myPANTONE for iPhone

By | November 11, 2009

In September Pantone released an iPhone application that “puts the power of the entire PANTONE Color Library in your pocket.” In the press release Andy Hatkoff, vice president of technology licensing for Pantone comments,

“myPANTONE marries the power of the iPhone with the inspiration of PANTONE Color Palettes, enabling designers to be creative whenever inspiration strikes them. Providing a digital, portable design studio and essential color tools at their fingertips, myPANTONE gives designers the freedom to access PANTONE Colors anywhere, without the need to be in their office or carry around cumbersome guides, Now with myPANTONE’s Portable Color Memory™ in their pocket, designers no longer need to agonize trying to recall an exact color.”

The Macintosh journal TidBITS has a walkthrough video of the app.

The Flemish Innovation Center for Graphic Communication (VIGC) recently conducted a study into the accuracy and reliability of the new myPANTONE for iPhone. The results of the study are at WhatTheyThink.

Andy Hatkoff contacted WhatTheyThink today to clarify the intended use of myPANTONE for iPhone and address the VIGC study. Hatkoff writes:

You are quite correct when you state that the iPhone does not have a calibrated screen, although there seems to be a bit of confusion about the intended use of myPANTONE, which has resulted in the disappointment you expressed.

To clarify: we have NEVER positioned the myPANTONE app as a tool for accuracy in a color critical environment. In fact, we have provided disclaimers in several places in the myPANTONE app, including at the bottom of the product description on the iTunes app store. ANY app on the iPhone that uses color to its benefit (including photo apps) suffers from the same issue – the current iPhones cannot be calibrated and color therefore cannot be assured.

There exist differences on the displays between the various versions of the iPhone. For example: the first iPhones were set to a cooler white point that made the screen whiter and bluer, while subsequent versions use a warmer color temperature and different white point. On a computer, you are able to adjust your monitor’s color temperature to whatever suits you. The iPhone, being much less tweakable than a Mac or PC, doesn’t offer such a setting.

On the technical side, the Software Developer Kit (SDK) provided by Apple does not give us access to anything about the actual display except its size. At this point in time, the SDK does not offer the possibility to provide any control over the calibration of the display.

As a result, myPANTONE should not be used as a way to validate and approve color. MyPANTONE is a creative tool and not a production tool. It allows you to capture the idea of color with a cool mobile phone that is used broadly in the design community. You can then take that color and play with it, amend it and use it as inspiration in your design process. That’s what we intended when we developed myPANTONE. A PANTONE® Color guide should ALWAYS be used for an accurate representation of a color in a print environment, regardless of whether you use an app or a monitor in the design process.

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7 thoughts on “myPANTONE for iPhone

  1. T Hertz

    I think the reviewers doing the review @ WTT were crazy evening thinking that we would expect the colors to be great matches. Anyone who works with color on a regular basis would have said that from the start. Any designer worth the title already knows that the only safe bet is to go back to the swatch books or to provide a sample swatch with a printed order. As we preach with our customers..”Don’t fall in love with the screen.”

    I think it is a great tool for putting a palette together at the start of an design and sure is less expensive…long term…than tearing bunches of swatches out of a book. My disappointment is not giving us the CMYK values of these swatches as the vast majority of work done now is digital in my environment and many others.

  2. Adam Dewitz Post author

    T Hertz, The Flemish Innovation Center for Graphic Communication (VIGC) conducted the study. Not WhatTheyThink. We were sent the results as a press release.

  3. Eddy Hagen

    The reason why we at VIGC did these tests, is because many people in the designer community are wild about the app… Just read the reviews and the comments. Half of them want to throw away their PANTONE guides, many of them see it as an alternative for the printed guides… There are a few voices of capable designers that point at the limitations, but that is a minority.

    People with a good background in color management know that you need a capable, calibrated screen to get an accurate color reference on a screen. But there still are many, many designers out there who don’t know that really basic stuff (and probably they aren’t reading this blog either). And chances are that they are using tools like the myPANTONE for iPhone as a reference. Which will hurt the printer eventually, because the designer will not admit he was wrong. With our tests, we try to reach those people who don’t have that basic knowledge, to educate at least a little bit. And by educating them, we try to prevent accidents at the printer.

    @ Andy: the disclaimers are hard to find. On the product page on the PANTONE site, it’s not mentioned… In the Apple store, it’s there, but I think not that many people will look at that part of the page (below system requirements and in the ‘legal stuff’ part, which everybody should read, but reality is different). On the iPhone itself: it shows up only a few seconds when starting the app, you hardly have the time to read the first few words. In some parts of the user interface, it is there, but very small and hard to read. When you zoom in to a specific color, to get a really good look at it, it is not there. That is where it is needed. In my opinion of course.

    And I have to say that the product information is at least confusion (if not misleading). It states: “Can’t remember what a color looks like, now you can have Portable Color Memory™”. This at least suggests that you can use it as a visual reference.

    Also when it says that “you can get your color inspiration and create your color scheme”: what would the use of that be if you don’t have a good color rendering on the screen? Why would you create a color scheme on a screen that doesn’t have an accurate color rendering? Isn’t color 100% about the visual perception of it?

  4. Michael Jahn

    Interesting debate. I can say the one of the things that happens to me is that I have a color, or select a color, and I need to then figure out what that color is in at least three color spaces (Lab, RGB and CMYK) – and at least 2 different Pantone systems (Pantone Goe Coated and Pantone Solid Coated)

    I can quickly determine that by picking one and then switching libraries on the iPhone – I happen to use Code Lines iPhone app – Color Expert – and not the myPantone app we are speaking about above.

    I can tell you I also carry the Pantone swatchbooks which are useful when trying to SHOW someone a color, and I carry my ColorMunki when the client is trying to provide ME a color – but the Code Line Color Expert app is useful when all I have is my iPhone, and we want to figure out what that color is in BOTH Pantone systems – which is very tricky to do, even if you had both physical books with you.

    My point is that the iPhone may not be able to be tune to represent the colors accurately, but I can select a color and figure out the pantone number for that color.

    What is also neat is the idea that you can export that to an ASE swatch file and email it – so someone can use that swatch pallet in a design application.

  5. Henk Gianotten

    In Europe the swatch book problem is even worse. We sometimes use the Pantone Euro Guides and they differ from the regular ones.
    But anyhow, the color spaces of sRGB and Goe/PMS/EURO/CMYK differ a lot.
    sRGB cannot be used as a reliable source for any of the output color spaces.
    I would appreciate if Pantone (with the help of X-Rite) could make available a whitepaper describing the different color spaces and why tools like this application is great to impress creative people but is useless as a reliable source for color specs in a production environment.

  6. Noel Ward

    Why do I get the feeling that a bunch of jobs are going to be printed with the wrong color specified and printers are going to wind up eating some of these jobs? Too many designers think their screen, whatever it may be, is right 100% of the time.

    It is really ironic that we continue to have color (and font) challenges some two decades into electronic publishing. Color management will never be simple, but all the variables are known.

  7. Marco

    “Who says you can’t take it with you? Not Pantone. Now with the myPANTONE™ Apple iPhone™ app you have access to a variety of PANTONE® color libraries and the ability to build color palettes and share them with colleagues and clients. myPANTONE offers graphic, web, fashion and apparel designers a way to take PANTONE colors with you wherever you go. Can’t remember what a color looks like, now you can have Portable Color Memory™.”

    Yeah you have access to them. But what good is it really when the colors are no good? It makes for a nice background image on your iPhone I suppose 😉

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