Pantone Studio App Released to Explore, Capture, Create and Share Color Inspiration

Remember the myPANTONE iOS app? Introduced in 2009, its main function was to provide access to more than 13,000 Pantone colors, including the PANTONE PLUS SERIES and the Fashion + Home colors. The app was simple enough, with the UI representing a fan deck and users tapping on a color to display its values in CMYK, sRGB, hex and L*a*b. It also provided such functionality as the ability to create and share color palettes, extract colors from photos and relate them to the closest Pantone color, generate color combinations and even use Pantone/X-Rite calibration devices to color-correct displays. Not bad for 10 bucks.

Pantone has always faced the dilemma of how to convince customers to periodically replace their printed fan decks and recently added new colors to boost the replacement rate. The same held true for its myPANTONE app, so the first thing that jumps out at you is that Pantone Studio, while free, only includes an unspecified "selection" of Pantone colors, with access to the full set requiring a subscription of $7.99 per month or $59.99 per year. Without such a subscription the core value of the app is gone for professionals, leaving just the functionality of myPANTONE along with a few new twists.

Pantone doesn't provide a feature comparison to see what's new in Studio, which is listed in the App Store as version 3.0 (version 2.1 is still available for Android but recent users indicate it crashes constantly, so better to wait for the Android version of Studio). However, in responding to our questions was told that the following differentiates Studio from myPANTONE. First, the UI has been overhauled by digital agency Rokkan, including an overhaul of the way in which users interact with the core Pantone libraries, which in the subscription version span 15 guides. New colors released by Pantone are said to automatically update.

Also new is the ability to bring in a personal photo or an image from popular social channels and match its hues to the corresponding Pantone color. Related to social media, you can now use that to share images that have been given a superimposed Pantone color or palette, as shown at left. But the biggest pro feature is the ability to now send palettes (which are limited to five colors) directly to Adobe Creative Cloud — prior to this, palette sharing took place via email!

Then there's something called PANTONE Silk, described as "experimental functionality" that allows users to place colors on different materials and specify the light source, which seems promising. But a very large part of what's new is content related. The Pantone Color Institute will be periodically updating the app with its Color Trends and Color Psychology Insights, as well as "curated and contextual insights into PANTONE Colors, combinations and harmonies," including articles about color and color-related news topics.

So what does it all add up to? Well, if you're into color and use an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, then the free version is a no brainer. If you're a pro, then you'll have to decide whether a yearly subscription is worth it; you can always give the free trial a spin before making a decision. And those of us not using iOS devices will just have to wait and see. It sounds like Pantone will keep developing Studio and not let it languish like myPANTONE. Rokkan, for example, says on its site that "while this first release is focused on delivering Pantone standards, we can begin laying the foundation for initial elements of both inspiration and education. Over time, we can test and evolve the functionality to fit user behavior and scale beyond the iPhone to build a truly seamless digital platform."

Meanwhile, the reality is that myPANTONE had a three-star rating in the App Store, while Studio has dropped to two. Not an auspicious beginning for what Pantone describes as "the brand’s largest foray into digital solutions for the creative industries." We're guessing that there will be significant pushback against the lifetime annual 60 dollar cost of the full version. Time will tell.

More information is available on the Pantone site.