Color Matching - Not As Easy As It Looks!

Color Match, Custom Color, Lacquer, MAK, Metamerism, QC, Thinner -

Color Matching - Not As Easy As It Looks!

As design trends change and evolve, we are seeing a shift from stained wood to solid color finishes throughout the cabinetry and furniture industries.

The biggest issue we see everyday is consistency in opaque colors from batch to batch. There are a myriad of variables the can affect and change color, and dialing in a color match to blend perfectly is incredibly difficult for even the most experience colorist. You'll find the most demanding tolerances for color in the cosmetic, automotive and food/beverage industries. These industries are dominated by large manufacturers with the resources to ensure that every item they produce falls within a very small deviation as far as color is concerned.

In the coatings industry, that level of precision is very difficult to find. The tools, expertise and labor that are required for consistent, precise color matches are beyond the reach of many coatings distributors. However, we recommend that you, the end user, continue to educate yourself on the nature of color theory and how it affects the final product. Being able to work closely with your colorist will result in better, faster matches that are right the first time. That means you save time, money and labor, invaluable resources in this trade!


Image A: Metamerism. The orange balls appear different when the light source is altered.

How can you make sure your color will match as closely as it can?

  • Order more than you need, and retain a small amount from that batch for future use. The best way to make sure your color is consistent is to make sure every component is coated in the same batch of material. If you are running low, it's best to reserve some of your existing batch to mix or "box" with another gallon or two.
  • Choose a color-matching distributor that can show you how close the color actually is. Not every distributor can produce spectral analysis of each batch of color you order (see image B) Not every distributor uses the corrects tints, bases or techniques to create repeatable results. 
  • Lighting is everything. Always examine your color match under the correct lighting at the correct viewing angle. Daylight on a cabinet door held horizontally will make a color appear much brighter than when it's illuminated with incandescent light in a vertical position. This phenomenon is known as "Metamerism," where a color may not be the same as the standard, but can appear so under a particular light source (see image A). The best color matches aim for a precise spectral match, when the color mimics the reflectance, hue and luminosity of the standard color, as seen in the picture at the top of this article.  
  • Realistic expectations. The amount of variables the influence color are vast. Expect some variance in your next can of lacquer, even when it's tinted by the best colorist. An experienced colorist will do their best to get you a color that is near perfect, but ultimately, it's up to the finisher to blend the color to achieve the desired result.

Image B: This spectral analysis shows how closely the color-match actually matches the standard. Our software even allows us to predict how the color will match under various light sources (D65 Daylight, A10 Incadescent and F02 Fluorescent in this example). A Delta-E or "DE" of less than 1.00 is assumed to be an acceptable match for most colors. 


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