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Why Is Automotive Paint Color Matching so Difficult?

Automotive Painting
You love your car's paint job. Perhaps the shade of the paint even factored into your decision to buy that particular car, whether you fell in love with the added sparkle or exact color.
You work hard to protect your vehicle's paint job. But imagine that despite all your efforts, your car sustains a scrape, door ding, or dent that compromises its perfect paint job. You know you'll need a professional automotive painter's help to match the paint, but what you may wonder is why?
In this blog, we discuss the unique challenges of automotive paint color matching that make this professional task so difficult and the skill to do it so valuable.
Ambient Conditions
Have you ever noticed that your car's paint appears to change color in certain lighting? For example, some burgundy automotive paints that have a sheen to them can appear almost brown in most light but may look cherry red and sparkly or even near-purple in another lighting.
Many ambient conditions can affect the way you and any professional working on your vehicle perceive the paint color. These factors include:
  • Color context, i.e., the colors of other objects in your line of sight
  • Humidity levels
  • Temperature
Professional paint matchers use a variety of processes to minimize the effect that these conditions have on the paint matching process. For example, the painter may take a sample from your vehicle and compare it to a sample of mixed paint in multiple types of lighting to ensure that both paints read as the same color.
Paint Ingredients
The ingredients of your vehicle's paint can have a significant effect on the end result. This principle is why certain vintage car colors cannot be accurately replicated even by classic car restorers. In the case of those classics, the older paint often contained chemicals we now know to be harmful.
However, paint ingredients vary widely according to the vehicle manufacturer and paint manufacturer. Automotive paint matchers may try different paint compositions to see which best match the original.
Underlying Materials
Many contemporary cars have metal bodies and plastic bumpers, as well as a potential mix of other automotive materials. Paint automatically looks different on these materials so matchers may have to adjust the formula to account for the underlying material.
Variety of Available Colors
Automotive paint comes in a massive variety of colors, each slightly different. This array of colors includes:
  • OEM. Original equipment manufacturer paint is what's sprayed on your car on the assembly line.
  • Aftermarket standard. Once cars are in production, paint suppliers compete to best match the OEM paint. The vehicle manufacturer authorizes one paint color as the aftermarket standard or essentially the closest you can get to the OEM outside of a factory.
  • Aftermarket alternate. In addition to the standard, companies can create several OEM alternates. These alternates may account for add-on options such as different paint finishes.
Additionally, custom paint jobs could use any combination of these official types of paint or none at all.
This variety is why paint for matching almost always has to be mixed to create the right color.
Weathering and Other Types of Damage
Any damage that your paint sustained before the matching takes place could also affect the process. For example, fading or corrosion could change the exact shade of the paint, making it trickier to duplicate.
The difficulty of a particular paint matching depends on how many of the factors listed above come into play.  Whether matching your vehicle's paint represents a large or small challenge, discuss your situation with a reputable automotive paint and auto body repair professional to address any damage to your car's paint appropriately.
For comprehensive auto body services, including expert and precise paint matching, trust Kearny Mesa Auto Body.