Pantones for Enamel Pins - The Easy Way to Choose Colors [video]

If you are confused by all the different Pantone formula guides and color books and need clarity about using them on your computer versus getting a swatch book, I am going to demystify the Pantone process when it comes to enamel pins for you in this video.

If navigating the world of Pantone has been frustrating, you’re in the right place.

I have covered Pantones a bit in different videos, but I wanted to do a special deep dive just on Pantone because I feel like it deserves its own video. I have been making pins since 2016 so I'm going to teach you my process to make choosing colors super easy! I’m also going to show you how to keep your colors consistent, to be sure you get exactly what you want from your Pantones every time you make an enamel pin.

What are Pantones?

Pantone is a company that specializes in spot colors and they use a special system called the Pantone Matching System. Also known as PMS. If you see the term PMS colors, that's what it means.

It’s consistent system that printers can use to create the colors that you want. For example, I could be making a pin and choose a color with the color picker tool, say I want a warmish, pinkish, bright red. That could mean so many things to so many people. The color that I pick out on my screen also might not be the same as the color the manufacturer chooses to use. To avoid any confusion I just say I want PMS 199 C, which happens to be a warmish, pinkish, bright red. By using PMS colors the manufacturer or printer or whoever you're using knows exactly what color formulation to use to get the exact color you want. Easy peasy.

Which color guide do I use?

There are different types of formula guides for different types of mediums. Printing on fabric, paper and dying enamel for pins, are all done differently, so there are lots of different types of formula guides out there. When I was designing my ita bag, they didn't use the same kind of PMS colors that I used for pins. So that's something to look out for.

When you're making pins, you want to use the Solid Coded Formula Guide. You want solid coated every time. If you're in Illustrator looking through the color books, you want to find the option for Pantone Solid Coated in the dropdown menu. If you're looking for a physical formula guide, get the solid coated version. This is the exact one I use!

The physical formula guides usually come in sets of two. So there will be an uncoated and coated guide together, but you still just need the coated version. Sometimes eBay will have them separately, but you can always grab them both and just ignore the uncoated one. They're usually around a hundred bucks just to let you know, it is an investment. So if you are at a point in your business where that's something that you want and color consistency is important to you, then I highly, highly recommend it.

I did go a full full year of making pens without it, just picking what looked good on the computer and hoping, haha! Some things did come out differently than I expected!

Do I need a physical formula guide?

So a reason that you might actually really want to get a physical guys is that when you're picking colors out on your computer, they won’t always look the same in person. I know pastels can be really difficult, especially. Tthat's because your screens will be calibrated a certain way and when you send artwork to your manufacturer, their screen will be calibrated differently.

That's why I think it's really great to have this. I know for sure exactly what color I'm going to get. Now, there can be some variation. There are humans mixing these colors. If the color that you get is way off from what you asked for and what you know it should look like from your Pantone Solid Coated Formula Guide, then I think it's good to reach out to your manufacturer and talk about it.

I've had manufacturer reach out to me preemptively to let me know that a batch of pins came out looking a little bit brighter. The showed me the difference, asked what I thought and I actually ended up liking the color that they mixed better than what I got last time, so it worked out! Definitely keep an open dialogue with your manufacturer about colors.

Bonus Tip: I only choose my colors in daylight in natural light.

I get such good light in my studio that I only pick colors on bright, sunny days so I know what my pin will look like in ideal light situations. I never pick colors at night because overhead lights and lamps can tend to be warmer unless you purposefully have daylight bulbs and that can skew your perception of what the final colors will look like in natural light.

How do I change a color into a Pantone in Illustrator?

Check the video above for a quick walkthrough. All you have to do is go to:


Then click the palette in the middle of the window, choose COLOR BOOKS > PANTONE SOLID COATED and click OK!

Then Illustrator has chosen the closest Pantone to your original color. You can head over to the swatches palette and see the actual Pantone formula, that you need to share with your manufacturer when you hover over the color swatch. It's easy peasy.


Okay? So that is literally all you need to know about Pantone is for enamel pins. It's super easy. Be sure to bookmark this if you need to remember. And if you want to use that exact template that I use in the video feel free to download it below. I have a link for you so you can use that exact illustrator template that I use every time I send designs to my manufacturer!


free adobe illustrator template for enamel pin mockups
Back to blog