How to choose the most similar color variation?

Each car has a paint reference that, in case of having to repaint a certain part, will be the key to getting the same color. The reality is very different and a lot harsher, basically because most colors, have said color variation.

Every owner knows that their car has a paint reference that, in case of having to repaint a certain part, will be the key to getting the same color. However, the reality is very different and a lot harsher, basically because most colors, especially the most used ones, have said color variations.

Therefore, the way to manage and choose the most similar variation of a color becomes a work process of vital importance for any workshop, thanks to this, changes of tone in the repainted piece are avoided, especially when it comes to cutting in, for that reason it is always recommended to blend…

So read on to find out how to do it!

The reality of vehicle color variations

A color variation is the colorimetric deviation (hue, vibrancy, etc.) of a given reference color after being affected by a multitude of external and technical factors specific to the state of the paint and the conditions under which it has been applied. These deviations are not noticeable when a vehicle is painted completely, but when it is partially painted.

Taking this into account, the paint manufacturer takes care to analyze these deviations in order to offer the repair shop a wide range of variations, in test tube format, with different colorimetric characteristics between them, allowing them to repaint a vehicle using the most similar color.

In some cases, the paint manufacturer offers a single variation, in another there may be two or three, while in others there are as many as 7 or 8 different ones. Therefore, there is no specific number of variations to be provided by the brand, but it is left up to them based on the information and test results that they handle in their laboratories. In addition, this does not guarantee that any of the variations offered by them are suitable for repainting, so that the vehicle refinisher is sometimes forced to make their own mixtures with the available variations to obtain intermediate variations or use other strategies that are more costly.

Reasons for the existence of variations

It is inevitable that the color that is initially designed will undergo variations, even in the factory, since there are certain circumstances that cause such changes. Among the most determining factors are the following:

  • The type of paint. The paints used in the factory are different from those used in car refinish. This means that pigments, resins and other compounds that make up their composition are not exactly the same, causing colorimetric differences between both types of paint.
  • Paint supply from different suppliers. Each paint brand has its own technology and its own manufacturing and development processes, so depending on where the manufacturer’s factory is located, there may be one, two, or even several suppliers. Inevitably, this leads to slight changes in the final color, something that is not a problem when the vehicle is painted in the factory, but is a problem when it is repainted in the workshop if the appropriate color variations are not available. This same problem is transferred to the repair shops, so that the same color code presents these type of differences depending on the brand that manufactures it.
  • Application of paints in different plants. There are certain parts, such as bumpers or fuel caps, which are painted in plants or industries different from those where the bodywork is painted. In these cases, the supplier of each of them is different and the type of paint is also different, so that the risk of colorimetric changes is more than possible. In some cases, they can even be perceptible in brand new vehicles that have just left the factory.
  • Painting conditions. The paint that gives the color to the bodywork is a product prone to show different colorimetric variations depending on the conditions in which it is applied. Aspects such as environmental humidity, temperature, or the number of coats applied, among others, cause the same color, even from the same supplier and the same type of paint, can suffer significant variations. This circumstance is more controllable in the factory, since the painting process is robotized and perfectly controlled, although much less so when the vehicle is repainted in the workshop.
  • Repainted vehicle. The vast majority of vehicles circulating on our roads have been completely or partially repainted at some point in their life. This means that when having to repaint one of them, there is a high probability that it will be difficult to find the most suitable variation, since it is not known with which brand it has been repainted and under what conditions the color was applied.
  • Other factors such as the type of light available, the visual acuity of the observer or the effects of the paint cause variations in color that can be misleading, so these must be taken into account when choosing a variation.

How to choose the most similar color variation

The way to choose the most similar color variation is to apply a previous cleaning process and to have the appropriate tools to make an accurate assessment. The tools required are:

  • Spectrophotometer. It is the most recommended tool to perform the color reading, since it analyzes its colorimetric particulates very accurately and finds the variation or the most similar color within its database, such as xCrom.
Expectrofotometro xCrom
xCrom spectrophotometer
  • Paint software. In addition to being able to download the color reading made by the spectrophotometer, it allows you to synchronize the paint weighing with the computer data, which is essential to recalculate the formula or control the paint consumption.
  • Color chart and/or painted test tubes. This is one of the systems traditionally used and which is becoming less and less important. It includes all the variations of each of the available colors. Whenever it is feasible, the use of painted test tubes painted by the operator against the color chart are recommended, since it shows the final color more accurately. The use of printed color charts is not recommended under any circumstances.
  • Particle selector. Allows the selection of the most suitable metal particle size to avoid differences in tone as a consequence.
How to choose the most similar color variation? | Crom Campus
Particle selector

In relation to the work process that guarantees a correct choice of the variation, these are the steps to be followed:

  • The variation check is carried out on an area of the vehicle adjacent to the area where the color is to be applied. It is necessary for it to be clean and polished to avoid incorrect assessments.
  • Perform the reading with the spectrophotometer and wait for the result to come back.
  • If a spectrophotometer is not available, prepare the color chart and/or test tube with the different variations. Place the vehicle in a well-lit area, preferably with natural or artificial light. Place the variations one by one on the test surface and observe them separately from different angles, paying attention to the perceptible differences: hue, vividness and intensity. Then choose the closest match.
  • Check the type of metal particle with the help of the particle selector.
  • It is not recommended to cut-in, we will always ensure better results by blurring the adjacent pieces.

Choosing the color variation is becoming easier and easier.

The variations in the colors of the vehicle make the work of the vehicle painter difficult, but it is something that cannot be avoided. The manufacturer provides different variations to improve this work, but sometimes not having enough variety or making the wrong choice can ruin a job well done up to that point. Thanks to the use of digital tools such as spectrophotometers, it is becoming less and less difficult to get the color variations right.

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