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Pantone® Suffixes and Process Builds (Part 2)

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What does C, CVC, U stand for?

The C, U at the end of the Pantone® number indicate the type of paper that the ink will be printed on. There is no difference between PMS 281C and 281U! They are the same inks! ‘C’ and ‘U’ indicated coated and uncoated papers. The way ink appears when printed will change depending on the paper. Switching between the coated and uncoated swatch books can help you if you are designing for uncoated paper- Illustrator, Quark and InDesign simulate the visual difference between the printed colors to make it easier for designers to visualize the final colors. Also, most design apps will give you different process builds of these colors if you convert them. The process builds will mimic the color difference you see on screen between the Coated and Uncoated colors.

The ‘CVC’ and ‘CVU’ suffixes are pre-2000 suffixes. Every few years, Pantone® will revise their color guides. ‘CV’ stands for “Computer Video”. The ‘C’ and ‘U’ at the end indicate coated and uncoated. If you work with files that have CVC or CVU colors in them, they were generated by older versions of most design software. Pantone® officially changed the suffixes and libraries in 2000. For example, Quark 4 uses the CVC suffix, while Quark 5 uses the C suffix.

As the Pantone® libraries are revised, the process definitions of the standard Pantone® inks changes as well. As a result, you may get different CMYK builds for PMS 281 C and you would for 281 CVC. In April of 2005, Pantone® released their newest libraries, which once again changed the process builds for their standard inks. As of this writing Adobe has not updated the libraries in the Creative Suite 2 to the current Pantone® libraries. Quark 7 does use the new libraries.

While the standard inks have not changed (PMS 281 is still 281), Pantone® has revised the color builds used in 4-color printing. You can download the new solid to process color color libraries (now called Color Bridge) from Pantone®’s website. It is a free download if you register with Pantone®.

The best way to judge a PMS color is by purchasing a Pantone sample book. These fan books have a sample of every PMS ink printed on coated, uncoated or matte papers. This way, you can see what the actual printed color looks like instead of relying on your monitor.

And before I forget- the most important thing I forgot to mention, and the one most likely to get me sued by Pantone is… What the hell does PMS stand for??? Pantone Matching System!


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