Color Tinting Tips


Tinting color is the last thing any painter wants to be doing and on days where your paint booth is already backlogged five cars, it can be hard to even find the time. With so many variables impacting the colors you need to match, it’s inevitable that sooner or later you will run into a problem color. When that happens, keep calm and get ready to have some fun.

Now I’ll assume that you’ve already evaluated each variant, looked into service formula’s, and are at the point where your color is in no way blendable. To find the closest matching variant to start with it’s best to do your evaluating outside in natural light, if that is not a possibility then the 3M Sun Gun is the next best thing. In natural daylight you are observing color under all of the visible wavelengths of light, so you will see color in its truest form. Most indoor lighting only contains a portion of these wavelengths and certain colors will appear predominant depending on the exact lighting source.

Before you focus too much on the color itself you should ensure that you have a formula using similar metallics to your sample (if your color is metallic). If you start with a formula containing a coarse metallic such as a star flake, you’re going to have a bad time trying to match it against something fine. To evaluate your sample you should place it on the panel beside the one you are matching, not directly on it (leaving a small gap). Tape off your spray out card after each adjustment or have some methodology that allows for you to observe how each adjustment affects your color. Always look to tint from within your existing formula and follow your manufacturer’s tinting guide. A tinting guide provides you with all of the necessary information on how each toner impacts both the face and pitch (sidetone) of your color. If you don’t have one, ask your paint manufacturer how to obtain it.

Your first adjustment should be to the face and the first dimension of color you will want to look at is the “value”. The value refers to the lightness/darkness of a color. In many cases you can rely on black to darken a color and white to lighten it, but not always. To lighten colors such as green and yellow a better choice might be a lighter toner that contains the respective hue (ex. light yellow to lighten yellow). When darkening certain colors such as red, a better choice might be a dark maroon rather than black to avoid getting a brownish tone. Each color has its quirks so it’s worth familiarizing yourself with how black and white impacts it. Using both black and white toners will often have an impact on the dirtiness of a color and make it more or less saturated.

The next dimension to look at is known as the “hue”. The hue refers to what most people would think of as the formula color itself. Each color can only move in one of two directions; redder, bluer, greener, and yellower. For instance, a blue can either go towards greener or redder, while a white can go towards bluer or yellower. A good tinting chart or color adjusting course can provide you with more information on how each color can move but looking at a color wheel can give you some idea. When you’re looking at making adjustments to the hue, you need only to focus on the two directions the color can move in and tint accordingly.

The last dimension of color is known as the “chroma”. Chroma refers to the cleanliness or dirtiness of a color, also known as the saturation. To make a color less saturated (dirtier) you can add gray or a low-strength black, to make a color look cleaner add a bright toner that is similar to the hue. A metallic color can also become cleaner by increasing the amount of metallic. It’s also best to use low-strength, transparent toners as an opaque toner can hide the metallics causing your color to look dirtier.

Tinting should really only be done as a last resort and you should take full advantage of every color tool in your system before altering a formula. If your fortunate enough to have a spectrophotometer available, make sure you put in the time to learn how to use it effectively. In many cases, a spectrophotometer can evaluate your color and make the adjustments with more precision than your eye. The most important thing of all is to be maintaining your mixing bank in accordance with your manufacturer’s recommendations. Follow the recommended shaking/agitation schedule to ensure you’re getting the colors the way they were intended. Many other variables come into play with color-matching from equipment settings to spray technique, to learn more about color be sure to ask your paint manufacturer for enrollment in the next color adjustment training course.

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