This one is for Christine who emailed me last night asking me where to get a Pantone matching system swatch book. Thanks for saying hi Christine, I hope this answers your questions!
I buy my swatch books from Pantone however you can usually score a set on eBay for a significantly cheaper price. If you are buying second-hand though, you should be extra cautious as the colors can fade if exposed to sunlight on a regular basis, making your color match obsolete. Be sure to ask how old they are (more than 5 years won’t do as the #s often change) what condition they are in, as well as how they were stored while in use (I store mine in a black case or black plastic bag for transport). The less light the better, these babies are not cheap to replace!
The wonderful thing about having a pantone match is that the color can get SO close, if not perfect – IF a client specifies a number to begin with. However like with many processes, letterpress printing can have variables even with a pantone match. There is the color of the paper to factor in, the less white it is, the more that paper color will factor in and alter the hue of the ink color. All inks are transparent. Even opaque white :) That means that when it first goes on press it’s really thin, sometimes ugly and not very saturated. Very great if you are going for light colors. However Dark and saturated colors require more ink on press to look well printed.
There is a fine line though between good saturation, and flooding the press with ink. Once you’ve flooded, it’s a bugger to get off, and even more noticeable as poor printwork. Everything literally looks like it’s bleeding!
So watch your color, and saturation – pre-mix your ink before it goes on press to maximize the right hue/saturation and then fine tune and print your edition!