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No small feat: Tiny objects find their perfect Pantone color match

Near the end of spring last year, graphic designer Inka Mathew became captivated by a beautiful Veronica Georgia Blue flower. 

"The design geek in me got curious, and I picked a bloom and brought it inside," Mathew, 41, told TODAY.com. "I flipped through my Pantone swatch book and found a color match for it."


Because of her background in print design, Mathew has been using the Pantone Matching System (PMS) for years. And because she's always surrounded by swatch books, it didn't take long for her to launch a project she dubbed "Tiny PMS Match" after that first encounter with that stunning little blossom.

"I placed the flower on the color chip and took a photo of it using my iPhone with my dot-grid notebook as the background. I posted it on my Instagram account," said Mathew, who lives in Houston with her husband and their 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. "I was pleasantly surprised by my followers' reactions and decided to continue doing it using other little objects I found around me."


"I took pictures of objects that piqued my interest or had special meaning to me," she continued. "I want to visually record these tiny objects that are currently in my life."

After months of matching seemingly random items to swatches on a dot-grid notebook, she moved everything to an Instagram account that is dedicated to the project.  

"When you look at things in nature up close, you'll be amazed by the design and details in them, including colors," she said. "It helps me appreciate the little things in life."


Even though the items appear to be chosen erratically, they are included in the project because they either captured Mathew's attention or held such a special meaning that she wanted to remember them. 

"I plan to keep on doing this for as long as I can," she said. "I'm curious to see what will be the little objects in my life when my kids are grown up, go to college and later have their own children. It will be interesting to find out." 

  • Slideshow Photos

    True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

    In a whimsical photography project, graphic designer Inka Mathew matches small, random items with Pantone color swatches.

  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Match game -

    In this creative photo project, graphic designer Inka Mathew takes everyday objects and places them on top of their matching color from the Pantone collection. This yellow Lego Head is the perfect match for the color company's sunny shade.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Kumquat -

    Because of her background in print design, Mathew has spent years using the Pantone Matching System (PMS), which helps graphic designers standardize their color palettes with a swatch guide. Mathew uses these swatches to match the colors to unexpected items.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Pencil -

    Inspired by a flower that evoked a specific Pantone shade, it didn't take long for Mathew to launch the project, which she dubbed "Tiny PMS Match." Items like this pencil stub soon followed in the series.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
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    Blood pressure pill -

    Mathew recalled how her wildly varied "Tiny PMS Match" project began. "I placed the flower on the color chip and took a photo of it using my iPhone with my dot-grid notebook as the background," said Mathew, who lives in Houston with her husband and their 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. "I posted it on my Instagram account."

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Strawberry gummy -

    "I was pleasantly surprised by my followers' reactions and decided to continue doing it using other little objects I found around me," Mathew said.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Drummond Phlox -

    "I took pictures of objects that piqued my interest or had special meaning to me," she continued. "I want to visually record these tiny objects that are currently in my life."

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Touch-me-not -

    After months of matching seemingly random items to swatches on a dot-grid notebook, she moved everything to an Instagram account that is dedicated to the project.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Purple dino sprinkles -

    The items Mathew photographs range from "little flowers in my yard, my son's LEGO minifigure's head, my daughter's strawberry gummy snack, dinosaur cake sprinkles in my pantry, to my husband's blood pressure control pill," she said.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
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    Roaring dino -

    "I found the objects around my house, in my neighborhood and at places we visited during family vacation," Mathew explained.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
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    Plastic elephant -

    When Mathew isn't using the swatches to find matches for everyday objects, she uses them for work.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
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    Seashell -

    "I use their color chips to find the right colors for logos and other print pieces I design for my clients," she said.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
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    Egg shell -

    "When you tell a printer you want certain PMS numbers on your print piece, you can be sure you will get the right colors," Mathew said of how the Pantone Matching System works.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
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    Blue Fruit Loop -

    Mathew has matched every color of Fruit Loop with a color on the Pantone scale.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Pomegranate bud -

    "When you look at things in nature up close, you'll be amazed by the design and details in them, including colors," Mathew said.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Leonardo candy -

    "When I decided to start this project, I was trying to find an appropriate name for it," she said. "Tiny Pantone Matches was, I thought, too long, so I ended up with Tiny PMS Match. PMS stands for Pantone Matching System, which is a well-known term in design industries."

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
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    Jade pendant -

    "The four dots mean the color can be simulated using CMYK color mode," she said of the symbols at the bottom of a swatch. "The three circles can be achieved using RGB color mode."

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
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    Texas sage -

    RGB color mode is when red, green and blue colors are added together in a variety of ways to reproduce colors. CMYK is the term used when cyan, magenta and yellow colors are added together. The "K" stands for key black.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Lichen -

    "Why Pantone? Because I love colors and I always have Pantone color swatches around me," she said. "It's a great tool to give a little bit of definition to the endless color range around us."

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    LEGO gun -

    "It helps me appreciate the little things in life," Mathew said of her photography project.

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew
  • True hues: Designer finds precise color matches for everyday objects

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    Purple prairie larkspur -

    "I plan to keep on doing this for as long as I can," she said of the project. "I'm curious to see what will be the little objects in my life when my kids are grown up, go to college and later have their own children. It will be interesting to find out."

    Inka Mathew / Inka Mathew


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