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Making authoritative paint samples


This is a question for shops that paint a lot of "in-house" colors (ie, colors you consider your daily staple colors, as opposed to custom match).

We will be adding a flatline here soon which will eliminate the need for us to stick to the color palate of door companies, so we'll develop our own in-house line of colors. We spray conversion varnish, topped with water white clear.

What we are looking for is the most simple/sensible solution to making sure that our colors remain stable over time. In other words, I think we need to have a sample board of each color made/painted with something that has the best color stability available, stored in a dark dry location.

If we make our color standards out of conversion varnish, I fear that they will eventually drift. I've seen it drift in a client's kitchen, and even sitting in an envelope in a desk. Not much, but enough that it matters.

We're going to stick with conversion varnish for production, but is there a paint that we should be looking into for making our paint standard boards?

My eventual goal is that I have 1 paint standard for every color stored here at my shop, and 1 copy of that same board stored at my paint vendor, so that we both have a visual reference point.

I don't mind buying a gallon of tinted specialty paint of whatever type, as long as it's more color stable over time.

Any suggestions? Powder coat? Is 2K Urethane more color-stable?

8/11/21       #2: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Robb Parker  Member


We do not spray clear over any of our pigmented colors, custom or stock colors. We also do not have any issues with color stability, other than UV, ie a window allowing daily UV on a cabinet. And that will happen to any film forming coating. Maybe it's your clears discoloring, not the pigmented coating. We also use exclusively post cat cv. Use almost exclusively ML Campbell products.

8/11/21       #3: Making authoritative paint samples ...

Robb, I appreciate your reply. I have some familiarity with MLC, I sprayed Stealth and Resistant for years-- if you get the solvent mix right, they are outstanding finishes.

So if I may ask a hypothetical. Let's say you have a color you sell a LOT of called "Dove White" and you buy it in 30-40 gallon batches.

When you get a new batch in, you're going to have a sprayed out sample card in your hand of that batch.

What are you using in your shop to compare that new batch sample to, to make sure it's accurate?

My current vendor is good, but they are not perfect-- batch variations are a way of life.

What are you doing if a client brings in a damaged drawer front from 5 years ago, painted "White Dove" and is willing to pay you to refinish it to blend back in with the rest of the job. Are you able just to go spray it with your current batch of "White Dove" and sleep peacefully knowing it will look right when it goes back into her kitchen?

Again I do appreciate your feedback.

8/12/21       #4: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Robb Parker  Member


Matt, I agree with that scenario that is a crap shoot at times. We use our sample doors in the showroom as our standard. We have been lucky in that regards and our paint supplier gets standard colors close enough to pass mustard almost all the time. Custom colors is another story, we bring a door or drawer front back from the job and match to that for rebuilds. What we run into in those cases is some sort of redesign, ie built in appliance cut out or add cabinets that has to be matched. Again we bring some painted component back to match.

8/12/21       #5: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Robb Parker  Member


Another comment is we have a much harder time matching stains than we do pigmenteds. Too many variables, wood, time stain left on before wipe, sanding prep etc etc. Seems more trial and error than science.

8/12/21       #6: Making authoritative paint samples ...

Robb you're 100% correct about the stains. I don't have time to be doing custom stains myself, I'd rather someone else who is properly trained and equipped to be doing it. But when I send over a custom stain match, I end up flushing everything and doing it myself, invariably.

I had to do one today. Local vendor (major global brand) blew 2 gallons of stain trying to get it right, over the course of 3 days....and neither was even in the right zip code.

I walked out into our paint storage, brought back 4 different colors. Used a 1:1:1 ratio of 3 of them and got the stain color almost perfect. All in about 45 minutes.

I think honestly the major downfall of the stain matching is that 1) The people doing the stain custom match aren't woodworkers and have absolutely no clue how colorants and woodgrain interact, and 2) They rely on those optic sensors to blow smoke up their arse telling them "good job little boy, you got it right", even though the final result isn't even remotely close.

I've had a number of times I'd tell them specifically that we don't want the grain accentuated, but they fill the stain with gilsonite. Or, I tell them "the client does NOT like amber, make sure this sample does not lean toward the amber side" and the sample will come back looking like a lump of solid $%#% amber.

Of course, the reason they can't get it is ALWAYS because of the wood, the sanding, and the lighting. Has nothing whatsoever to do with being utterly ignorant about how to produce a custom stain. Right?

8/12/21       #7: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Robb Parker  Member


Matt, Familiar story here. Feel your pain.

8/16/21       #8: Making authoritative paint samples ...
DannyB Member

I'm so confused now - do y'all really run into people trying to use the optical sensors (spectrometers) to match stains?

That's crazy.

That doesn't even make any sense to try directly.
They are meant for, and great at, matching solid colors. A properly calibrated sensor should be able to be used to make custom *pigmented* color matches that are indistinguishable from the original.

Stains are another matter, because
A. they are transparent
B. the thing they are sitting on top of (wood) is not a single color
C. Different wood reacts differently to stain.

