Hex Codes vs. Pantone: A Quick, Colorful Guide

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Partner & Chief Creative Officer
Feb 27, 2015

Give a web designer a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Give a web designer Pantone colors and you’ll never hear the end of it.

In the world of design, not all color types are created equal. Knowing the difference between the hex codes and Pantone colors is important, especially if you’re trying to design an awesome web design.

Web designers use hex (short for hexadecimal) codes when creating styles for a new website, banner ad or any online asset. Hex codes look like the weirdest Twitter hashtag ever, starting with the # symbol and ending with a combination of letters and numbers. This grouping of characters defines the color mixture, and each color has its own code.

Pantone (also known as PMS, short for the Pantone Matching System) colors appear primarily in print or fashion designs. They come from the Pantone company, the so-called “world-renowned authority on color,” which releases updated color guides every year. Like hex codes, Pantone colors each have very specific labels.

Why not just use the two color types interchangeably? Unlike Pantone colors, hex colors are “web safe.” This means they’ll render the same no matter what browser or device you’re using.

To be fair, web designers can use software to convert Pantone color labels to hex codes relatively accurately. But generally it’s easier on everyone on a web design project to have hex codes at the outset.

Class dismissed!

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