Color Match Challenges and Solutions - BodyShop Business

Color Match Challenges and Solutions

Sponsored by Axalta

One of the latest trends in the automotive industry is a rivalry among suppliers to develop the most complicated colors. Unfortunately, the range of challenging colors today is already so extensive, and the situation does not appear to be improving.

The challenges begin when automakers choose a color and begin processing vehicles in different plants with different paint makers and even different qualities of paint. OEM’s have hundreds of toners and pigments to choose from when designing colors.

Refinish paint companies must limit the number of toners available on their machines – toners are discontinued or added as styles change. Paint companies plan the toner availability very carefully to provide the greatest range of color with a limited number of toners.

Even though the colors are measured for accuracy and have a tight tolerance, OEM application, hiding and other factors translate to a variance of color. There are multiple other factors involved with color variation, but the issue with color challenges starts with vehicles that have slightly different shades. One formula may not work for all. There are many tools that can help ensure a good color solution.


A spectrophotometer only sees the surface on which it is presented. It is imperative that the spots being read are perfectly polished and clean. Some factory paint may be weathered, and it is hard to detect with the human eye. In comparison, it would be akin to taking a photo through weathered plexiglass.

A best practice is to use P3000 soft backed sandpaper to sand any micro scratches or weathering first, in order to get a crystal-clear reading. Once sanded, a 2-step polish is preferred, starting with a wool pad with buffing compound and finishing with a polish on a finer foam pad. Then, clean with a waterborne or glass cleaner and microfiber cloth to remove any contamination.

Once all other steps have been taken to ensure the success of the spectrophotometer reading, place the spectrophotometer squarely on the panel and ensure all the pads are touching the surface to prevent outside light from getting in. For an accurate reading, be sure the spectrophotometer is acclimated to the temperature of the vehicle or panel.


The toners need to be mixed properly – many of them need to be shaken prior to adding a mixing lid. Once the toners are on the machine, make sure they are agitating correctly. Check the mixing lid for broken parts, or leaks to make sure it is properly turning, and the agitator fork catches the spindle. Check the toners periodically before mixing to ensure they are not expired or thickened.

The Scale

Check the scale to ensure there are no paint drips on the tray that can hinder accurate reading during the weighing process. Calibrating the scale will also ensure the scale is accurate, so if you don’t have a calibration weight, check with your jobber or local Axalta representative.

The Mix

When mixing the color, ensure that you select the correct toner from the mix shelf. Sometimes toners will be put back in the wrong slot; be sure to validate which toner you have selected before pouring.

When mixing the color ensure that you pour each component as accurately as possible. If there is a pouring error, make sure to recalibrate your measurements to correct the formula. For example, when white is overpoured, oftentimes the painter will overpour the black to “offset” it. Unfortunately, when overpouring one toner, all of the toners in the mix need to be adjusted to accommodate the mistake.

Spray Out Cards

Most painters like to create a spray out to verify the color prior to application. It’s imperative that the spray out be created properly to avoid unintentionally tinting a color that may not need it. Be sure to add a check/hide sticker to ensure proper coverage. In addition, clear coating your spray out is another key element to getting the right color.

It is also important to observe the wait time required between each coat. For example, with Axalta’s waterborne technology, a wait time is required when doing a spray out between the first coat and the effect coat. When the color is sprayed on the vehicle, there will be between 30-60 seconds of application time that will lapse between the coats. If this wait time is not observed, the color may appear much darker or courser flake than it will on the vehicle.

In summary, it is important to apply product to the spray out in the same way you would to a vehicle.

Spray guns

The spray gun used and the air pressure is also especially important to achieve the correct color. Be sure to select an approved spray gun with the correct needle and nozzle size. When checking the air pressure, set the pressure at the wall, and adjust slightly at the spray gun. Setting the pressure of the spray gun too high will create too small of a hole in the air chamber, which in turn will create a higher air velocity through it – similar to putting your thumb over a garden hose. This will make it more likely for the air to overshoot the optimum atomizing zone at the tip of the spray gun and not atomize the paint correctly, which may also result in a different color than what was intended.

Special application techniques outlined by Refinish paint system bulletins and technical documents may be required to replicate the OEM color. Pay close attention to training opportunities or communications from the paint companies to stay on top of the latest techniques.

Color can be a painter’s most challenging part of the job. Removing all variables we can control is the first step in getting a color solution.

Sponsored by Axalta.

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