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Collision: Waterborne Color Matching

If you utilize all the tools and follow all the rules for waterborne color matching, it won’t be that difficult.


By Doug Goethe


My color matching is better with waterborne, but it’s a tricky subject. Everyone sees color differently because each individual’s eyes reflect light differently. If you have a deep understanding of it, you won’t have any trouble. Chances are the guys who are struggling with it now may not have been that good with it before.

Back in the day, you would mix the paint, put a paint stick in the can and then hold it next to the car. Then you would tint it a little, stick match it again and, if it was close, start to paint. I personally think you need to spray color out because how you spray color out affects everything – air pressure changes colors, gun distance changes colors, etc.


Color match has improved with waterborne in my system. But I follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. I use the exact undercolors or groundcoats that are recommended and use the exact value shades that you’re supposed to.

For example, if you’re spraying red, you might want to spray a gray sealer. If you spray the proper color sealer, it will give you the proper coverage in two to four coats easily. If you instead choose to spray, say, light gray because you don’t want to stock all five colors, it might take all day to cover.


Other guys I talk to who are using different systems than what I’m using say the same thing: if you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and don’t bend the rules, the system works well. That will be the difference between those painters who succeed and those who struggle. 

You can’t stick match with water. If you mix up a blue or red waterborne basecoat and look at it in the can, it may look like you have the wrong color because the water has to evaporate in it for you to see the true color. For example, when you mix black and look at it in a can, it looks like gray or green.


All the manufacturers have many different tools for color matching – color chip books, new color documentation, etc.

The chips are more accurate than the solventborne ones, so they’re a good starting point. If you utilize all the tools and follow all the rules, it won’t be that difficult. People fight the system sometimes and I don’t know why. They could cut their time and speed production if they actually followed the rules.

Doug Goethe is the owner of Yucaipa Auto Collision in Yucaipa, CA. He can be reached at (909) 797-0100 or
[email protected]


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