How many colours can you see? Here’s a test to see how many you can detect!

I stumbled on this colour IQ test when I was researching the difference between RGB and CMYK colours for my new Redbubble shop – do it here with this link.  I know what I scored – let me know what you scored?!  It’s fascinating for artists to see how they go on this test.

Pantone began in New Jersey, USA in the 1950s as the commercial printing company of brothers Mervin and Jesse Levine, M & J Levine Advertising.

In 1956, its founders, both advertising executives, hired recent Hofstra University graduate Lawrence Herbert as a part-time employee.

Herbert used his chemistry knowledge to systematise and simplify the company’s stock of pigments and production of coloured inks; by 1962, Herbert was running the ink and printing division at a profit, while the commercial-display division was US$50,000 in debt. He subsequently purchased the company’s technological assets from the Levine Brothers for US$50,000 (equivalent to $420,000 in 2019) and renamed them “Pantone”.

Pantone GP1601A Coated and Uncoated Formula Guide – 2019

The company’s primary products include the Pantone Guides, which consist of a large number of small (approximately 6×2 inches or 15×5 cm) thin cardboard sheets, printed on one side with a series of related colour swatches and then bound into a small “fan deck” like the one above.  For instance, a particular “page” might contain a number of varying blue tints.


Commercial artists, advertising agents and anyone who wanted a “standardised” system to match colours went wild for Pantone. It rapidly became the standard.

The idea behind the PMS is to allow designers to “colour match” specific colours when a design enters production stage, regardless of the equipment used to produce the colour. This system was widely adopted by graphic designers and reproduction and printing houses.

Pantone recommends that PMS Colour Guides be purchased annually, as their inks become yellowish over time.  Colour variance also occurs within editions based on the paper stock used (coated, matte or uncoated), while interedition colour variance occurs when there are changes to the specific paper stock used.

Ceruleun under a microscope

By standardising the colours, different manufacturers in different locations can all refer to the Pantone system to make sure colours match without needing direct contact with one another.

One such use is standardizing colours in the CMYK process. The CMYK process is a method of printing colour by using four inks—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. A majority of the world’s printed material is produced using the CMYK process, and there is a special subset of Pantone colours that can be reproduced using CMYK.

Those that are possible to simulate through the CMYK process are labeled as such within the company’s guides.

However, most of the Pantone system’s 1,114 spot colours cannot be simulated with CMYK but with 13 base pigments (14 including black) mixed in specified amounts.

CMYK under a microscope.  What appears to be cerulean, is actually a blend of cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

The Pantone system also allows for many special colours to be produced, such as metallics and fluorescents. While most of the Pantone system colours are beyond the printed CMYK gamut, it was only in 2001 that Pantone began providing translations of their existing system with screen-based colours.


Screen-based colours use the RGB colour model—red, green, blue—system to create various colours. The (discontinued) Goe system has RGB and LAB values with each colour.

Whether you are printing on paper or producing on a screen, your choice of colour palette makes a huge difference.  If you are interested, read this flyer carefully.

Pantone colours are described by their allocated number (typically referred to as, for example, “PMS 130”).

In January 2003, the Scottish Parliament debated a petition (reference PE512) to refer to the blue in the Scottish flag as “Pantone 300”. Countries such as Canada and South Korea have also chosen to refer to specific Pantone colours to use when producing their flags.

Since 2000, the Pantone Color Institute has declared a particular color “Color of the Year”. Twice a year the company hosts, in a European capital, a secret meeting of representatives from various nations’ color standards groups. After two days of presentations and debate, they choose a color for the following year;

Classic Blue
Pantone 19-4052

The person behind Pantone’s Color of the Year, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute Leatrice Eiseman, pictured above.   She is an American colour specialist, who assists companies in their colour choice in a range of areas, including packaging, logos, and interior design. She is the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, a division of Pantone, Inc., and the author of six books on colour, one of which won an award from the Independent Publisher’s Association.

Interestingly, Eiseman holds a degree in psychology from Antioch University, and also a counseling certificate from UCLA.  She has studied and taught in the fields of fashion and interior design. She is an allied member of the Industrial Designers Society of America and the Fashion Group International, and has received a prestigious service award from the Color Marketing Group.  She also selects the 10 top fashion colors twice yearly for Pantone and Women’s Wear Daily.  Clever person!

I am overjoyed that the colour for 2021 is this one!  I hope you agree its absolutely gorgeous.

On September 10, 2020 the colours for Spring/Summer 2021 were released.  A range of shades inspired by the beauty of nature supports flexibility and reinvention

Published for the fashion industry by the Pantone Color Institute, Pantone’s trend forecasting and color consultancy, this season’s report features the top 10 standout colors, as well as current takes on the five core classics we can expect to see on the New York runway as fashion designers introduce their new spring/summer collections.

Pantone Fashion Color Trend Report for New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2021

Images Courtesy of Adobe Stock. Left to right: Victor Solomin/Stocksy United/Adobe Stock, Stocksy United/Adobe Stock, Addictive Creatives/Stocksy United/Adobe Stock, Pavloffav/Stocksy United/Adobe Stock, Lyuba Burakova/Stocksy United/Adobe Stock

According to Pantone Color Institute experts, colors for Spring/Summer 2021 New York emphasise our desire for a range of color that inspires ingenuity and inventiveness – colors whose versatility transcend the seasons and allow for more freedom of choice – colors that lend themselves to original color statements and whose flexibility easily adapts to our new and more fragmented lifestyle. Phew!

“Offering a range of shades illustrative of nature, colors for Spring/Summer 2021 underscores our desire for flexible color that works year-round.  Infused with a genuine authenticity that continues to be increasingly important, colors for Spring/Summer 2021 combine a level of comfort and relaxation with sparks of energy that encourage and uplift our moods,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.

The Spring/Summer 2021 New York Color Palette:

Shades illustrative of nature coupled with new core classics come together to create a palette inspiring ingenuity and inventiveness.

How many colours can you see? Did you do the test?  And you thought colours were just colours! Now don’t forget to leave me a message and tell me how many colours YOU could see!

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