Deep into the weeds on color-matching at an auto body shop
August 1, 2018 6:42 PM   Subscribe

 
Fascinating article about how color works in a lot of ways. Thanks for posting.

I have a car whose registration doesn't list a color. When I've gone in to get the registration renewed, I've been asked why it doesn't have a color listed. Every time I've pointed to my car sitting outside the car licensing office and said, "I have no idea what color that is. Is it really dark blue? Dark grey? What do you see?" Every time the person I'm working with has called someone else over to take a look, maybe even two other people, and they all sort of shrug and go "yeah, we don't know either" and leave the box blank.
posted by hippybear at 6:58 PM on August 1, 2018 [14 favorites]


I remember a pre-Internet comedian (maybe John Byner?) who had a routine about weird car paint color names. He specifically referenced a color called "Antelope Fire Mist" - which, improbable as it is, turns out to be a real thing. Who the hell came up with such a ridiculous color name?
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:09 PM on August 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


My previous car, a Mitsubishi Lancer, was "Lightning Yellow" according to the US color name, and "Sunflower Yellow" according to the Japanese name. Sunflower made a lot more sense to me.

The current car is "Toyota 3P0 Absolute Red."
posted by Foosnark at 7:32 PM on August 1, 2018


Toyota3PO is my favorite Star Wars/Transformers crossover character.
posted by hippybear at 7:50 PM on August 1, 2018 [7 favorites]


That was a really interesting read, thanks!
posted by jacquilynne at 7:51 PM on August 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


At my job, there is a purple Honda Fit that looks cool af, so when I wanted to buy a car, I decided to get a purple Honda Fit myself. So I emailed the local dealerships, and when I got the price I wanted, I went down to the winning dealership to buy the car. But it was not there. No, according to the salesman it was the only new 2016 purple Honda Fit in California, so I had to buy it sight unseen and they'd go get it from another dealership. Fine. When I picked it up, it was... Passionberry Pearl. The one at my job is Midnight Plum Pearl.

So whenever I'm done worrying about the US President, and my father's failing health, and the digital divide, and global food insecurity, I take a little break -- typically every weekday morning as I pull into my company parking lot -- to eat my fucking heart out that my unknown coworker has a cooler purple Honda Fit than my purple Honda Fit.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:01 PM on August 1, 2018 [20 favorites]


Go further. When Gonzalez is done with that MR-2, it will once again be the white it used to be. That is, not the original color it was five years ago when it rolled off the line, but the color it was two weeks or so ago, just before that unfortunate collision.

The author isn't much of a car person, I gather.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:05 PM on August 1, 2018 [7 favorites]


I used to be a member of Color Marketing Group. At one conference, a manager from GM spoke about emerging color technologies. One item he described was a coating that would change color when you touched the surface with a small electrostatic widget. The particles in the coating would realign to reflect a different color. You could change the color of your car on a whim. I’m still waiting for that one.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:11 PM on August 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


Oh right, Monday, stony Monday!

Hahaha, ya, he mixed up rods and cones at one point too. But it was, I thought, a pretty interesting look behind the curtain at something so seemingly mundane as auto paint.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:11 PM on August 1, 2018


My car's official color name is "rhino"—which looks mostly gray but under certain lighting has a distinct bluish. Well something about that got miscommunicated because when I went to renew its registration they had it listed as "blue". Meant standing in line at the county office instead of just going through the online form so that was a bother. It'd be a whole lot simpler if they could just record the official 30-odd-dimensional color vector right?
posted by traveler_ at 8:16 PM on August 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


I had ‘96 GMC Sonoma in Radar Blue Metallic. At one angle it was a deep navy blue, at another angle it was a royal purple that would do Prince proud. Best color I ever had on a vehicle. Had it listed as “purple” on the registration.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:26 PM on August 1, 2018


"Antelope Fire Mist"

(Clicks link)

Yup, well named
posted by q*ben at 8:36 PM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Go further. When Gonzalez is done with that MR-2, it will once again be the white it used to be. That is, not the original color it was five years ago when it rolled off the line, but the color it was two weeks or so ago, just before that unfortunate collision.
The author isn't much of a car person, I gather.


If the author had made the same mistake re the S2000 I’d accuse them of not being a car person, but I can’t fault someone for not giving a shit about the MR2.
posted by invitapriore at 8:37 PM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


The auto industry was a huge innovator in pigments, and a lot of modern artist's pigments were originally produced by automakers. There's a beautiful pigment called Quinacridone Gold that will just stop being available soon--car manufacturers stopped ordering it so it's not produced any more, and artists' don't use enough of it to bring it back into production. Some paintmakers have bought the last known stocks.
posted by Hypatia at 8:37 PM on August 1, 2018 [7 favorites]


Is this going to be like the time MetaFilter taught me about Fordite and I ended up spending a stupid amount of money on a piece of it?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:32 PM on August 1, 2018 [7 favorites]


No, but your Fordite is a fossil of everything this article is about.
posted by hippybear at 9:34 PM on August 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


HAH! The WIRED.COM link in the post just before this one is such a perfect example of this. Let's take a moment to appreciate Mefi, in all it's simple blue perfection.
posted by es_de_bah at 9:49 PM on August 1, 2018


MetaFilter Merch Request: a shirt that says

MetaFilter
Simple Blue Perfection

(in appropriate fonts, coloring, and centering)
posted by hippybear at 9:56 PM on August 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


We were trying to do some masking of car logos for a project at work and I ended up calling my local auto body shop to ask how they did it.

