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AIC 2004 Color and Paints, Interim Meeting of the International Color Association, Proceedings

Color technology and paint

DuPont Performance Coatings


This paper summarizes current trends in instrumental color styling, color matching and
production shading of paint and factors essential to success, with particular emphasis on
automotive finishes and research within ASTM and Detroit Color Council committees.


The goals of color technologists have gone through cycles starting in the early 1960’s. The
advent of computers suggested that the visual color matching process could be replaced by
total automation. By the mid-seventies, there was a realization that interactive systems with
expert colorists were superior to complete automation. Since then advances in color
measuring instrumentation, color metrics, expert systems, and visualization technology have
reversed the trend back towards that hope of “push-button” systems. We are not there yet, but
it no longer seems to be that impossible dream. To successfully approach that dream, we must
pursue the “total instrumental color system” (Rodrigues 1979), exploiting the technological
advances of the last twenty years, implementing them at all phases of the color matching
process, bringing cohesiveness to each successive step: color styling, color formula
development, production color control, and color at the customer interface.
Color matching of automotive gonioapparent paints has its own special requirements.
These finishes have a binder matrix with transparent pigments surrounding flake pigments
which act as tiny mirrors, providing very angle-dependent reflection. Aluminum flakes were
introduced in the mid-1930’s but were highly scattering. These evolved by the 1980’s to
highly polished, well-shaped flakes, which together with base-coat, clear-coat finishes
provided the glamorous colors we see on today’s cars. Aluminum flake containing finishes
exhibit mainly a lightness change with viewing angle, being brightest at angles near-specular
and decreasing as the aspecular angle increases. This “flop” is attractive because it
accentuates the contours of a car. Pearlescent flakes use light interference to also provide hue
and chroma flop. While these colors must be matched at all angles of illumination and view,
practicality mandates determination of the least number of angles of measurement providing
sufficient information for a successful match discussed in section 5.1 below.
Measurements taken at these optimized angles must be expressed in terms as seen by the
eye. Most research on color difference equations has addressed only non-flake containing
colors. Adaptation of these metrics to automotive color is discussed in section 5.2 below.
All finishes require matching of both color and appearance. A color standard and a batch
could measure as a match when measured on an integrating sphere spectrophotometer.
However, if they differ in gloss, haze or DOI, they may not pass as a visual match. Flake size,
surface smoothness and orientation also provide sparkle and texture, adding to the complexity
of matching gonioapparent finishes. Two gonioapparent finishes could measure as a match
using a multi-angle spectrophotometer but not pass visual acceptability if they differ in these
appearance characteristics. Use of identical flake in standard and batch may not provide the
same flop, sparkle or texture if rheology or solids content of the two paints differ. These

AIC 2004 Color and Paints, Interim Meeting of the International Color Association, Proceedings

factors affect the orientation of the flake as the paint dries, resulting in a different apparent
texture and sparkle. This is a problem when a car color has to be matched in both high solids
solvent borne paints and in low solids waterborne paints. Little has been published on flake
appearance matching. It is largely a visual process, perhaps aided by a microscope.


Traditional color styling is expensive. In automotive paints, coatings manufacturers spray

panels of potential new color offerings and variations of these. Automotive color stylists
choose among these and request tweaking of the colors in particular color directions. Once the
preferred colors are chosen, entire vehicles are sprayed to make the final selection.
Incompatibilities between the color and the body design may not be anticipated until this
stage. Many years ago, when we offered a projection-based color styling tool (Rodrigues
1979), the stylists did not accept it. Today, television and movie graphics have trained us to
better relate to simulations. Several companies now offer video systems to view color
measured off a color sample, visualizing the object to be painted. E.g., a car can be visualized
in its environment, determining combined effectiveness of color and body styling, without the
expense of painting the car and shipping it for field viewing in a variety of environments.
The angular range of commercial goniospectrophotometers limits in-depth study of the
optimum geometry and number of measurements necessary for realistic and accurate video
rendition of goniochromatic color. Some studies (Meyer 2001, Takaghi 2004) suggest 5
angles are sufficient. Meyer has developed software designed specifically for automotive
colors. It allows visualization of color on a car by measuring color at the five aspecular angles
(15º, 25º, 45º, 75º, 110º) commonly used in the automotive industry. The Graphical User
Interface (GUI) allows interactive manipulation of both 5-angle color and gloss of the car.
The system also allows display of shapes that are easily “morphed” from a cube to a sphere to
a piece of bent sheet metal, changing the angle or curvature of the bend. This would allow the
stylist to design the car contours to take advantage of the gonioapparency of the color.
Video technology will limit the number of panel sprayouts, and allow automotive stylists
to visualize suppliers’ color offerings on their own car models. They could also “tweak”
colors to their preferences, giving suppliers quantitative color differences to offset the original
color. Color gamut would be constrained only to colors attainable with available pigmentation
(Rodrigues 1979). Final color choices will be made with fewer vehicle sprayouts. This
technology will reduce costs for coatings manufacturers and for their customers, the
automotive manufacturers. It will also streamline the styling process and reduce time in
making the final color choices.