For starters, the spectrometer can only tell you what color something is now.
If it was a solid pigmented color, that's all you need, because you are covering it all.

For transparent colors, you need to know what color you *added* to the original to get it to where it is, and reading just a stained piece of wood will *never* give you that.
It literally can't.

You'd really need two accurate samples of the same wood, one stained, one not.

You can then subtract the colors from each other and tell what color the actual stain was imparting, and that should be something that can probably be automatically constructed to work on that wood.

You could also use the piece of wood you *want* to stain as the point of comparison, and that would be able to tell what color needs to be added to it to make it into the stained piece.

(But this is much harder to construct automatically. At least you'd know what color to aim for!)

8/29/21       #9: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Chemmy  Member

I laugh with you, not at you, as a retired decorative and protective coating chemist, and a professional colorist among many other things, what I can tell you is what my professor first told me.....
" TO understand color, one must first realize
That color is " subjective" not " objective"
Nor will it ever be objective.!"
Color, not unlike numbers, are infinite, one drop of red in a gallon of pure white (titanium dioxide), lacquer, may not appear red to anyone, it may not be a noticeable red color even when several drops or more are added if it is not a strong red color. ( strong meaning the saturation and brightness).
This is true of any of the three primaries or
Any mixtures there of.
And again, if, when done, there is no master sample to compare it with side by side. On top of that, a new freshly made sample that is fast dried with a hair dryer, which many fast color matches are done by such as SW, etc. when compared to a fully dried through sample, is not a good or proper way to tell if the dolor will still be as good a match as when it to is fully dry. To further complicate the matter, the paint card has the material put on with a finger and then smoothed out as evenly as possible, as to a colorist sample useing a drawdown bar that is set to what the end user will be spraying on their items to achieve a certain thickness per application of each coat when it is totally dry. That again depends on the solid contents of both the colorent and the resin(s) that are contained within.!
All that being said, the bottom line is
That color spectrophotometry, is only something that can get you close, and your subjective input may get you closer, but it is still only subjective, the person who may want that color, and not understanding this, may well not agree or like what they may consider an imperfect match as they gaze upon it with their own subjective set of imperfect eyes. That is especially true when one does not know all that affects their ability to determine such like metameric affects using a different set of colorants than was used by whomever made the sample they are attempting to match, or the lighting that they are viewing the samples in are not the same.I could go on but I won't, suffice it to say that the art and science of coloration to both the pro and the ameture is as difficult to understand as the highest forms of mathematics and they both are infinite.!! You can contact me if you have any further questions.

8/29/21       #10: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Robb Parker  Member


Chemmy, Thanks for your input. Have missed your informative expert posts. Hope your well and enjoying retirement.

8/29/21       #11: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Chemmy  Member

Your welcome Robb, as an after thought, here is a little used insight, as to the type of colorants that I used on most everything that I finish, at least in wood finishing.
Earth colors: these are not manufactured, but colors of differing natural pigments, they were used in wood finishing (and really all painting) extensively for thousands of years and in that sense proved themselves to be permanent.!
They are the ochers, umbers, and many other naturally occurring colors that again are "stable" in all circumstances.! Whether they are applied to exterior or interior surfaces, in the darkest or brightest environments they will not ( by themselves) change color....ever.!
Though that is not the be all or end all of addressing color problems, with their use it is one major thing that can be ruled out as being a problem.!
That leaves the vehicles used to make the stains, glazes, or coatings and any additives such as flatting agents or any oils etc. Which give their own color to the mix.
With that knowledge, you can at least begin to talk to the chemist that you purchase such things from to come up with vehicle or coating that is based on having ""only"
Materials that also the earth colors
Never change their colors.!! Some acrylics and and acrylic polyester blends have such properties, especially the casting resins like
Castlolite. Delta has done the same with their spray acrylics, and I am sure others.
CAB-ACRYLICS, are a combination of cellulose acetate, buterate, both individual
Coatings by themselves, that give extra elasticity and hardness to acrylics that are not able by themselves able to achieve those attributes, but in their use give a much better end product.!!
With all this in mind, you may want to pursue
Looking into this for your own use, if keeping your master samples continuously on track is your ultimate goal. Wouldn't it be nice to make a sample one time and not worry about it changing???
By the way flatting agents also cause a big difference in perceived color, any gloss covered color will be at its most saturated
And dark intensity and every film containing
Flatting agents applied over it will actually make the color look lighter and milky, the more you add, the more it becomes apparent. But that subject for another post

8/30/21       #12: Making authoritative paint samples ...

