Illuminating AND Ultimate Gray PANTONE® Colors of the Year 2021


It influences everything from high fashion to iPhones: the PANTONE Color Institute’s choice for Color of the Year. Last December, the New Jersey-based company and color-match experts announced its 2021 Colors of the Year: Illuminating and Ultimate Gray.

This is only the second time two colors have been chosen, and the very first achromatic shade (gray). The folks at PANTONE – the global authority that standardizes color swatches for the design industry – felt that these hues represent what people are looking for after the turbulence of the past year: Ultimate Gray is described as solid and dependable, while Illuminating (bright yellow) was chosen for its cheerfulness, “imbued with solar power.”

According to, selecting the PANTONE Color of the Year requires thoughtful consideration. “This is a combination that gives us resilience and hope,” says Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the PANTONE Color Institute. “We need to feel encouraged and uplifted; that is essential to the human spirit.”

To arrive at the annual selection, color experts at the PANTONE Color Institute comb the world looking for new color influences. This can include the entertainment industry and films in production, traveling art collections and new artists, fashion, all areas of design, popular travel destinations, as well as new lifestyles, playstyles and socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from new technologies, materials, textures and effects that impact color, relevant social media platforms and even upcoming sporting events that capture worldwide attention.


Illuminating (PANTONE 13-0647) is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power, while Ultimate Gray (PANTONE 17-5104) quietly assures, encouraging feelings of composure, steadiness and resilience.

Designers think …

“I think the early 2000s are definitely having a comeback, especially in fashion and music (think Billie Eilish’s neon-green hair and Gucci costuming). I don’t know that a bunch of interior designers are gonna run out and paint rooms this bright yellow color, but I can see it on clothes when people emerge back into the world and want to make a statement.”
Orlando Soria, Host of HGTV’s “Build Me Up”

“Because a bright yellow color can sometimes be overwhelming in large doses, we typically see homeowners use just a small splash of it with larger swaths of gray to make a strong visual statement. An example might be a gray exterior paint color paired with a pop of yellow at the front door. Or yellow furniture pieces or decor that offer a bit of flair to gray cabinets in a bathroom or kitchen.”
Houzz Senior Editor, Mitchell Parker

Design enthusiasts are invited to have fun with the Pantone 2021 Colors of the Year! Explore different Facebook and Instagram filters that bring Illuminating and Ultimate Gray into your augmented reality, or build and share palettes featuring these colors from the PANTONE Connect digital color platform.


Comments are closed.