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Shades of Perfection
MATCHING PAINT COLORS TAKES GREAT UNDERSTANDING, TOOLS AND TECHS.
When it comes to matching paint color, the dream customer will walk into a paint shop with the vehicle’s Monroney sticker, along with the original color code neatly written on an attached sticky note. But, alas, life is not a dream. Typically, the customer comes in without any clue as to what color needs to be matched.
Therefore, Mopar® has found it imperative to develop a process which allows anyone trying to match colors to be perfectly precise. All in an effort to provide the optimum color-matching formula that will blend perfectly with their vehicle’s existing paint job — so that nobody can tell that their car’s paint job has been compromised.
COLOR MATCHING MEANS MORE THAN A NUMBER
Auto body paint is made of three elements: pigment, resin and solvent. When the manufacturer mixes the elements, they are allotted a 5% (+ or -) tolerance to match the intended color. So while a paint code is a good start, it doesn’t exactly mean an exact match.
Other factors come into play, too.
Sunlight, for example, is a culprit for fading on older vehicles and vehicles stored outside. The sun’s ultraviolet rays affect the pigments of paint. Blues shift to green and reds can look brighter and lighter or warmer and dull.
Winter is no picnic on paint colors, either. Ice on the body can trap dirt that sneaks into the car’s paint job as ice melts. And winter road salt is a known nemesis to paint – especially in geographic areas that mix gravel with salt to add traction to icy roads.
Temperature can also affect paint fixes and colors. The exact same paint from the exact same batch will apply differently in different temperature settings and on different surfaces, like metal or plastic.
“There are a lot of different things that can change a color or metallic flop slightly. Spray gun setup, fluid tip, air pressure, humidity and the way each person sprays are all factors,” said Rob Paddock, well-respected painter/restoration specialist and owner of Paddock’s Paint Works, in Chesterfield, Michigan.
RECREATING THE COLOR CODE
With all of that said, you might think there’s no way a vehicle can ever be perfectly matched without a completely new, bumper-to-bumper paint job. Fortunately, that’s not necessarily true.
A spectrophotometer is a device that measures the amount of light and the exact hues on the car’s current paint finish. This data can be paired with the vehicle’s VIN to electronically fi nd the paint formula on the vehicle’s existing fi nish. Or for situations like matching custom paint jobs or classic cars – where the paint color may have been discontinued – it helps the painter recreate the correct color.
PUTTING COLOR ON THE CANVAS
Technician talent and technique are equally as important for the paint-matching process. After the color information is received by the spectrophotometer, the painter creates several test swatches based on the information received from the device, then tests the swatches against existing paint (usually in sunlight) to see which works best.
“I’ve had to do 30 spray-out cards tinting the color each time just to match a factory color,” noted Paddock.
When the painting process fi nally begins, it’s up to the professional to work with highlights and shadows based on the curves and contours of the vehicle – something a good painter instinctively knows. They will also know how and where to blend areas based on the shape of the vehicle’s body panels, whether it’s stopping short at the edge of a panel without blending into the adjacent panels or painting and blending on panels that were not damaged or seem like they need no paint at all.
When the paint is complete, the painter follows the process with the finish, from creating and testing swatches to blending and contouring to complete the perfect match.