Color Selection of Paints and Coatings: How Spectrophotometers Take the Guess Work Out of Sample Matching

Human beings are constantly looking for ways to communicate their own unique style. Thanks to the influence of social media, television, and print media that continuously boast of ways to express our individuality through selection and choices, the palette of colors is persistently growing every day. If the world is our canvas, then we are the ones holding the brush.

paint brushes color selection
Social media, television, and magazines are creating a greater desire for color choices and variations.
Image Source: Flickr user John Morgan

Consumers are barraged with color options on a daily basis: what color car to buy, what finish to choose, paint for decorating their walls…the list goes on and on. Due to the sheer number of color variations, finding just the right color selection and matching that color precisely is where the real challenge begins. Color measurement provides a solution to pairing paints and coatings to sample selections through the use of advanced spectrophotometers, taking the guess work out of color matching.

The importance of color measurement

Researchers state that, “the tremendous variability in the spectral composition of light reflected from surfaces lends itself to eliciting a daunting gamut of more than 100,000 discriminable colors, and the variation in the names we assign these colors is limited only by scope of human experience.” This makes color selection extremely subjective. However, color measurement technology provides a complex and objective process that enables manufacturers to quantify color data for accuracy and repeatability.

paint splatter color selection
Variations in color are limited only by human perception and experience. Spectrophotometers provide accurate color measurement that delivers quantifiable data for precise color matching.
Image Source: Flickr user Darren Johnson

Many paint and coating industries understand the importance of exact color matching in terms of quality control. Ken Phillips, marketing director of HunterLab, gives a real world example of how color measurement affects quality assurance in the car manufacturing industry. He explains,“it is critical that when two pieces of the same color are joined together, they are in ‘color harmony’ with one another, achieving the esthetic intentions of the designer. If the side mirror or bumper of a car does not match the exterior of the vehicle, these components are considered to be defective and not in ‘color harmony.’ The cost to the supplier of these components to fix such a problem can be excessive.”

When variations exist in “color harmony,” it does not always result in immediate product rejection. Consumers who find discrepancies between color selection samples and actual product results quickly learn to associate these findings with quality, which in turn affects consumer choice. Therefore, it is detrimental to eliminate color variations during the processing phase and before distribution. The sooner these color deviations are detected, the less time and money is spent on correcting the problem.

paint card samples color selection
Consumers make purchasing choices based on color selection and expect color samples to match the product.
Image Source: Flickr user Jocelyn

The right choice in spectrophotometers

The ability to accurately mix colors to match color selection is dependent on the use of spectrophotometers for many reasons. Not only does color selection include hue, saturation, and color value, but other characteristics such as matte or gloss finishes relate to both texture and color perception. Spectrophotometers are designed to measure color in both reflective and transmittance mode, which accounts for the three-dimensional attributions of color that absorb or reflect light. All these traits must be accounted for in order to gain an accurate reading of a color selection sample.

HunterLab offers the expertise and selection needed to address the various needs of the paint and coating industry with a variety of spectrophotometer options to choose from. HunterLab can help you choose the best instrumentation for your specific industry and budget needs. Contact HunterLab today to see how we can help you unlock the world of color.

  • Henri

    In paint and coatings color production if a batch is out of specs it is not lost but it can take some time to get the color back within tolerance. When HunterLab’s spectrophotometer are connected to ISOCOLOR software and detect color variations between standards and batches, production mix recipes can be adjusted on the fly and at the push of a button. The ISOMATCH software calculates the optimum color recipe in the lab and the ISOBATCH software calculates the adjustment of the quantity for each of the colorants (or for a minimum number of them). This color correction program coupled with a HunterLab measurement device is an efficient solution for quickly and accurately resolving color formulation in production and the challenges of inconsistent pigment supplies or changes in process.

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