How Does Pantone Create a New Color?

I'm in the middle of repainting the interior of my house after living with the same colors for almost 20 years. Most of my first floor is done in various warm shades of orange — a color I love — but it's time for a change, and I'm looking at more neutral colors this time.

One option might be English Sparkling, a brand spanking new neutral named for English sparkling wine.

If you're unaware that the English make sparkling wine — and an excellent sparkling wine at that — you're not alone. When I asked my friends on social media if they knew sparkling wine could be made in England, the majority of them didn't. Laithwaite's Wine, a direct seller of wines and spirits, sees the new color as a way to address that problem by bringing attention to this bubbly. I think it's an interesting way to market wine.

But their foray also raises another interesting question: How do you create a new color?

The kid in me — the one who loved taking blue and red paint and making purple and then adding little dabs of white until I got lavender — was super curious about how this works. So I got the details from the Pantone Color Institute, which worked with Laithwaite's Wine to develop the color.

It turns out that creating a new color, or at least naming a new color, isn't as rare as you might think. Without giving away any trade secrets, Lauren Pressman, vice president of Pantone Color Institute, kindly answered my questions about creating a new color in general and about the English sparkling color specifically.

english sparkling wine color
The newest color to be named after wine, joining colors like Champagne and Burgundy, is English Sparkling. (Photo: Laithwaite's Wine)

MNN: How is a new color created? I'm going on the premise that all colors must already exist, but perhaps haven't been identified yet. So, when Pantone decides to name a new color like English Sparkling, how do you create a shade that's different from every other shade out there?

Lauren Pressman: Of course there are thousands upon thousands of tints and tones in the universe, as you suggest, but developing a new color for standardization is not the same as creating a new color for the universe. When we develop a new color either for a client or to add into one of our Pantone color standard libraries, we are not in essence "creating" a new color that doesn't already exist (though we might be), but rather we are developing a color standard and providing an exact color recipe so that this same color can be consistently replicated over and over again.

Color builds associations. Consistently linking the brand name with a color, many brands over time have come to be known for their distinctive brand colors (i.e. Tiffany Blue, Hermes Orange, UPS Brown, Starbucks Green, Coke Red). These brands understand the power of color and leverage their brand color to enhance brand recognition. When someone comes to Pantone to help develop a custom color, their goal is one of creating a distinctive brand identify so we do not choose a color that exists in one of our Pantone libraries. Instead, we develop a unique color just for them.

While some new brands come to us for help to define and select the brand color without any thought in mind of where they want to go, in the case of the color we developed and standardized for Laithwaite's, a color designated as English Sparkling, the team at Laithwaite's provided us with a color starting point. As we all see and describe color differently, having a material starting point is very important to the color development process, especially when the design team has a clear idea of what they want their color to look like.

Also, in the case of Laithwaite's, we didn't name this color. This was the name they wanted to imprint on this new customized color. Typically in the case of a custom color development, we're not naming the colors. It is the client who does this. And, in most cases it is named for the product or brand the customer is creating. The brand names mentioned are good examples of this.

How many new colors a year does Pantone create or identify?

We do not have any set number of colors that we develop each year. For the most part ,I would say this would range between 500 to 1,000 per year. This would cross all of our different Pantone libraries, new as well as existing, and the customized colors we create for clients.

Wyfold English sparkling wine
Wyfold Brut sparkling wine is the specific inspiration for the new color. (Photo: Laithwaite's Wine)

If you want to use this new color, English Sparkling is now available from Valspar. I'm not sure it's the right hue for the rooms I need to paint, but it sure does make me want to drink some English sparkling wine.