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Matching today’s vibrant factory-original colors

Thursday, February 7, 2019 - 08:00
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In today’s highly competitive world, automakers are always looking for ways to distinguish their brands in the marketplace. Offering exotic and striking exterior colors is one tactic to attract new car buyers and make an impression. Savvy OEMs are moving to ever more glamorous, diverse and creative color palettes, and car stylists are challenged to create imaginative new finishes. They’re responding by drawing colors from non-automotive fields and sources — fashion, home decor, cosmetics, nature — and incorporating new technologies to turn innovative ideas into viable, sometimes even radical, color schemes.

Complex OEM finishes call for sophisticated refinish capabilities.

The result is that exceptional color is the new norm. A glance at the latest paint finishes confirms that current colors are light-years ahead of what was available as recently as five years ago. Many of today’s factory colors are highly chromatic, translucent and sparkling with remarkable depth, brilliance and clarity. OEMs are employing new nano-pigments with improved dispersion capabilities as well as tinted clearcoats, mica, aluminum and glass flakes, and other technologies to generate a remarkable spectrum of finishes. Tri-coats, quad-coats, mattes, liquid metal and tinted clears are seen more often. Candy colors and special effects on everyday cars are no longer rarities. And Chrysler Velvet Red (tinted clear), Mercedes-Benz Alubeam, Mazda 46G Machine Gray Metallic (aluminum flakes) and Ford Orange Fury (mica flakes) are just a few examples of finishes that advanced technology allows.

These colorful strides forward have had their impact on the automotive refinish industry. As OEMs develop new color technologies, automotive refinish coatings manufacturers are challenged to develop accurate and reliable color-matching proficiencies. The task is considerable but attainable. Refinish manufacturers have to be ready with the right products and processes whenever a new color comes to market. This requires following trends and technologies, as closely as the factories do, to provide the appropriate solutions and simplify the overall refinish process. At times it means that OEMs and refinish companies work together in developing colors. 

Mirroring the OEMs

In order for collision repair centers to accurately match today’s colors, it’s helpful to understand the factory application process and the progressive pigment technologies involved in creating the more exotic finishes. For example, an OEM color like Toyota’s 3R1 Matador Red is a tri-coat finish with an abundance of sparkle and depth. Its sister color, 3R3 Barcelona Red, has an even brighter, richer red appearance, but its brilliance is achieved through a combination of translucent pigments and red pearls in a basecoat/clearcoat application.

These vibrant colors can create challenges in repairing the finishes properly. All OEMs do not use the same application process to get the same effect. Some use standard gray undercoats for all colors; others employ different shades of gray, while still others apply colored ground coats. Whichever approach is used, the color of the undercoat distinctly contributes to the final basecoat color, and the outcome is essentially the same — the translucent nature of the intense color pigments works with the undercoat color and clearcoat to produce the impressive final color.

Sometimes in the refinish process, the required undercoat will be a different color than what the OEM used on the vehicle. Repairers may hesitate in applying a different-looking undercoat, even though the manufacturer has recommended it as the only way to achieve the refinish color match. In such situations, the collision repair technician has two critical objectives: 1) achieve an accurate color match and 2) ensure that it is invisible to the naked eye. Refinish manufacturers seek a process that matches the color while delivering the easiest application process possible. It’s a balancing act between making the painter’s work easier and achieving the original OEM appearance. For true accuracy, this requires a new approach to the color-matching repair process.

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