Their answer was not totally usable for me ("We just pull all the logos off, repaint the vehicle, and put them back on") because I don't have the tools. But I did learn that he could get spray cans of pretty much any car color if I gave him a couple day's notice and a make and model.

For the project we ended up using a lot of masking tape, but I still want those spray cans. Also, I really want a car in the fire engine yellow that they had in the 70s. Nobody ever sees my car, but I bet they'd see THAT.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:05 PM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Fascinating article. We've come a long way from "any color you want so long as it's black." I admire Mr. Gonzalez's expert eye for color. He wouldn't be likely to hire me to work alongside him. I've had too many heated conversations about whether something (usually a car, in fact) is blue or green. (Needless to say, I was always right, but the negative references from those other folks would hurt my application.)
posted by bryon at 10:16 PM on August 1, 2018


I searched for the abovementioned Quinacridone Gold and am now deeply in the weeds looking at a comparison of old and new pigments all mixed with others.
posted by readinghippo at 10:45 PM on August 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


it's black

(it's got some of those metallic speckles, though)
posted by atoxyl at 11:06 PM on August 1, 2018


Is this where I spoil everyone's fun by pointing out how awful mica mining is (mica is used for pearlescent paints)?

Yeah.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/feb/24/major-car-paint-suppliers-join-initiative-against-child-labour-in-mica-mines-ppg-axalta
posted by Omission at 11:39 PM on August 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


You can buy color matched paint at any auto parts store fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit. Some places mix it and fill the spray cans in store.
posted by onya at 4:07 AM on August 2, 2018


Great find, fascinating article that I totally would have scrolled past on any other website.
posted by Molesome at 5:35 AM on August 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


I went to the local Toyota dealer, asking how much door handles would cost (mine had snapped off). "What make and year?" he said, at the computer screen. 1997 Camry. "What color?" Gray, of course. "Light gray or dark gray?" Duh, does it matter on a '97? The dominant color is rusty polka dots. I tend to think of all Camrys as gray because I have TWO old gray Camrys. Look in any shopping center parking lot -or car dealer- around here and it's a sea of white and gray cars, with an occasional black and a rare red every once in a while. I would really like to see who has these 50,000 auto colors.

The upside of gray is that people in this small town won't recognize you on the road, and the downside is that they are very liable to confuse you with pavement and drive right into you.
posted by Miss Cellania at 5:49 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, what is up with the gray? Say I decide to buy a relatively common model of car, and they have eight color choices, there's a black, a white, four shades of gray, a dull red, and one bright color. That last one is the only one I would want, and I would have to order it and wait, if it can be gotten at all.

Do people who buy gray cars really care so much that they need just the right shade of gray? How can the shade of gray matter that much, that it squeezes out orange or yellow?
posted by elizilla at 6:06 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


My car's official color name is "rhino"—which looks mostly gray but under certain lighting has a distinct bluish. Well something about that got miscommunicated because when I went to renew its registration they had it listed as "blue". Meant standing in line at the county office instead of just going through the online form so that was a bother. It'd be a whole lot simpler if they could just record the official 30-odd-dimensional color vector right?

My Hyundai Tucson was officially "Desert Sage", so the DMV put it down as "green", but it was really just a light beige. More like Benjamin Moore "Sagebrush".

Look in any shopping center parking lot -or car dealer- around here and it's a sea of white and gray cars, with an occasional black and a rare red every once in a while. I would really like to see who has these 50,000 auto colors.

Around here, the predominant vehicles are silver/light gray/dark gray Honda Odysseys/Toyota Siennas. I purposefully picked a red Chrysler Town & Country from a Carmax in North Carolina and had it shipped here to Virginia. I never have trouble finding my car in a parking lot.
posted by candyland at 6:07 AM on August 2, 2018


Oh, god, I recently got a black Nissan Altima. There are approximately 1 billion of those in my county in Maryland alone. I applied some strategic stickers, which helps, but I often walk up to the wrong car.
posted by wintermind at 7:48 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Amazing article.

I like to think that I'm doing my part against all the whitegrayblackification of our roads in Maryland by buying red cars, but the fact of the matter is I'm looking for used, specific brand, manual shift cars, and have to take what color I can get. I lucked out twice so far.

