The Difficult Task of Matching Auto Body Paint Colors

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What Affects Auto Body Paint Color Matching?

Anyone who has every attempted to repair a car door ding, refinish an auto paint scratch, or even refinish a car that’s been in an auto accident has come across the difficulties with perfectly matching the color of auto body paint. But why is what seems like should be a simple task of matching a standard auto body color so difficult?

Auto body paint is made of three elements: pigment, resin, and solvent. The pigment is a thick powder comparable to concrete and comes in over 100 colors and toners for mixing including metallic auto body paint colors and pearl auto body paint colors. The resin is what holds the pigment in suspension and determines paint quality and paint durability. The solvent is what makes the paint applicable, without the solvent the auto body paint would be thick like concrete and unable to transfer from container to the auto.

When the auto paint manufacturer mixes these three main elements to create a formula for the standard vehicle color they are allowed a tolerance of plus or minus 5% when they deliver the automotive body paint. This 5% can make a big difference and cause two of the same vehicles to look like two completely different colors when paired side by side. So you can see why this alone would cause some difficulties when making automotive refinishing repairs.

Another cause of auto body paint color shade differences are temperature when painting, auto body paint film thickness, time between coats, speed and type of the auto body paint spray gun, surface type- plastic bumpers and metal body, and humidity. These factors will all cause the auto body paint color to shift lighter or darker.

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Sunlight also has to do with color matching. A car exposed to sunlight for years will being to fade in color. The sunlight’s ultra-violet rays absorbed some of the pigments in the auto body paint. Blue paint colors will shift to a green shade, reds will begin to turn pinkish or sometimes even an orange. So once you apply what you think is your auto body color code paint, you will see the new coat of paint will look brighter.

The application process is a major factor too when it comes to auto body paint. Depending on the spray gun type, the number of coats, the time you wait before each coat, the time it takes the paint to dry, the temperature, and the humidity when painting will all cause the paint to shift slightly in color. When the same paint is applied at the same time to a plastic bumper and a metal body, depending on temperature and texture, the colors will slightly shift. You might notice that some brand new cars will vary in color from body to bumper. Pigments settle differently on plastics than on metals causing pigment flotation which shifts the colors slightly either darker of lighter.

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