THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

January 25, 2009

True Colors: Don’t Trust That Monitor

Filed under: Fabric,Phyllis,Technology,Tools — phyllisc @ 12:57 pm

pantoneLast week I bought a Pantone Color Guide and it’s amazing how useful it is. Savvy fabric websites like Emma One Sock and Gorgeous Fabrics already use Pantone color numbers in their fabric descriptions, and I hope this becomes a standard for all fabric and sewing trim websites (are you listening, M&J Trim and  I love on-line fabric shopping, but frankly, for fabric selection you should not trust the colors displayed on your monitor, especially for reds and blues, which have a huge range of color, saturation and hue.  It’s so much easier to be confident of  a color when you can look it up in  your Pantone Guide to really get an accurate sense of what it looks like.  The Pantone Shopping Color  Guide ($19.95) is the version you want, other Pantone color decks are pricey ($100+) and are really intended for design professionals. Once caveat: Pantone seems to hide this on their web site, and will ship it only within the US and Canada.  Els asked me to get one for her, and the shipping to Europe ended up being more than a third of the price, so I suspect that’s why this is a US/Canada only item on the US Pantone web site.  Pantone’s color system is a global standard however, I googled “Pantone UK” and “Pantone Germany” and got web sites for each, so with some perseverance you might find this outside the US.


  1. I have one of those also – but something I’m still trying to work out is matching a color on the palette with a fabric I already have, so that I can do coordinates at fabric sites. I think a lot depends on what sort of light you have shining on the fabric and on the color stick at the same time… any ideas?

    Comment by Toby Wollin — January 25, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  2. Thanks for reminding me of that Toby: indirect light from a north facing window from about 1-3pm will gives the truest visual read on color, and this is why artists prefer to have north facing studio windows. In terms of artifical lighting, Ott-Lites come pretty close to accurately reproducing a the full spectrum daylight color you would see from a north facing window.

    Comment by phyllisc — January 25, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

  3. OMGosh! I have had one of those things for years but never thought to use it when looking at fabric at Gorgeous Fabrics. (Slaps hand on forehead) It is now on my desktop ready for use. Thanks for the reminder!!! 🙂

    Comment by Linda T — January 25, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

  4. This is one of those things I’ve been meaning to get. For like 5 or so years. LOL Perhaps this is why my closet is filled with a mishmash of uncoordinated separates. Is that redundant? ; )

    Comment by Cindyann — January 25, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

  5. Hmm, I didn’t know Pantone made this affordable version. I usually run around borrowing big PMS books from the art directors here at my office. Thanks!

    Comment by Lindsay T — January 26, 2009 @ 9:56 am

  6. I have one and love it. I actually emailed in the later part of last year requesting they offer the numbers with each fabric swatch. I got a prompt email back stating it was against Pantone’s rules to use their numbers without some sort of written agreement from Pantone. They claimed they were hoping to come to an agreement. Sure wish everyone would/could use the numbers, it makes fabric shopping online soooo much easier for sure.

    Comment by MelissaB — January 26, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  7. Hear, hear!!! Listen up, online fabric vendors. This is a great way for your customers to be sure of a critical element in fabric selection – cuts down on complaints and returns, and in some cases eliminates the need for swatches.

    Comment by Robyn — January 27, 2009 @ 9:43 am

  8. […] the Pantone Color Guide to help you judge the true color of the fabrics you see on your monitor.  (Read more about it in her full blog post.)  Of course, this only works if the online store ALSO uses the Pantone Color Guide.  Luckily, […]

    Pingback by Use Pantone Color Guide to judge true fabric color · Sewing @ CraftGossip — January 27, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

  9. I checked with Pantone about 5 years ago, when we started our site and again recently about using their standard for color identification for fabrics sold at . The word I got was the same as – no authorization for use – unless I sent each piece of fabric in to them for a pretty hefty fee, actually more than some of the bolts cost, for their technicians to assign the colors….. Although I do find the color books recommended here very helpful in interpreting common names from clients for colors, and recommend the color booklets highly.

    Comment by Susanne — January 27, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  10. Thanks Phyllis, today I received the Pantone color guide. A useful Internet fabric shopping tool.

    Comment by Els — January 28, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

  11. oops,

    I’ve been using my Pantone color fan to note exact shades from time to time on my fabric and vintage fashion shops…..sorry to hear that Pantone is so territorial about using their color numbers as reference. Guess I’ll have to stop.

    Someone needs to tell them that they could sell a million of those fans if they would ease up that policy!

    Comment by Jen O — January 31, 2009 @ 2:07 am

  12. I left a nomination to this blog (a Kreativ Blogger) in my blog… Cheers!!!!!!

    Comment by PatoBB — February 2, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

  13. […] Deana sent me this link, which mentions that Gorgeous Fabrics and Emma One Sock specify the Pantone color(s) of the fabrics […]

    Pingback by True Up » Archive » Pantone Colors and Fabric Shopping — April 7, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

  14. I found my Pantone books for a great deal on Amazon not too long ago…

    Comment by Genevieve Gail — April 8, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

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