I so much enjoyed your insightful posts from long ago. While we have never met....a warm hearted welcome back old friend!

just jim

8/30/21       #13: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Chemmy  Member

Thank you Jim, won't be posting often, only on things which catch my eye that feel I can be of some help or work out any confusion on. Stay

8/30/21       #14: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Chemmy  Member

MY BAD....
in speaking of the earth pigments and such I left out a few just as important things.!!
First things first.!!
Though the colors themselves are stable through out their life time, the color of the woods they are applied to are not, as most all here already know, the colors of wood change, some drastically others not so much. Both light and darkness can affect their natural coloration as well as other scenarios.
When talking of " MASTER SAMPLES" as well as Finishing Step Boards, this plays A very important part.!!
For example...
A "proper" step board will be made by sectioning off equal parts of the wood that has been purchased for the job at hand.
A portion of a sheet or even a whole sheet is cut into the length needed to perform the steps required for the entire process. Those can be varying sizes, though most furniture mfg. ( at least in Grand Rapids) cut theirs into 1' 8' since they were making Master boards also, from the intended plywood and
4" - 6" 8' for the like hardwoods, which in themselves were not the exact color of the plywood, nor did they accept color the same as veneer. ( more on those problem's later in another post.!
Once the wood was prepared and ready for the finishing steps, one or more boards were sacrificial boards if the finish was a new one that was just developed, if not, then the same steps that the previous samples and steps taken before would be followed.
Depending on how many steps were needed to accomplish the final finish, ( and that varied greatly).... The boards would be masked off as follows,
The first portion (top) was left bare wood, ((will explain why later, ) the second portion would be the dye application ( normally) then an equal portion of the dye stain would be masked and sprayed with sealer this would be the second finishing step, 3rd step after the sealer was dry and lightly sanded with 600 w/d...the paste filler would be applied and excess wiped off, 4th step was to again seal, 5 th step was the application of stain / glaze.. Which was then wiped or brushed out, a then the first coat of clear finish was applied, in that time it was mainly hot lacquer on most.
The reason for the dye and stain/glaze operations being separated were that direct application of the S/G over the dye muddied the overall color to much and did not let the beauty of the clear vibrant dye color(s) show through as they did when clear was applied between them.!
6th step, opened,
may be shading, toning, artificial marks like worm holes, fly specs, padding dyes, etc.
7th step..
2nd coat of lacquer
Then followed by as many coats needed to finish the board that point a portion of the final appearance board was removed as the master sample and the rest (after through drying of coarse, ) was kept in a locked room covered.
Of course, all step boards are going to differ, most much simpler if, as here, your generating single hue opaque samples, mostly or only.
Running out of steam right now, wIll further comment of how the varying collections of veneers and hardwoods were handled by the Premier furniture furniture Mtg.'s in grand rapids tomorrow...

9/1/21       #15: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Chemmy  Member

No responses, so I will stop posting on this thread... Have at it guys and continued success.

9/2/21       #16: Making authoritative paint samples ...

Chemmy, You and many of the old timers (non derogatory statement) that post on WoodWeb are what makes this forum great. It is the life long education, experiences and exchange of information that brings true time tested and studied knowledge to this forum. At over 60 years of age and a long time user of WoodWeb, my thanks to you and other old farts like us who believe in reading, learning and experience as our teachers and not first time you tubers who have learned it all in 2 or 3 weeks. I am afraid that one day, those who follow us, will not have the opportunity to seek the wisdom of the sages but will rely on the newest techniques or teachings that blow across access of media at the time. I know one day WoodWeb will close because of those who follow us seek instant access and instant success.
My hat goes off to those like yourself, to all the old regular posters here willing to divulge information to those who follow us, and to WoodWeb for keeping this "old fashioned" way of communication open. Thank you Chemmy, thank you old timers, and thank you WoodWeb.

9/2/21       #17: Making authoritative paint samples ...
Chemmy  Member

Hi Thomas, no offense taken, I know I am a dinosaur trying to live in time not meant for me.!!
And yes, it is a shame that most of what we know will at some near future be no more than memories in the dust bin of history.
But that's life, it has been that way since the beginning.!
I think the thing that sticks in my craw the most though, is that, it seems to me at least is people getting into the trade without anyone to really guide them, teach them, apprentice them. I was fortunate enough to have had a father to teach me, and he taught me well, so well that when I went out on my own that I was immediately successful be it working for others, or starting my own business. And though there are many books and videos now out there that go over all aspects of our trade, it still does not fulfill that which counts most....
Hands on Experience...
How many ways do you know how to sand or fill or spray, how many methods do you know to troubleshoot the myriad's of problems that can and do arise when working on an extremely diverse field of wooden or metal or plastic or other substrates your bound to run into in your profession at some time or another.??
I believe our trade is dying, being taken over by circumstances we no longer control, and not to far in the future the bulk of finishing will be automated, only those items to intricate to be machine sprayed will remain for hand work, and then that to shall come to an end for the largest part.
Labor cost will eventually put America out of the wood market, as has already happened to our once thriving furniture mfg. Industry. This won't happen overnight, but it is coming.! till then I will keep the candle lit,
Continue to put oil in the oil lamps, and never forget that I was fortunate enough to be a part of what I call...
" the Golden Age of Furniture Manufacturing and Finishing"
Their will never be another such time in the trade going forward.!!

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