I realize that sometimes it seems like graphic designers (and printers) have their own language. I’ve started the Design Speak series here on my blog so I can help clarify some of these terms you may hear, but not totally understand.
Pantone started out as a printing company in the 1950s, and nowadays when you think about Pantone or hear the term, you think about colors. There’s always a Pantone Color of the Year or your brand might have Pantone numbers (like PMS 102) associated with your main colors. So what is it, really?
PMS stands for Pantone Matching System. Pantone colors are standardized ink colors you use to ensure the color is consistent at all times. Normally, when you print something on a standard printer the colors you see are a combination of 4 standard inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Printers can vary a bit, so Pantone colors make sure your brand color is consistent every time.
That said, sometimes it isn’t cost effective (or possible!) to print with your Pantone, but its still helpful to know it. Each Pantone is associated with a CMYK breakdown and RGB breakdown, so identifying you color as a specific Pantone has just become the way colors are often defined in the graphic design, marketing or advertising industries.