Color Selection – A Prime Concern

Having an understanding of color does not mean pink bowties and bright silky scarves or getting blamed for picking the wrong shade of violet. Beyond the artsy side of selection is basic and functional knowledge like the structural framing that holds a building together; not glamorous, but needed. Then there is professional experience; a material’s practical opacity in relation to color range (some product lines may not cover well in certain shades), knowing when tinted primer is beneficial or not needed and realizing that darker color application on some man-made substrates may cause heat transference (damage).

In addition, and just as important, making or mixing paint into colors follows methodical rules. There is a technical side to color selection that paint professionals should welcome. It is not necessary to be a seasoned, industrial designer or interior decorator to focus on the science side of color. When it comes to hues, most of the time paint and coating professionals lean one of two ways, “(stepping back in retreat) “the customer always picks; just let us know when you are ready” or (stand aside…beginning to run) “I’m outta here”.

Craftsmen offering hue assistance is the exception in the commercial, industrial, and residential segments, while in the decorative sector experienced managers often welcome the color conversation. It was not always this way; in days of old, professionals had a kit handy and knew how to make paint colors with ease. The inventions of pre-mixed paint and tint disbursement machines allowed many modern tradesmen to forget their color knowledge. Add in the computerized spectrophotometer, and pros have not been required to color match, which may have somewhat encouraged a “get by attitude” regarding color selection.

However, to be a student of the craft, or to do better than just getting by, it is a worthwhile endeavor to learn some color stuff. As skilled application is based on a mixture of science and art, so is color. The basic discipline of understanding color selection is still relevant today and an important aspect of application craftsmanship. As far as the greater construction industry goes the paint trade deals with the most options and variations of color, period. Tiles, carpets, plastic laminates and other finishes may have wide-ranging choices, but the distribution point (store or supply house) or mechanic can not adjust or alter the selection.

Think about all the different project finishes, for the most part, without paint or coatings, no other trade’s materials can change color. Then there are many pre-finished products that leave manufacturing already colorized – exterior; masonry, roofing, aluminum doors/windows, and siding, as well as the interior; flooring, acoustical ceilings, window treatments and wall protection. Although plenty of hues can be found elsewhere in the construction arena, paint and coating professionals are the color applicators. So it seems to make good sense for craftsmen to at least have a basic understanding of the tone or tones applied, along side material safety and technical information.

Painters and coating specialists must accept that the selection of color is not just about frilly interpretation or fancy neckwear. Color selection, mixing, and progression is a system; a logical sequence with technical and predictable results. Not many would mistake the discovery of light’s color spectrum and the concept of the color wheel by Sir Issac Newton, as interior decorator’s work. Of course, putting the right hues on to satisfy a customer’s vision requires specialized talent and a proficient level of artistry that paint professionals may be better off to appreciate from a short distance. Practiced and successful industry participants must acquire and maintain some focus on the matter-of-fact side of color.

The best of the trade has already realized that using knowledge and experience to get jobs done and helps finishes to shine-on in perfect hues, brilliantly. From the expert applicator’s view, knowing colors that are difficult to change and/or cover may save more than a little hassle. Since colors evoke emotion, which may affect individuals positively or negatively, the person putting it on may be served well by having a general awareness and admiration of the selection process, rather than turning or running away. For the foreseeable future, project hue changes will inevitably be made and color comprehension will remain integral to paint and coating application.

In fact, for the paint and coating professional, color will always be a prime concern. If you would like to contribute to Color Selection, please contact us at

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