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Pantone Validated displays: What they are and do you need them?

Here's everything you need to know about what the 'Pantone Validated' sticker means and also, whether you should look for it in your next laptop.

Written by Chetan Nayak | Mumbai |
December 4, 2021 1:36:36 pm
Pantone Validated, Pantone Validation,The 'Pantone Validated' sticker can be found on some modern laptops targeted at creators and working professionals. (Image Source: The Indian Express/ Chetan Nayak)

One of the features you will see on some modern laptops and monitors targeted at creators and professionals is the ‘Pantone Validated’ sticker. This little sticker can be seen as a blue square with a white ‘tick’ inside. However, what does ‘Pantone Validated’ mean? How does it help your laptop or monitor and most importantly, do you need it?

These are some of the questions we will try to answer today. Let’s start with the basics.

What is Pantone and the Pantone Matching System?

Pantone is a company founded in 1962 by Lawrence Herbert. Herbert created the first colour matching system in 1963 after using his chemistry skills to create accurate inks and colours.

Today, Pantone is a term often used in the designer and printing industry. In a more modern context, Pantone refers to the Pantone colour-matching system, also called the Pantone Matching System (PMS). This is a large database of colours that is followed universally. Imagine the periodic table that you learnt back in chemistry class in school, but for colours.

Pantone is similar to the RGB and CMYK standards, where all colours have a unique number. All colours that are a part of the Pantone database have a unique number assigned to them, usually denoted in the form of Pantone-X or PMS-X. For instance, Pantone 17-5104 refers to ‘Ultimate Gray’, the Pantone colour of the year 2021.

Pantone Matching System (PMS) vs RGB vs CMYK

While PMS< RGB and CMYK are all colour databases that help identify and reproduce colours accurately, there is a simple difference between the three.

RGB: RGB is exclusive to the digital industry and will be used to identify and create colours on computers, laptops, tablets or similar devices. Instead of using any ink, RGB colours are created by blending Red (R), Green (G) and Blue (B), the three primary colours together and a large number of colours can be produced using combinations of these three hues. There is no black so the intensity of light is what makes up how light or dark an RGB colour is.

CMYK: Unlike RGB, CMYK, or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) is a standard used in the offline printing industry. The four-colour process uses these four hues to create a number of different colours accurately, with the key colour (usually black) helping set darker or lighter tones.

Both RGB and CMYK are commonly used but have some disadvantages. Since CMYK colours are mixed during the printing process itself, slight inconsistencies may sometimes be seen. On the other hand, RGB, being a digital-only standard, cannot be directly printed, and must be first converted to CMYK. RGB is also calibration-sensitive, meaning that a particular RGB colour may look slightly different on two different devices that have been colour calibrated differently. This is where PMS comes in.

PMS: The Pantone Matching System is universal and applies to both the digital and the physical domains. All Pantone colours can be converted to RGB or CMYK colours and in printing, all PMS colours are created with pre-mixed ink. This results in a very consistent and accurate output while printing.

What does the ‘Pantone Validated’ sticker mean?

The ‘Pantone Validated’ sticker on a laptop or a monitor gives you an assurance that you’re seeing accurate PMS colours that will look the same on any other Pantone Validated device. Colours displayed on a Pantone Validated display are also exactly how they will appear on print, so there are no inconsistencies while printing.

In the designing and printing industry, PMS colours are important as they separate shades of the same colour that sometimes may be too difficult to distinguish with simply the naked eye. The small ‘Pantone Validated’ sticker is hence, considered a must-have by designers who work with tools like Photoshop and Illustrator to create graphics, brand logos, etc.

Note: The Pantone Colour Matching system has a smaller colour gamut than the one most electronic displays are capable of displaying. This means that while all PMS colours can be displayed on electronic displays, all electronic colours may not be a part of the Pantone Colour database.

This is why when buying a laptop or display, a Pantone Validated sticker shouldn’t be your only lookout. The display must also support either sRGB colours or DCI-P3, more common digital colour spaces.

Do you need Pantone Validated displays?

As you must have figured out already, the Pantone Validated sticker is of importance to those who work with photos, videos and colours in general in any way. Usually, this may be professionals that work in the creative, designing and printing industry. These are the people who should look forward to ‘Pantone Validated’ displays.

If you are a casual user, a gamer or someone who uses their display to watch Netflix or sports, the Pantone Validated sticker may not really be helping you much. These people don’t necessarily need Pantone Validated displays and should focus more on other elements like whether their panel is an IPS, TN or VA panel. But if you are a creative professional for whom colour accuracy matters, then do get a product with the sticker.

Also keep in mind that not a lot of brands offer Pantone Validated laptops and displays to begin with, so you’d be stuck with limited options when hunting for products with the sticker. Hence, make sure you really need a Pantone Validated display on your machine before getting one.

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