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The Difference Between Hexadecimal and Pantone Colors

What is the difference between Hexidecimal and Pantone colors? and how are they used for marketing for the web and in print?

Categories:  Web Design
3 min read

Color selection has a strong psychological connection with consumers on and offline. Colors are chosen to appeal to specific demographics, fit a theme, or draw attention to special offers.

Graphic designers use blends of the traditional color palette, but they also have the option of using hexadecimal and Pantone colors (also known as PMS for the Pantone Matching System).

Hexadecimal color numbers are codes created for Internet and web designs. Hard copy printing — for banners, posters, and fabrics — uses the Pantone color schematic.


Hexadecimal codes always start with a # symbol in front of a chain of numbers to signify the color blends. Web design and internet marketing specialists will tell you hexadecimal colors are “web-safe.” This means they will reproduce consistently on different Internet browsers and displays.

Raleigh Graphic Design Logo Hex Colors

The codes behind these types of colors help websites load faster, which means users won’t click away from a slow-loading site and businesses won’t lose business for poor web performance.


Pantone colors used in print also follow a numeric color code system. Every color is labeled as ‘PANTONE 1234 C’ with variable numbers and letter exchanges. It’s a clearly defined color labeling system that lets graphic designers all over the world communicate about specific colors without losing tints or shades and preserving the exact pigment desired in printed materials.

For marketers where brand preservation is paramount, the Pantone color scheme is especially important because of a convenient color match feature used through a set of hard copy Pantone (or PMS) Color Guides. The Color Guides are released every year so that designers don’t hold on to dated copies that have faded overtime. A downside to using Pantone color schemes is that if you have low-cost or open source software, the colors won’t be accepted in the programs.

Pantone is also commonly referenced in fashion design, which can often influence graphic and web design. The following video released from the Pantone Color Institute Introduces the Pantone Color of the Year 2021.

Introducing the Pantone Color of the Year 2021: PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + 13-0647 Illuminating

Color Translation hex to pantone

There is no perfect conversion from hexadecimal to Pantone. Just because there is no perfect conversion doesn’t make the color translation difficult. Simple tools in graphic design software programs like Photoshop allow designers to switch between color libraries, allowing them to bring specific colors from clients’ websites to printed materials—without too much of a difference in shades or tints.

Difference Between Hexadecimal and Pantone

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can Pantone and HEX colors be converted?
Yes, with a caveat. Colors can be converted between systems using various tools, but due to differences in color spaces, the results may not be 100% accurate.

2. Is one system superior to the other?
Neither system is inherently superior. Pantone and HEX are designed for different applications — Pantone for print and HEX for digital.

3. Are HEX codes relevant for print design?
HEX is primarily used for digital design. While it can be converted for print, it may not yield accurate color reproduction like Pantone.

4. Why is Pantone expensive?
The Pantone system maintains high standards for color consistency, which requires specialized production techniques, thus driving up the cost.

5. How many colors are available in the HEX system?
The HEX color system theoretically offers over 16 million colors, giving designers a vast spectrum to work with.

Questions about color and design? Contact the web designers at TheeDigital at 919-341-8901 or schedule a consultation.

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Infographic that shows the differences between hexadecimal and pantone colors

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