Colour Matching 101

Joined
Jan 31, 2013
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Warren, Manitoba
So, you want to have a custom colour for your canoe, there are a couple ways to go about it. You can pay a paint company to match to anything you want, much like the big box stores do for house paint, or, you can mix it yourself. If you are the DIY type, you can likely take a shot at it and save the big bucks to have someone else do it. You might have fun doing it and will learn something as well about colours.


Mind you, the up side of a paint manufacturer would be they can keep the formula on file and match it at their leisure. For what I am doing, I need to mix enough in the first batch for later touch-up since the odds of "eye-matching" a second batch I could maybe get to within 90%.


We need to understand that colours are made up from other colours. The paint chips in your local box store can attest to that. Look at how many greys are available and all the different tones in them. Next time in the store have a look and see if you can tell what colours are actually in the different greys, although they are usually kept within their colour group, green greys with greens, etc.


Everything is derived from the primary colours, process cyan (blue), process magenta (red), process yellow. The secondary colours, purple, green and orange are mixed only from the primaries. Black and white are non-colours, they cannot be mixed from the primaries.


Why am I mixing my own colour? I checked online and only one manufacturer has a burgundy available for purchase in a marine paint, Tremclad has one but it is more purple, so neither is the colour I want. The marine paint is also $50 a litre. I will be using a rust paint since that is about the only oil based paint that is still available.


So I want a burgundy for my canoe. I will need red, blue and black. Since I am working from pre-mixed factory paint colours I have to know what is in them to start with. My Industrial Red will have some blue and black already, the Medium Blue will be loaded with white and likely a touch of yellow. The black, in this case, is flat black. I will be using it to not only darken the colour, but also to hopefully cut the sheen down from gloss to satin. Gloss shows every boo-boo under the canvas and is reserved for perfect hulls, something I have yet to achieve, so I go with satin (semi-gloss) to help hide the blemishes.

In the photo's you can see on the left side, the different computations I had as I worked my way towards the colour I have in my mind. A large variation depending on how much of each colour. On all but two, I started with red, added blue, then darkened with black. The lightest is just red and blue. The darkest has the most black in it. The one on the right is what we chose, and is more an Indian Red than burgundy but will suit fine for what we want. That one was mixed only with Industrial Red and Flat Black, so it will be easier to reproduce in the future.


The problems associated with using a pre-mixed colour is the yellow and white already in the colour influences what I need to do to achieve my end goal. White will make anything muddy, or wash out the colour, as will yellow to a lesser degree. The darkest colour on that sample page under certain lights looks brown and even black. To keep the white from muddying the colour, I dropped the blue out altogether and stuck with red and black. The Fire Red has white and yellow, so it isn't the best choice to start with for my desired colour.


I spent 20 odd years in the Sign Industry back in the dark ages before computers and colour matching was always done by eye, which is where I learned how to do it. It also helps to be able to "see" what colours are in what you are matching to. I had a boss who would send me home on weekends with colour swatches from a Pantone book and I had to not only figure out what colours are needed to reproduce the colour on the swatch, I needed to try and judge the % of each colour in it. It forced me to learn about colour.


Robin likes green canoes, but if he couldn't find exactly what he wanted, he could add black to darken or yellow to lighten, not white since that would muddy the colour.


SG's red could never be colour matched by eye, it is about as pure a red as you can get and there is a great deal of clear in that colour to get it so bright, which is why it didn't cover the wood so well.


The overall transparency of colours these days is due to the fact they removed the Lead. Lead created the one coat coverage older folks remember, removing the lead from the pigment removed the opacity of the colours, leading to having to apply more coats to get the same coverage. Also, as some manufacturers added clear to thin their paints, it meant you needed to buy more to cover what you were painting. The new one coat coverage paints are not new, they just have less clear in them.


An important note is, always, always dry your sample colour. Every colour will dry darker than it appears wet, which is why in paint departments in the big box stores they swipe some on paper and hit it with the hair dryer before showing you the match.


If you go past the colour you want on the dark side, throw it out and start again as there is no way to bring it back. That is why beginners tend to mix smaller batches, even just wiping it on a piece of paper until you get an idea of how to get the colour. Then move up to mixing in a cup. You will discard less paint that way.

Also, darker colours need to be applied over a darker primer otherwise it will take many more coats than necessary to cover.

 
Joined
Feb 26, 2013
Messages
970
Location
Long island, ny
Very interesting! The only color mixing I have done was dumping all my leftover paint into one bucket and painting the basement. It was interesting.

I didn't know not to use white to lighten though. Is yellow a good color to lighten everything?
 
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Messages
2,290
Location
Warren, Manitoba
Very interesting! The only color mixing I have done was dumping all my leftover paint into one bucket and painting the basement. It was interesting.

I didn't know not to use white to lighten though. Is yellow a good color to lighten everything?

If only it were that easy, life would be grand. Yellow would lighten but also change the colour you are trying to tint down. It is always best to start light and work your way darker. Yellow would work on colours that already have it, such as greens and oranges. White still needs to be used, but try to keep it to a minimum. If I were tinting a coffee cup full of paint, I would use a drop or two at a time and go that slowly, which also applies to darkening, work slowly to what you are trying to achieve. Purples are made from blue and red, Greens from blue and yellow, Orange from red and yellow.

You can see in the colour swatch above it took me a half dozen tries to get to what I could see in my mind. It takes practice.

A dark blue can be lightened with light blue, but that light blue will have white in it. If you get too dark there is little that can be done with it excepting starting again.
 
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