Categories: Auto Paint

Color Matching Technology Explained by Auto Body Pros

Matching paint colors during auto body repairs has come a long way in recent years. In the past, the process of matching paint was a hit or miss. These days, auto body professionals rely on high-tech tools to achieve a color that’s as close to the original as you’ll get.

First, Some Background on Manufacturer’s Paint Colors

Before we explain anything else, it’s important to understand how automakers get their paint formulations to begin with. Manufacturers create a “standard” for every color that they put on their vehicles. Those standards are then sent out to auto body paint suppliers who create their own formula to match the “standard” from the vehicle manufacturer.

How Variations Can Occur Here

The auto manufacturer will buy a certain volume of paint and when it’s gone, they will get new bids for more of the same color. Many manufacturers are only concerned with price, not ensuring that the color is legitimately the same from one batch to another. So, there’s no guarantee that the same “apple red” will actually appear the same from one year to the next.

It should also be known that when paint companies create their formula, they also create “alternate” formulas. There can be many of these alternate formulas.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that conditions in the paint manufacturing plant such as humidity, temperature and more, can create variations in the paint color.

So, How Do Paint Technicians Find a Match?

Now that you know a little bit about how the auto paint manufacturing process works, you may be wondering how it’s at all possible to match the color. Don’t worry; technology has come a long way and “eye-balling” a match is no longer the best practice.

When the time comes for paint to be touched up, or when a banged-up bumper needs replaced, taking the vehicle to a credible and modern auto body shop is of the utmost importance. Not every shop can recreate the paint from the factory that was applied to a vehicle; time is also an enemy of color on cars as sun, wind and weather slowly erode the pigment.

This makes mixing paint for those touch-ups even more difficult, but fortunately, some modern tools and technology have made it easier for auto body shops to help keep vehicles looking pristine.

General Steps Taken to Ensure a Color Match

If you’re curious to know a little more about how the process of color matching works, here are some general steps taken.

After choosing the right paint mix, a professional will spray a small amount on a card and let it dry before applying it immediately to the car. Then, they’ll place the card next to the original paint on the car, in the sunlight. If there are any adjustments needed, now is the time to make them and they will repeat until the proper match is found.

An experience paint technician also knows to spray the new paint into the other areas of the panel being repaired, thereby ensuring a gradual blend. In order to do all of this, the technician must use a seamless spray pattern, maintain the proper angle and much more.

Find a Shop with a Color Matching Camera

One of the best tools available for color matching is a camera with built-in paint formula detection so that the paint can be matched back to its paint code more easily. Technicians at great auto body shops will also be able to show a vehicle owner where the differences in color already exist on the car before they begin working to restore damaged paint.

Color matching goes beyond just mixing paint and spraying it onto a vehicle, the process of applying paint and the aftercare as it dries are equally as important.

Ask About the Shop’s Paint Room and Process

The booths where paint is applied needs to be clean, free of dust and other particulates, and free of moisture to aid in application and drying. Entrusting a vehicle to an auto body shop without knowing how they apply paint would be folly, just as trusting a back-alley doctor to perform surgery could likewise end in disappointment.

Vehicles need a clean operating room, with modern exhaust systems, heaters and computer-controlled mixing systems, so they can roll onto the road looking their best after the treatment.
The cost of automotive paint can be higher than expected, with some paints costing over $1,000 just for the material, and that’s before a technician begins to start working on the vehicle.

The quality of paint is also a critical consideration. There are low-end paints and then there are premium paints. The differences here matter. You should also inquire about whether the paint is OEM endorsed. Many shops will cut corners and use low-end paint in order to increase their own profit margin. That’s not the Alexander Body way of conducting business. We use premium Sikkens paint that holds OEM endorsements from all major manufacturers.

Trusting just anyone with a vehicle when that high of a cost is involved could be risky. Before allowing just anyone to try to color match a vehicle, knowing how much experience and capability the technicians have is critical too. Always look for shops that have a well-trained staff with years of experience behind them.

Let’s Review What to Ask Your Technician

  • What is your process for finding a color match?
  • What is the tool you use to paint?
  • Do you have a separate painting room?
  • What type of paint do you use?
  • How much experience do you have with painting cars?

When looking to repair paint on a vehicle, feel free to ask technicians about everything mentioned here. Be sure the shop has the most updated equipment to color match any paint. Before leaving a vehicle in someone else’s hands, be sure they have qualified experience. Make certain the paint booths are properly equipped to keep the paint clean and free of debris during the application process. Find out how the shop ensures paint dries properly. Being informed and ready for the expense of the process will help keep any precious vehicle looking like a stylish work of art for as long as it’s on the road.

Alexander Body & Fender is a professional auto body shop serving the Akron, OH. At Alexander Body we use premium Sikkens paint. Check out some of the services we offer. Read more articles like this one on our blog. If you’re in the Akron area and you need an auto body shop, contact us: (330) 376-8105! With 91 years of experience, we are “The Gold Standard…Since 1928”. Get it done right…not fast.

Jon Roach

Jon Roach is a graduate of Kenmore High School, class of 1987. Jon began at Alexander’s in 1989, with a part time job in the detail department while attending the University of Akron, majoring in Business Management. Jon fell in love cars and withdrew from college after a year and a half, after deciding to commit all of his energy into learning about the auto body field. Jon continued to challenge himself in order to fine tune his craft, and has restored numerous classic cars, rrucks, Jeeps and custom motorcycles. In 2005, Jon purchased the business from the previous owners. In 2016, Jon brought in his cousin, Brian Roach to help take Alexander’s to the next level. Jon is married to his beautiful wife Mary and has 5 children, Avery, Aidan, Nick, Peter and Stevie Lynn. Jon has lived in Green, Ohio since 2002 and his family are members of Maranatha Bible Church.

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