What Color Was That?

Pantone Fashion + Home color fan
The Pantone Fashion + Home color fan

Ever had trouble describing a color to someone?

There are tools designed to help you convey that information to another designer;  or dyer, or graphic artist, or painter, or weaver, and on and on and on.  They’re a lot like paint chips that you can bring home to try out in your living room.  In fact, they are formatted pretty similarly.

Color services make what are called “color standards”.  These are chips of color that are reproducible (providing *exactly* the same shade every time) and that are easy to get.  This allows a designer to hand out a standard set of colors to every factory or jobber or printer she deals with.  That way each of these factories has the exact same color to refer to.  (Imagine if a print is made in India and the coordinating pants in Hong Kong, or napkins having to match wedding invitations.) There’s more to it than that, but you get the idea.  This is the new “Pastels & Neons” book, as you can see:

Pantone neon book

We’re pretty excited here in PERS because we got a new Fashion, Home & Interiors color fan from Pantone this summer.  (At the top of the page)


In recent years, Pantone has tried to publicize their brand and sell directly to the consumer.  Remember all that hype about last fall’s “Color of the Year”?  That was Pantone:

The Pantone company site

Pantone chips can be put to all kinds of uses, including some playful ones:

Famous art works recreated in Pantone color chips

There are four main color sources in the NYC fashion area.  We happen to also have the main color catalog of another one, Color Solutions International:


Ours is slightly older and looks like this:

The Color Solutions International books of basic colors
The Color Solutions International books of basic colors

This color system seems to be popular with large chain stores.  We received ours in a gift from Walmart when they closed their NYC office.

Possibly the oldest color source is the Munsell Color System.  We have a recent copy of this in the library, too.  It’s called:

The New Munsell Student Color Set, by Jim Long

5th floor on Reserve at the Circulation Desk  ND1493.M8 L85 2011

Here is the Munsell website:


Munsell was the brainchild of Albert H. Munsell, who first published his theories of color as “A Color Notation” in 1905.  He also was the inventor of the first crayons in 1906 (then sold to Binney & Smith Co. in 1926), which were known as Munsell Crayola crayons.  You can read more about the man here:

The Munsell site’s company history

The fourth international color service is ScotDic, which has a less-inviting web presence, but still has good color.

The Scotdic company site

I found a brief company history on their LinkedIn page:

“SCOTDIC is a leading provider of color for fashion. The company has been in the textile color business for over 100 years. Starting as a kimono factory in Kyoto, Japan – the company, known for its expertise in color, built a reputation for its enormous library of color, accurate ability to identify trends and to reproduce color on textile with a high degree of accuracy. SCOTDIC introduced the first color system exclusively for textile in 1982.”

Color is such a huge part of design that our library has many color-related tools to help you work.  One of our librarians, Helen Lane, has given some additional pointers to color services and tools online in her blog:

The Look post “Color Me Informed”

For those of you reading in depth, this post is designed to get me caught up with the regular posting schedule of once every two weeks.  We got behind here in the flurry at the beginning of the new semester.  We’ve a lot of cool material to show you, though, and will do our best to publish every other Wednesday from here through January break.  Till next time, then…!



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