I'm trying to find the best way to match specific colors across different media (print and digital) for doing identity/branding work for a company. From what I've read pantone matching systems is the industry standard?

If so my second question is whether to get the formula guide or the color bridge as I don't really get the difference between the two?

Here are the links to the two items as shown on pantone's site:


2 Answers 2


Bridge guides provide "process color simulations of all solid PANTONE Color". In other words, the bridge guides are all printed in CMYK to match Pantone spot colors as close as possible. You see the CMYK color on the guide along side the actual Pantone spot color. This lets you compare how close the CMYK color is to the spot ink.

Formula Guides are printed in the actual Pantone spot color. So you see the Pantone color on the guide. There's no representation of other color models. It's straight pantone spot colors. It provides numbers for other builds, but it doesn't show them to you.

That's the difference.

If you customarily use Pantone colors as just a general color picking form, but print everything in CMYK, or if you are doing a great deal of web work, the Bridge guides may serve you better.

If you are specifying actual spot colors to use on press, then you want the Formula guides so you can be sure you see the color accurately as it will come off of a press.

Really, if you just want one guide... get the Bridge. It's pretty much the best of both worlds.

  • That description of bridge might not be accurate (I see it comes directly from Pantone's site, but still, I think it's a bit ambiguous). Bridge displays solid colors next to their process equivalents, as well as rgb/hex conversions. I own one of these, and you can clearly see that on one side the colors are spot (solid), and on the other CMYK (process)
    – spiral
    May 4, 2015 at 7:42
  • @spiral correct, I edited a bit to explain that. I wasn't very clear before. Thanks.
    – Scott
    May 4, 2015 at 20:03
  • What i dont quite understand is why they sell it as a combo. The only difference i see is that the Formula Guide has more colors, 1867, where Bridge has 1,845 Dec 7, 2018 at 0:24
  • Bridge guides won't have metallics.. maybe not fluorescents either since those can't be mixed with CMYK.
    – Scott
    Dec 7, 2018 at 0:34

match specific colors across different media (print and digital)

There is no digital 'match'.

Pantone is a company that sets color standards for custom printing inks (and some other things, but mainly printing inks). As Scott states, this is usually spot colors (the custom colors) but they also offer CMYK.

Regardless, this all takes place in a subtractive color space (reflected light) whereas digital is an additive color space (projected light). These are two different 'worlds' and there's no official translation between the two.

And that's OK, because no two screens are calibrated to each other anyways.

As such, the process I'd follow is:

  1. Choose your Pantone color (assuming you have the luxury of printing spot colors)
  2. Use the Pantone guides to find the closes 'official' CMYK version for when you can't print a spot color.
  3. Pick an RGB color to match. This can be done by:
    • Entering the Pantone color into a graphic design application that supports Pantone (Photoshop, Illustrator) and convert to RGB to see what the software chooses
    • Do the same as above but use the CMYK version.
    • just eyeball it across several screens until you find the color you feel is the best general match
  • Just to clarify something: when choosing your Pantone colour, it's being chosen from swatches based off a Pantone ICC profile; which is converted via the software to either a cmyk icc or rgb icc (to the colour's nearest neighbour?). In the pantone formula+bridge guides, do they have their own Pantone CMYK ICC specified?
    – johnp
    Jan 5, 2016 at 20:51

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