Pantone Swatches
March 2, 2004 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I recently got given, as a gift, a 1991 PANTONE SWATCH BOOK. On the back of the book there's the famous disclaimer: "due to uncontrollable pigment fading (etc) this book will change in approximately one year ... This book should be replaced regularly to maintain accurate color communication" - Now, I've used (but never personally owned) Pantone books for years, old ones and new ones - and it's never really affected the color that is ultimately printed. Meaning the color I pick from the book ends up looking just like the color that was printed. Question to you all, does the (reasonable) age of a pantone book really matter? I can see how things might change slightly, since it is paper and ink - and they probably have to include this disclaimer for authoritative reasons unimportant to someone like me who just wants a kind of green, a kind of brown - and not a scientifically exact color. Really at 80 bucks this "use only for a year" deal seems crazy. Is my thirteen-year old Pantone book useless? Does anyone have an old one and a new one to compare to? Thoughts? Opinions?
posted by Peter H to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
Pantone is lying. It might be true if you left the book in the sun all the time, all fanned out, but under normal conditions it should be fine. They just want you to buy a new one every year.
posted by me3dia at 11:18 AM on March 2, 2004

My father wa in typography for years and often had Pantone books around. My experiences with Pantone books is that it was used in that manner (keep in a photosensitive bag, discard after a year) in the typography field where specific color matching (matching swatches up for logos/brand colors/advertising) is an absolute must. I think for your needs (looking for a kind of green, a kind of brown) it should be fine.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:22 AM on March 2, 2004

my other half has been in four color magazine production for nearly ten years, and yes, the pantone swatches fade and it makes a difference. it's not generally significant enough for all but the most exacting of uses (such as logos or where the color is part of the mark). we use the old ones at home for general color schemes.

a 13 year old pantone book could be quite significantly off, but if your color preference is generally vague and doesn't have to match anything in particular, there should be no problem.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:49 AM on March 2, 2004

Response by poster: Thank you all for the answers!

crush-onastick - do you have an older one that you can compare to a newer one?

It isn't that my color preference is vague so much as I want to feel confident a color is going to be that color. If a color fades, I can't see the problem (everyday printing makes things darker and lighter just through the printing process) i'm more concerned that the colors shift - so a yellow becomes sort of greenish, or a brown becomes purple, etc. That sorta thing.
posted by Peter H at 12:54 PM on March 2, 2004

i had a couple of really old ones [10+ years], they were definately off from a new set when i compared about a year ago. Not so much from fading as from abrasion--or at least a combination....lots of use dulls the colors because they get scraped off. Also, there are more inks now than there used to be...

if you are serious about color though, you need the complete set, so you can see coated/uncoated/matte, process, hexachrome, whatever. the "ultimate survival guide" is under $300.

i wouldn't say you need the complete set once a year though.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:56 PM on March 2, 2004

Your Old book certainly isn't useless, It's going to be much closer than looking at the screen or just guessing. To me there's it's hard to trust even a brand new book absolutely, so I don't mind trusting an older book slightly less.
posted by rschroed at 1:01 PM on March 2, 2004

i have compared them (i don't have them in front of me to do so at the moment) and there is both fading and shifting in color. the fading is more significant than the shifting, but (as a made up example), red fades more significantly than blue, so your purples will not only be faded but also will seem more blue than they really are. does that make sense?

like rschroed said, your old book is closer than a computer screen, and better than guessing. i never had a pantone book (i did two color, not four or full-color), so when i needed one, i just went to the s/o's office and used his.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:12 PM on March 2, 2004

We had to get a printer to totally re-do a brochure since they were using old Pantone books (we'd sent them the number to use) so it didn't match. It can make a difference.

If you use the same colours over and over, ie for corporate branding, just get the pages. You can buy individual replacement pages rather than a whole book, and that will save you a lot of money.
posted by Salmonberry at 2:17 PM on March 2, 2004

What Sal said...there is a renumbering that they do every so often -- in 2000 last time i think (to force everyone to buy new books?).
posted by amberglow at 2:31 PM on March 2, 2004

A sub question for color experts:

I can understand the "standardization" part of using Pantone to consistenly have the same color over different machines, but what are applications in which it is absolutely fundamental to have 99.9 cofidece match to color standard (except maybe counterfeiting which is intuitive) ?
posted by elpapacito at 4:18 PM on March 2, 2004

well, everyone wants what they design to match--pantone gives you exactly what you specify, which is different from process (CMYK)--there are color shifts and variations during a press run, and what comes out early isn't at all like what's in the middle or when they're running low on M or something, etc...we only use PMS for cover logo and type, and it's a tradition that covers should match most closely what is designed--being the face of the magazine and calculated to attract, and there's more leeway on inside pages. Also, even calibrated monitors and color laser printers (canon or fiery or whatever) don't give exact true color, ever. PMS is a way to know for sure that the exact Blue (for instance) that you want is what you'll get, pretty much.
posted by amberglow at 4:34 PM on March 2, 2004

what are applications in which it is absolutely fundamental to have 99.9 cofidece match to color standard

Any print job for which your customer is paying you.
posted by kindall at 7:23 PM on March 2, 2004

well now you can know what your print work will look like in 13 years or so.
posted by c at 8:39 PM on March 2, 2004

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