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Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


The Trouble with Pantone Books

“PMS chip-color books can be buggy.” With just these six words, Pamela touched-off a fury of comments in my Print Production Professionals Group. “There have been times when we will lay five PMS books side-by-side to show that a particular color chip will not match from book-to-book.”

Yes, but Pamela, this does not mean they are “buggy” (is that a technical term BTW?). Here’s part of the problem...

“Our Pantone books are close to 10 years old. As long as you keep your swatch pages out of bright light, the colors should be fine to use for many years. But if Pantone wants us to replace our swatchbooks once a year, they should drop their prices.” Mark, another group member, was clearly not amused.

Granted, Pantone books do not come cheap. And yours truly does not replace them every year, either—who has the money? I keep my books in a nice, dark cozy drawer and they stay true to color for a long time, but...

Oh yes, there is a but. You might think that PMS 362 is always exactly the same color, 20 years ago as it is now. Wrong, my friend.

A new Pantone book is not only there in case your issue has faded or to update you on the new colors Pantone has added...Pantone reserves the right to adjust some of your tried-and-true colors from year to year.

I learned this the hard way on a press check a few years ago when my printer’s PMS 362 did not match mine. We compared our Pantone books and—wouldn’t you know it—the green was different.

My printer filled me in on the “Pantone reserves the right to...” fact.

It was news to me. Annoying as this may be, it is not a case of “buggy” PMS books.

Does this mean I now follow Pantone’s "encouragement" to replace my PMS book every year? Nope. Seriously, as Mark put it so well, who has the budget?

But I do it more frequently than I used to (I am not telling you how old the book was that I brought to said press check—too embarrassing), and I am more mindful about it and double-check my colors...

So, just between you and me: How old are your books?

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