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Achieve Pantone Color of the Year 2021 on Packaging

Posted December 14, 2020 by X-Rite Color

The Pantone Color Institute just announced PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating as the Pantone Color of the Year 2021.


According to the Pantone Color Institute, PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating, a marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting. Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power. Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation. These two independent colors that come together to create an aspirational color pairing, conjoining deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the optimistic promise of a sunshine filled day.


Achieve Pantone Colors of the Year 2021 on Packaging | X-Rite Blog 

As brand owners begin to specify Ultimate Gray + Illuminating in product designs, formulators, printers, and converters must consider how to accurately achieve both of these colors across multiple packaging substrates. 


Pantone has created resources to help designers use Ultimate Gray + Illuminating in their palettes and designs. Today we’re offering tips to help brands, formulators, and package printers produce Color of the Year accurately and consistently with a digital color workflow.

 Achieve Pantone Color of the Year 2021 on Packaging | X-Rite Blog

Benefits of a Digital Packaging Workflow

Traditionally based on physical references, Pantone is the language of color. However, physical references have shortcomings. First, light exposure, dust, and general use can change the appearance of physical references over time, leading to unclear expectations and incorrect specifications. Also, since ink is not 100% opaque, printing the same color ink on white and brown board will result in a different color. This creates a challenge for packaging printers who must achieve the same color on a variety of substrates like corrugated board, white labels, and blister packs.


PantoneLIVE is a cloud-based ecosystem that houses scientific, precise, repeatable spectral data for Pantone References. It also removes the confusion and rework associated with trying to match physical references on different substrates using master and dependent standards. 

  • A master standard is a digital target based on the Pantone Formula Coated Guide. However, not all Pantone Master Standards can be achieved with all printing processes or on all substrates.  
  • Dependent standards level the playing field by showing how closely a Pantone Color can be achieved on different substrates using the target printing process. PantoneLIVE includes dependent standards for a number of important packaging substrates within many applications. These PantoneLIVE libraries contain spectral color data for both solids and tints. 

You can find the full PantoneLIVE library specifications on Pantone's website. 

Fast Formulation for Pantone Color of the Year | X-Rite Blog
Image courtesy VDL Cosmetics 

Achieving Ultimate Gray + Illuminating in a Digital Packaging Workflow

Since PantoneLIVE digital color data is stored in a secure cloud database, everyone from brand owners and designers through ink formulators, prepress, and production managers can reference the same color data to make informed decisions. It integrates with InkFormulation software, eXact handheld spectrophotometers, and ColorCert quality assurance software for an efficient end-to-end digital workflow. 

1.  Specify Ultimate Gray + Illuminating The 2021 Color of the Year are available in PantoneLIVE Production for Print and Packaging, which simulates the appearance of Pantone Colors on 36 packaging substrates. This enables prepress to evaluate the appearance of the final printed package using master and dependent standards.

Achieve Pantone Color of the Year 2021 on Packaging | X-Rite Blog

2. Formulate Ultimate Gray + Illuminating
Formulators can reference the spectral data for Ultimate Gray + Illuminating in PantoneLIVE to create recipes in InkFormulation softwareLearn how it works in our Formulate Pantone Color of the Year Fast blog.

3.  Monitor the Quality of Ultimate Gray + Illuminating
Quality controllers can use an an X-Rite eXact handheld spectrophotometer to measure samples and compare them with the target spectral data in PantoneLIVE. We outline an end-to-end pressroom workflow using PantoneLIVE in our Key to Managing Color in the Pressroom blog. 

Brands and printers can use the ColorCert Suite to monitor real time print results and ensure COY is achieved consistently across their global suppliers. Learn how Coca-Cola WEBU uses ColorCert to achieve Coke Red across suppliers. 


This combined solution ensures consistency and accuracy from specification through final delivery and eliminates the need for expensive and time-consuming on-site press checks.

Will You be Producing Ultimate Gray + Illuminating on Packaging?

A digital color workflow powered by PantoneLIVE has a lot of benefits, especially for printers who need to get to market fast with the Pantone Color of the Year 2021. 

Get in touch if you have questions or need support. We look forward to seeing Color of the Year designs on store shelves soon! 


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