Two significant publications in 1931 opened the door to instrumental color matching.
Kubelka-Munk light scattering theory showed us how we could relate color to the absorption
and scattering of pigments. The CIE showed us how to reduce spectral measurements to
metrics related to the way we see color. In 1949, Duncan provided pigment mixtures
equations. These were necessary first steps but it took computers for the repetitive wavelength
dependant calculations before instrumental color matching was feasible. Linearization of the
Kubelka-Munk equations and iteration to an acceptable match (Allen 1974) made laboratory
color matching systems for pigment identification, determination of starting recipes, and
adjustment to acceptable matches commonplace. Kubelka-Munk considered only diffuse

AIC 2004 Color and Paints, Interim Meeting of the International Color Association, Proceedings

fluxes going into and out of the paint. Four flux models (Völz 1964) added collimated fluxes
allowing translucency. Linear programming solutions (Belanger 1974) and non-linear
modeling to interpolate colorant formula databases (Takaghi 1996) suggested more
sophisticated solutions.

Significant developments that have allowed automotive color matching are:

• Increased complexity of light scattering models to address gonioapparency, critical in
automotive finishes: Diffuse color matching requires only absorption and scattering
coefficients to predict reflectance. Directional characterization of colorants is necessary to
allow for color viewed at several aspecular angles, whose optimization is discussed on
section 5. Muti-flux models (Mudgett et al. 1971) attempted this but did not allow for
characterization of the flake reflectance and apparent cross-section, which is dependent not
only on flake size but also its orientation within the film (Marcus et al. 1993, Kettler and
Kolb 1997).
• Faster computers and video graphics have allowed user-friendly GUI’s and enabled these
complex algorithms.
• The improved precision and accuracy of today’s spectrophotometers is critical to
automotive color measurement and matching. High flop colors have very low reflectance
at grazing angles. Detectors in early spectrophotometers could not precisely measure low
light signals, thus limiting the angular range for research to optimize angles of
measurement. These spectrophotometers did not allow measurements at aspecular angles
greater than 75°.
• Robotic spray has allowed standardized application of automotive finishes. Gonioapparent
color is very sensitive to spray application. The percent solids when the paint hits the
surface affects rheology and rate of drying and hence flake orientation. Color matching
requires standardized application conditions so that the shader knows that any color change
results from pigment modifications rather than application. Ambient temperature and
humidity affect drying rates and hence must also be controlled, particularly in waterborne

These developments, together with portable multi-angle spectrophotometers have enabled

Point-of-Sale color matching. This has long been feasible in consumer paints but is now
common also in automotive refinish.


Shading algorithms for production control are standard on commercial software packages.
The holy grail has long been automatic paint making with ingredient dispensing, mixing, and
color measurement all under computer control (Falcoff et al. 1985, Auad et al. 1998).
However, tests before paint shipment require checking of not only color but also
appearance and a prediction of end-use performance. In automotive OEM, testing must ensure
acceptable color, appearance and film properties at the extremes of assembly line application
and environmental conditions. Raw material variations can result in paints acceptable in these
properties when sprayed under “normal” conditions but still fail on the assembly line. Tests
that predict failures before a batch is used on the assembly line save paint supplers the
expense and embarrassment of at-line corrections, and eliminate costly assembly line
interruptions for the customer (Rupieper et al. 1999).

AIC 2004 Color and Paints, Interim Meeting of the International Color Association, Proceedings


5.1 Measurement geometry

Integrating sphere and 45/0 geometry have been used traditionally and are appropriate for
most paints. Gonioapparent color requires measurements and color matching at multiple
angles. ASTM E-2194 standardized on 15º/45º/110º for measurement of metallic colors. The
rationale for these preferred angles has been published (Alman 1987, Rodrigues 1990). E-
2194 allows for deviations in certain cases. It allows near-specular angles up to 25º when less
sensitivity to application is desired. It recognizes that flop angles as low as 70º work in most
cases but cautions that these occasionally may not agree with visual assessments, typically
made at greater angles. It also provides a ray-tracing procedure to determine the effective
aspecular angle and sets tolerances for the percentage of rays that may deviate from the
expected angle.
E-2194 is specific to paints containing metal flake. Absolute color of interference flake
colors is known to be dependent not only on aspecular angle but also on angle of illumination.
Most studies were done on colors containing a high concentration of interference flake, well
beyond what would be used in realistic automotive colors. Quality control requires
measurement of color difference versus a standard rather than absolute color. We conducted a
preliminary experiment within ASTM E-12.12 to determine the importance of incident angle
versus aspecular angle in color difference measurement of realistic automotive colors. Bronze
and violet automotive colors were chosen and the interference pearl content increased to the
limit of acceptability in real automotive colors. In each case a standard panel was weighed,
sprayed and replicated. Additionally, panels were made sequentially iterating each ingredient
to provide color differences of 2 – 3 CIELAB units. Duplicate panels were sprayed to also
determine variation due to application. Measurements were made at aspecular angles of 15º,
25º, 45º, 75º and 110º, each at incident angles of 15º, 30º, and 45º. Color differences (∆L*,
∆C*, ∆H*) were calculated versus the standard. ANOVA analysis (Table 1) showed that the
greatest variation is from the ingredients themselves. This of course allows for ingredient
adjustments to match the color. The incident angle variation is extremely small compared to
the aspecular angle. In fact even under the controlled conditions of the experiment,
application variation was more significant than the incident angle.