Also, "quantitative blingometry" is my new chiptune cover band.
posted by seyirci at 8:05 AM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


I used to work for a company that restored decorative paint in old buildings, and we also found that a trained human eye was better at matching paint colours than the very expensive spectrophotometer that ended up collecting dust on a shelf in the paint room, especially for older paints, where the pigments had been hand-ground, so that the pigment particles were larger than in modern paint, where they are mechanically ground. I struggled a bit, even when we used the same pigments as the original and hand-ground them, but some of the older guys there could just mix up a match in minutes. At least none of the paints we used sparkled.
posted by Fuchsoid at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Do people who buy gray cars really care so much that they need just the right shade of gray? How can the shade of gray matter that much, that it squeezes out orange or yellow?

They don't but often times a customer buying a new car isn't going to be able to find their 1st color choice with the exact options they want and some shade of silver will be lots of people's 2nd choice or at least acceptable. By having more shades of silver, I'm guessing that it makes it easier to find an acceptable color.

In my years selling cars I only very rarely encountered a customer who cared more about the paint color than the equipment. In fact the only one I can think of was a nice old lady who bought a Nissan Murano in "polished pewter" from me in 2006 "because I want to have at least one really nice new car before I die!" Later that year she got in a horrific head on collision in that car but only received minor injuries. She wanted another one just like it but this time it absolutely HAD to be "sunlit copper", even if it didn't have every bell and whistle. Luckily, we were able to locate exactly what she wanted and last I had heard she was taking near constant road trips all over the country.
posted by VTX at 9:14 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


Gray doesn't show dirt, I honestly think that's 99% of it. Dark or brilliant colors do.
posted by emjaybee at 9:56 AM on August 2, 2018


I see most of the people in this thread have never really gone house paint shopping with a friend or relative. :)

They have entire books of grey for each different brand of paint at Home Depot, and they all have different cutesy names. And if that blows your mind, really stay away from fancy hardware stores or dedicated paint stores (like Sherwin Williams) who have giant binders of paint colors.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:01 AM on August 2, 2018


Go further. When Gonzalez is done with that MR-2, it will once again be the white it used to be. That is, not the original color it was five years ago when it rolled off the line, but the color it was two weeks or so ago, just before that unfortunate collision.

The author isn't much of a car person, I gather.


Trotter: Alright, alright. Now, Miss Vito, being an expert on general automotive knowledge, can you tell me what would be the correct touch up paint shade for a pearl white 2013 Toyota MR-2?

Ms. Vito: It's a bullshit question.

Trotter: Does that mean that you can't answer it?

Ms. Vito: It's a bullshit question. It's impossible to answer.

Trotter: It's impossible because you don't know the answer!

Ms. Vito: Nobody could answer that question!

Trotter: Your Honor, I move to disqualify Miss Vito as an expert witness.

Judge Haller: Can you answer the question?

Ms. Vito: No. It's a trick question.

Judge Haller: Why is it a trick question?

Vincent Gambini: [to his clients] Watch this.

Ms. Vito: 'Cause Toyota didn't make the MR-2 in 2013. The first generation W10 MR-2 was introduced in 1984, and it was replaced for the 1991 model year in the US by the second generation W20, which took a lot of its styling cues from Ferrari and was called the Baby Ferrari for that reason. It was produced until Toyota did another redesign, the third generation W30 in 1999. That version remained on the market until production ceased permanently in July of 2007. So there is no such thing as a 2013 MR-2. However, in 2007, the correct paint color would be Super White 2, Color Code 040.

Trotter: Well, uh, she's acceptable, Your Honor.
posted by Naberius at 11:06 AM on August 2, 2018 [10 favorites]


I prefer gray/silver/white car colors because they're nondescript and a little less likely to draw the notice of official eyes when I'm treating the posted speed limit as, shall we say, more of a general guideline.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:16 PM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


(Which, please don't speed. Speeding motor vehicles make it scarier and more dangerous for me when I'm riding my visible-as-possible-so-you-see-and-don't-squish-me-please bike.)
posted by aniola at 12:34 PM on August 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


My driving habits have never caused endangerment or fright to a single human being. Derail over.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:09 PM on August 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


I have a BMW 524 TD from 1985 (elderly in car years) that's colored what was back then a standard "Cosmo Blau". A few weeks ago, someone backed into me in a parking lot, resulting in an unsightly dent in my poor car's trunk. I was super astonished that the auto body shop was able to so perfectly match the paint, but the woman at the shop's front desk was very meh about the whole thing. "The computer just figures it out," she said, shrugging.

Well, I say it was still cool. I mean, it was a perfect match!
posted by but no cigar at 3:53 PM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean, it was a perfect match!
posted by but no cigar


Eponysteri-contradictory
posted by cynical pinnacle at 5:23 PM on August 2, 2018 [7 favorites]


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