Call it a gift, call a curse, but most body shop professionals can spot a bad paint match at every intersection, parking lot, and even sometimes as a car passes by us on the street. When you know what to look for, you will be shocked at just how many bad paint matching jobs are out there in the world.

And why is that? Well, quite frankly, paint is really hard to have a precise match. In fact, if a body shop guarantees a 100% perfect paint match, they aren’t telling you the truth. That’s why we do paint blends, to help feather in the new paint to the existing paint. Even the car manufacturers can’t achieve a 100% paint match.

Have you ever noticed how your bumper cover is a slight shade off from the rest of your car? Go look at where the cover meets the fender and look at it in different lighting conditions. You’re sure to see a difference.

Rest assured though, we at Telesis Collision Center can get really, really, almost imperceptibly, close. We have computerized matching technology to help us match the color, not unlike the ones you find at the local hardware store.

Each car has a paint code on a label on the door or sometimes even in the trunk. We typically start there. However, matching paint on a car is not as simple as entering the paint code into the computer and mixing up paint. Since the paintwork is the only part of a collision repair you see every day, it’s important for you to know a little bit about paint matching, and how we get a match here at our shop.

Three Basic Ingredients in Automotive Paint

  • Resin
  • Pigment
  • Solvent

The resin is the component that holds together the pigment in suspension, provides adhesion to the applied surface, and is what determines the quality and paint durability.

The pigment comes in a power form similar to concrete. The average aftermarket automotive paint mixing system includes around 100 colors or toners to be able to mix formulas, including metallic and pearl paint colors.   

The solvent is what provides the transferability. Without it, the paint would be too thick in viscosity to transfer from container to container.

Before 1985, most domestic vehicles had factory single stage paint. It would be a major problem with trying to match metallic colors, especially since single stage metallic paint is one layer combined with the gloss resin, pigment, metallic, and solvent. The painter only had four coats to achieve full coverage and layout the metallic in a uniform matter, by dusting light coats and maintaining an acceptable gloss. It would be a tough process of the painter moving fast and working with a proprietary system to get the desired look. 

Achieving the desired look

Modern paint is typically a three-layer system of primer, base color, and clear coat. Some newer or specialty finishes even have a fourth coat, called a mid-coat, that is a tinted clear coat designed to give extra depth to the finish.

When we match paint, we are trying to get those color coats as exact as possible as the clear coat doesn’t impact the color match.

How do we get a color match at Telesis Collision Center?

Now that you know the three basic ingredients and the application process of automotive paint, here’s what you need to know about what happens to the color during the application process.

Auto paint colors are a combination of pigment colors and metallic sizes, including pearls. The paint code on your car’s paint label will give you the color name and code which will pull up in our system as the “factory standard”.  The factory standard is only the starting point. The factory standard also has between 3-7 different shades called “variants”. The artistry of the painter comes into play when we do spray outs. A spray out consists of painting a little of each shade on a series of cards and holding it up to the car to match the version of the factory color that is on your car. At our shop, we may even use a sun gun to replicate the true spectrum of the sun to select the correct shade. A sun gun replicates what the color looks like when in the sun. The fluorescent lighting in the paint booth or the shop can affect what the painter sees.

Example of a spray out

Why do car manufacturers have so many variances?

Most car manufacturers have three major paint suppliers. The manufacturer decides on a standard color for production and submits a painted sample to their suppliers. The paint manufacturer then produces a formula for the “standard sample” and is allowed a tolerance of plus or minus 5% when they deliver the paint.

This is where the first problem arises. There can be up to a 5% difference in shades of the same blue metallic standard color, depending on if you’re in the west coast or east coast. Holding them up side by side and they’ll look like two different colors. This is the reason why paint manufacturers have a standard formula, followed by two alternates. If these alternates aren’t available, then the painter in the body shop will mix the standard formula and tints it accordingly.

The second reason for variances in paint colors is the metallic color applications. Nowadays, metallic colors are classified into seven different categories. The metallic colors will control how light or dark a color is, similar to what white will do to a pastel color. This can be from temperature, fluid tip sizes, paint film thickness, flash off time between coats, humidity, speed of spray gun, and if it’s a metal or plastic surface type.

Keep in mind

The longer it takes for the paint to dry, the darker the color will be. But after three years of UV sunlight absorbing some of the pigments, your car will look lighter. Reds will turn pinkish or more orange, and blues will shift to a greener shade.

Auto body shops have to match the oxidized color, in addition to the original manufacturer’s color (known as OEM). The texture (aka “orange peel”) also has to match the original finish for it to look pre-accident condition. This can be accomplished using the proper spray gun, polishing equipment, and an experienced painter.

Why trust us for your vehicle paint needs

It requires a specific skill set to be able to do automotive refinishing and painting. After mechanical and structural body repairs are made, we proceed to prep for auto body painting. Whether your vehicle requires a complete spray job or just some spot paintwork, we are a PPG Automotive Paint Certified Repair Facility. PPG Automotive Paint is a premium high-performance automotive paint product. Our computerized paint mixing technology ensures perfect color matches are created. Not to mention, Telesis’ meticulous paint technicians do their work in a pristine, air-tight downdraft paint booth that is heated to temperatures optimized to dry the paint quickly and cleanly.

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