Table 1. Summary of ANOVA results.

Main Effect + Ingredient Aspecular Application Incident

Interactions Angle Angle
Mean Sum of Squares 101.1 48.0 6.1 3.3
Variation % for
∆L*, ∆C*, ∆H* Note: Variation can exceed 100% because
interactions between effects are included

These results suggest that current spectrophotometers with a fixed angle of illumination may
be used for quality control of real automotive colors. The study is being expanded to:
• more automotive interference colors, including those containing stronger interference
effect flakes such as Chromaflair®;
• optimize the choice of incident angles;
• verify whether optimum angles of view are the same as for metallics.

Similar studies are required to optimize angles of illumination and view for absolute color
measurement of automotive interference colors.

AIC 2004 Color and Paints, Interim Meeting of the International Color Association, Proceedings

5.2 Color metrics

Color difference equations adapted to multi-angle measurement are only just emerging.
CIE76 was a milestone improvement in relating these measurements to how we see color, but
not enough to have instrumental pass/fail judgements required for automatic color matching
processes. CMC and CIE94 have helped move in that direction; the jury is still out on whether
CIEDE2000 is the next milestone. These studies have all been based on observations of colors
not containing flakes. ASTM E-12.12 and the Detroit Color Council (DCC) J1545 committees
have started studies on gonioapparent automotive colors.
Most color difference equations today are based on enhancements to the CIE76 equations.
∆L*, ∆C*, ∆H* from CIE76 are divided by weighting functions SL, SC, SH to correct for the
non-uniformity of CIE76. CIE94 uses a weighting function for lightness difference of SL =
1.0. However, experience shows that a larger ∆L* is visually acceptable in lighter
gonioapparent colors. We have showed (Rodrigues et al. 2001) that visual lightness difference
assessments are better described by:
SL = 0.034 L* L* > 29.4
SL = 1.00 L* < 29.4
This linear equation fit the observer data with R2 = 0.94. The data did not justify the curvature
of the CMC lightness function or the V-function in CIEDE2000.
This E-12.12 study was extended to a few real automotive metallic colors: beige, silver,
gold and teal. Color difference pairs of these colors were shown to twenty observers in a
Macbeth Skylight® at 15º, 25º, 45º, 75º and 110º aspecular angles. They were asked whether
they would accept the color match if seen on their own car. Logit analysis was used to
determine acceptability tolerances at each of these angles. Tolerances averaged over all colors
are shown in Table 2. Both equations performed well. However, CIE94 gave more nearly
equal tolerances at all aspecular angles.

Table 2. Average acceptability tolerances as a function of aspecular angle.

15º 25º 45º 75º 110º

Average 1.09 0.99 0.87 0.90 0.92
Coeff of Dev 0.18 0.26 0.21 0.38 0.41
Average 1.32 1.09 0.84 0.80 0.79
Coeff of Dev 0.23 0.23 0.13 0.24 0.31

DCC is extending these studies to include larger numbers of current automotive colors
including those containing interference flakes. The committee is starting with identification of
a preferred experimental procedure, comparing simple pass/fail judgements to comparison to
an anchor color difference pair.
Membership includes paint, colorimeter, and light booth suppliers as well as users from car
manufacturers. Observers will be drawn from this diverse group of colorists. The committee
welcomes any inputs to this work, in terms of experimental process, panel preparation, or
analysis of the observer data. The committee will publish these data and also test existing
color difference equations to determine effectiveness in assessing the observations.

AIC 2004 Color and Paints, Interim Meeting of the International Color Association, Proceedings


Research continues to improve instrumentation for color management and control of paints.
As we believe we near perfection, there is always a new pigment, paint, or process to
challenge us and ensure our continued employment!


The author appreciates the contributions of members of ASTM E-12.12 and DCC J1545 in
planning experiments, discussions, and providing experimental samples. Special thanks to
Nick Lena, Macbeth for use of the Skylight, Mike Nofi, FPI for goniospectrophotometric
measurements, Dave Alman, DuPont Performance Coatings for the ANOVA analysis and
Gary Meyer for discussions of his video display research.


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Address: Allan Rodrigues, DuPont Performance Coatings, Troy, MI 498007-2802, USA