What color do you have in mind?

by Ramona on August 16, 2013

(Click on the pictures to be taken to the website)

During conference, Robin Spindt, owner of Attitude Couture (http://www.attitudecouture.com/) , presented us with her journey on becoming a dress designer. As I was leaving the ballroom, I passed by a group of attendees and some words lingered in the air-“what is Pantone?” 

Robin explained that she sketches a dress and has a color in mind for the final dress she envisions. If she is thinking daffodil or fuchsia, and sends those words, along with the sketch to the factory, the person choosing the fabric color may envision more blue or golden undertones to the color than what Robin has envisioned. The dresses would be made, shipped and when Robin opened the boxes, she would be disappointed the color was not what she had in her mind. The dresses would have to be remade and it would delay shipment to stores across the nation in time for prom season. A whole season could potentially be lost just because of a misunderstanding in communicating color. 

Luckily, there is an easy system used worldwide for all types of manufacturing from dresses to paint, embroidery thread to printers inks, it is call the Pantone Color System.

There are many color systems on the market, but the Pantone system is internationally recognized. To be sure what one person is thinking and another receiving; the number of the color can be easily referenced to communicate exactly what color is in the mind of the designer. Robin can pick the color she has in mind, look at the color number, and then place that number on the spec sheet sent to the factory.

Robin’s speech included the following pictures. She comes up with a final sketch of a dress which is then faxed to the factory:

To be sure the factory knew exactly what color she had in mind; she placed the color number (703c) on the fax sheet with the sketch:


When the dresses arrived at her door they were exactly as Robin had envisioned, complete with the exact color:

When I was doing commercial embroidery, a logo would be sent to me that had been used in commercial advertising, letterhead and business cards. The printer had used the Pantone system for choosing the colors to brand the logo. My job at that time as the embroiderer became one of an investigator to choose the colors from the selections of embroidery threads to as closely match the thread to the ink colors as I could. I took out my trusty Pantone color fan (pictured above) and with the customer, we together chose the thread that matched as closely as possible. One thing in matching to keep in mind is one person’s eye is not the same as another’s. I had friends in design school who were unable to see blue or gold undertones in color. In choosing embroidery thread, what I could see, the customer may not. That was why it was important for the customer to be there to help choose. Sometimes we would stitch one or two logos and choose what looked the closest. Even the surface color of the shirt would affect the outcome of color in the embroidery. 

During the time I was doing embroidery, there wasn’t a thread company that used the Pantone match system; today there are. Madiera is one such company.  Just type in the Pantone color and the search engine will automatically pop up with the closest match.


There is even software on the market that will bring up matching threads to the Pantone color system. The caveat there is not all computer monitors are the same, so the color may be slightly different from one person’s computer to another.

The Pantone color fans are used in all types of business from fabric manufacturers to interior designers, embroiderers to screen printers and even forecasters in choosing color trends. It is an invaluable resource in communicating color. 

Check out the Pantone website…it’s fascinating! There are forecasting trends and they even have a chosen color for the year:

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