Pantone Color of the Year 2021

2021 is here and with that multiple agencies have released their colors for the year. One such company is Pantone, who has been naming a color of the year for over 20 years. Pantone specializes in color trends, especially in the realm of fashion and goods.

This year however they decided to break from tradition and name two colors of the year, something they haven’t done since 2016. PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray + PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating are the two colors that have been chosen.

Let’s break down these colors separately to understand them and then look at the pairing.

PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray

Let’s start with PANTONE 17-5104 Ultimate Gray. Pantone states that Ultimate Gray is “emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation.” Coming in near the 40% gray side of the spectrum along with providing a cooler tint neutral.

PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating

Moving on to PANTONE 13-0647 Illuminating, a “is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power.” Contrary to that of other yellows, Illuminating is not too warm to stray into the golden hues but also cool enough to be a “normal” shade of yellow.


Now while we have looked at the colors separately let’s investigate the pairing itself. The main way I see this pairing working is where the colors are used equally. In patterns (which are increasing in popularity) and other such designs with the usage of white/blank space this color combination works surprisingly well. The gray anchors the yellow and keeps everything from being too bright overall.

Using yellow as the background with gray as the type color and vice versa are other combinations I can see working under certain select circumstances as well however this may not be a lasting combination.


I am in agreement with Pantone’s choices for the year. Yellow has grown on me over the course of 2020 and coming into 2021 it is a welcome color of the year. The grey choice makes a nice replacement for black in the pairing for these two colors even though it is below the 50% grey threshold. I do imagine that pairing trend not lasting long however. Further reading on Pantone and its history is available here.

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