We love LEGO® colours here at New Elementary and know it is an important topic for many of you too. A reference book, The Unofficial LEGO Color Guide by Christoph Bartneck, was first released late in 2017 with a second edition in July 2018. We sent a copy to LEGO colour aficionado Ryan Howerter (creator of LEGO colour resources like Brick Colorstream) to see what it offers.
The book begins with a very brief introduction to existing color resources, then explains the methodology behind creating the book. Dr. Christoph Bartneck’s primary contribution to the field of LEGO color research in this book is his use of an X-Rite colorimeter to record the actual color of LEGO bricks more accurately.
Next come images comparing similar colors: all purples together, all blues, and so on, along with their LEGO IDs. Judging by questions asked in online forums such as BrickLink or Eurobricks, we can never have too many color comparison images!
After that, the book’s Color Index lists all colors, with the BrickLink and LEGO color IDs and page number. Bafflingly, Bartneck has also created a “Book Name and ID” for each color, by which the index is sorted alphabetically. Adding yet another numbering system does nothing to clarify the already confusing situation of LEGO color IDs. (The Book Names do match LEGO’s names, but the numbers are different and unexplained.)
The bulk of the book is devoted to the actual color images. Each color gets its own page, including a photo, data such as years of use in sets and names in different color systems, and values in various color spaces (mostly taken from the colorimeter readings). Also included is a sidebar with six “Similar Colors”, which is nice to see.
Each color page has a solid strip of the color on each color page, for matching purposes. This is probably the most potentially-useful part of the whole book, but it doesn’t seem to match up with physical bricks very well at all. CMYK color matching is very difficult, and somewhere between Bartneck’s calibrated computer and the printer, things seem to have gone wrong. The book’s printing as a whole seems a little washed-out and low-quality—and judging by some other reviews, it’s not just my copy. [Editor's note: Ryan has the first edition. A second edition has since been released which promises “better printing quality for the softcover print” so we're unsure if this aspect has improved or not.]
Which leads me to ask, who is this book for? If the colors can’t be represented accurately, why a physical book? BrickLink buyers and sellers won’t be interested in very obscure colors. Color nerds will be disappointed too, as the book leaves out several known colors like 7 Orange and 343 Diffuse White. Conversely, BrickLink’s “Light Pink” is included with a picture of the Scala necklace (BL part x11), which was debunked as a unique color several years ago.
The book’s typographical errors also cast doubt on its general accuracy. “Panatone”, “Plaette”, “LEGOI”, and “Ryan Horwerter” [hi!] pop up in the first three pages. But my biggest disappointment with the book is its lack of acknowledgement of the work other AFOLs have put into accumulating the data and disambiguating the colors in the first place. There’s no mention of the research by Skye Barnick, Wouter van Iersel, Dan Pikora, and several others.
If you’re looking for accurate LEGO color data from a colorimeter, this book seems to be the only way to get it. It is kind of nice to see all these colors in a compact reference that you can hold in your hands. But if you’re hoping to determine exactly which shade of silver you have, or what LEGO’s official RGB values are, you’ll find this book sadly lacking.
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