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Create a Color Match Library

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A body technician wouldn’t just grab a hood and assume it’ll fit on the car, says Gary Kilby, technical manager, North America for Valspar Automotive. Paint, he says, should be treated the same way that parts are—before the painters start working on the car in the spray booth, a perfect color match should already have been created. This is why color match libraries are so important, explains Kilby, a veteran painter with more than 20 years of experience. Color match libraries index all of past spray outs, make finding the right match easier and make paint department employees more efficient.  

“Creating a color match library will help avoid costly repaints,” Kilby says. “It’s important to make sure that the paint that we apply in the booth to the car has already been determined a good match. We shouldn’t wait until the car is in the booth to find out that the color didn’t match.” 

Kilby shares his tips on how to create a color match library from scratch.


First of all, creating a color match library has to be driven from the top down.

Owners need to make sure that creating a sprayout card is not optional and that everyone needs to do one. If you’ve made the commitment to do this, it needs to be clear that this is the process that everyone will follow. 


When you start out, you have to be all in. You need to dedicate yourself to making a color library not just today, but tomorrow when you’re in a hurry. This is a decision that you’ve made and you need to keep doing it. 

Once you commit, every car that you paint needs to have a sprayout card done for it. Most repairs require some kind of part replacement and that’s a good time to make the sprayout card

“Don't always assume that you'll remember what the sprayout card was for.”

—Gary Kilby, Technical Manager, Valspar Automotive

To start, an SOP needs to be created for how the sprayout cards will be created. The sprayout cards have to be created in the same manner that you’ll paint the car. Many painters think that the sprayout process is not a valid process and don’t make it a priority to make the sprayout card correctly. If you rush through the process and don’t allow proper flash time between coats of base, for example, that’s going to affect your color. 


You have to make sure that your sprayout duplicates the process you’ll put on the car. Create the sprayout cards in the same environment that you’ll be painting the vehicle in. All of those factors, like air pressure, can affect color match.


The only materials you’ll really need are sprayout cards. We recommend using metal sprayout cards because they have an e-coating and primer on them. That way, all the painter has to do is clean them up a bit with pre-paint cleaner—there’s no need to sand and scuff. They may cost more upfront but they produce a color match much better than the paper ones and they are less likely to curl up in high humidity.


Don’t always assume that you’ll remember what the sprayout card was for. Make sure that the back of each sprayout card has all of the pertinent information on it. We recommend the OEM name, color code, formula number, what type of spray gun was used and the air pressure. The goal is that someone with no prior knowledge of that spray out can look at the back of the card and duplicate the job. 


Organizing the sprayout cards is up to the painter’s preference. Some organize based on OEM format and put all of the GM colors and codes in one place, for example. Some organize based on hue. Using this method, a painter may find a color that matches really well, even if it’s not the intended color of the car. If you’re just starting off, this method probably wouldn’t be an option. As you grow your color library, you’ll have the opportunity to look at it in different ways. The color variances should be grouped and stored together on a ring. Cabinets can be used to house the sprayout cards. The cabinets should have functioning doors that close. That cabinet is pretty critical because even if you spend a lot of time putting together your sprayout cards, all that time is wasted if they’re thrown on benches and they get lost or destroyed.

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