Co.Design

Pantone Introduces Color Swatches Based On Real Skin Tones

Over 100 human hues are represented in the color authority’s new guide.

Consider it fortuitous timing. As the steady stream of unlicensed, unofficial art projects applying the Pantone-style system for color-matching to people-hued projects continues seemingly unabated, the longtime authority itself has gotten in on the action; the recently introduced Pantone SkinTone Guide is billed as the first of its kind that’s scientifically based for matching and reproducing over 100 realistic skin tones.

It might seem like the company is capitalizing on the zeitgeist, but the effort has actually been in development for over three years. "Seeing the other projects has helped to validate our efforts, and increased the demand for the range," Giovanni Marra, director of corporate marketing at Pantone, tells Co.Design. Developing the guide provided a unique challenge, as the translucency, variations, and imperfections in even a single individual’s epidermis adds to the complexity of getting consistent measurements. Using subjects that spanned the globe, Pantone took samples using the incredibly high-tech sounding X-Rite spectrophotometers and the handheld CAPSURE device, which compensates for minor imperfections.

Both tones and undertones are represented in the alphanumeric system, the former of which accounts for the lightness or darkness of the color from fair to dark, the latter whether the color has a red/pink or olive/yellow tint. While the guide targets the usual suspects—beauty, fashion, and product markets; photographers; graphic design for online and print—it can also be a boon for medical industries, which can use the service to establish baselines for cosmetic surgery and prosthetics. And, undoubtedly, art projects galore.

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