Mark Simpson

Understanding Color Metamerism

Mark Simpson
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Duration:   10  mins

Color metamerism can significantly impact the process of selecting the right color for classic car paint. Professional automotive painter Terry Wright explains, “Metamerism refers to the phenomenon where two colors match under one lighting condition but appear different under another. This can occur due to differences in the spectral composition of light sources or the reflective properties of surfaces”. In the context of classic car paint selection, here’s how color metamerism can affect the process:

Lighting Conditions: When choosing a paint color for a classic car, the lighting conditions under which the car will be viewed are crucial. Classic cars are often displayed or driven in various environments, such as daylight, indoor showrooms, or under artificial lighting. The same paint color may appear different under these different lighting sources due to metamerism.

Spectral Differences: Different light sources emit light with varying spectral compositions. For instance, natural daylight contains a full spectrum of colors, while incandescent or LED lighting may have a limited spectrum. As a result, a car’s paint color can appear to shift or change when viewed under different lighting conditions. This can make it challenging to assess how the paint will look in all situations.

Paint Pigments: Classic cars often require custom paint mixing, and the choice of pigments can influence metamerism. Some pigments may be more prone to metamerism, meaning they exhibit color shifts under different lighting conditions. Paint manufacturers may need to consider this when formulating custom colors for classic car restorations.

Surface Characteristics: The surface of the car, including its gloss level and texture, can impact how light interacts with the paint. Different surface finishes can lead to variations in how the paint color appears, contributing to metamerism. This is particularly important in classic car restorations, where achieving an authentic and period-appropriate appearance is crucial.

Viewer Perception: The human eye perceives color differently under various lighting conditions. Our eyes adapt to the prevailing lighting, and this adaptation can lead to differences in how we perceive colors. When selecting a paint color for a classic car, it’s important to consider how it will be perceived by both experts and enthusiasts under different lighting conditions.

To address the challenges posed by color metamerism in classic car paint selection, it’s essential to:

Use Controlled Lighting: Evaluate paint samples under consistent and controlled lighting conditions to minimize metamerism-related issues.

Sample Testing: Test paint samples in various lighting scenarios to see how they appear in different contexts.

Consult Experts: Seek advice from experts in classic car restoration and paint color matching who have experience dealing with metamerism issues.

Documenting Colors: Maintain detailed records of the chosen paint color’s appearance under different lighting conditions to ensure consistency and accuracy during the restoration process.

Communication: Clearly communicate with paint suppliers and restorers about the specific lighting conditions in which the car will be displayed or driven to ensure the selected color will meet the desired visual expectations.

In summary, color metamerism can complicate the process of selecting the right color for classic car paint, as the appearance of the color can vary under different lighting conditions. Careful consideration, testing, and communication are essential to achieve the desired color accuracy and consistency in classic car restorations.

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