

Pantone in Office

You can get an approximate match for a Pantone color (PMS, Pantone Matching System) to use in an Office document.  The colors might even look the same to the untrained eye.

If you’re getting something commercially printed, consult with the printer and make sure they know that certain colors in your artwork should match with exact Pantone colors.  Add Comments to the document with the PMS codes as a reminder.

Pantone Color 2

All that said and understood, there are plenty of web sites that have lookup tables for Pantone PMS colors to RGB and even HTML color codes for web pages.

For example Ford logo color ‘PMS 294C’ equivalent is 0, 47, 108 in RGB for Office.  The McDonald’s colors are 255,199,44 for PMS 123C and 218,41,28 for PMS 485C (yellow and red).

Use the RGB equivalents wherever you need to set a color in Office (font, background etc).  Go to the color selector, More Colors, Custom tab as shown above.

You can drop $49 to Pantone for their official Pantone Color Manager software which appears to include both RGB and web equivalents.  For most people that’s an unnecessary expense.

There are many Pantone to RGB color tables on the web. Try because the colors are visible as well as the codes. Use the web page find (Ctrl + F) to quickly jump to the PMS code you’re looking for.

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