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How to match Pantone colors from on screen to fabric

2021 Update - Things have changed! Pantone now has something called 'Pantone Connect' that is a paid service. It's worth it if you work with color all day. For a free alternative to this, I've found to be helpful.

Original post -

Pantone is the color standard for many product-based industries, ranging from plastics to ceramics to paper to textiles. The fashion industry specifically uses the TCX (stands for textile cotton) color system. If you are making a custom print or dyeing your fabric a custom color, it's easiest to communicate with the mill, dye house, or fabric supplier using a Pantone reference number. You could send a fabric swatch cut from something else as well. Pantone is nice because the supplier may already have some formulas that work for the color you're requesting. It's a more universal way to communicate about color.

Here's a real-life example from a current client. They've designed their own print in Illustrator and picked colors on a screen. Now they must match the colors without a Pantone book. (A cotton color book is around $600 so most non-industry people don't own these. If you want one have a look here - ) It is best to see swatches in person when possible. There is usually slight variance from the screen to fabric but it's typically close.

1. Find the hex code in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Select the color with the eye dropper and then double click on the stroke color tile to open the Color Picker. This screen will appear. The hex code is the six numbers and /or letters are the number or hashtag symbol shown highlighted here #9ACCCD.

Adobe Illustrator color picker and color codes
Adobe Illustrator color picker and color codes

3. Under 'Convert' click 'RGB/CMYK/HEX'. Then pick the 'FHI Cotton TCX' Pantone book from the first drop down menu. Pick 'Hex' for color space. Then enter the hex code and click search to get your matches.

Pantone does not have a number or standard for every color in existence, but they have a lot as you can see here. This online picker will select the closest available match, shown here as 14-4809TCX with a few other possible options.

Need help developing your own prints on fabric or with sourcing fabrics? Reach out here and let us know what you need


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