Candy to Clear Coats: New Products & Ideas in Paint

May 4, 2010

It’s a no-brainer that a sizzling paint job is the finishing touch to any hot rod, street rod, muscle car or restored classic. Similarly, a not-so-hot paint job can ruin it. Manufacturers continue to develop new products and processes that make your job easier while giving your customers options to explore their own creativity, no matter what they want to achieve.

Creating Custom Colors

One of the newest tools is part of Planet Color‘s mixing system.

“As it was originally launched, Planet Color is a mixing bank with 300 formulated colors,” explained David Kidd of Warrensville Heights, Ohio-based Sherwin Williams Automotive Finishes and Planet Color. “Guys can take those colors and tweak them one way or another and then save that new formula in our computer system called Formula Express. Guys love this because they can name their own color and nobody can change the formula.

“Let’s say the shop is in California and they created Big Bob’s Blue, formula No. 61223,” continued Kidd. “The car owner moved to Florida and he needs to go back and touch up a nick in the paint. The owner can go into a Sherwin Williams Automotive branch and get formula No. 61223 made again and it’s the exact same color. A builder can make a custom color that can be replicated anywhere in the country. It formulates all the way down to ounces [and] all the way up to multiple gallons so that you don’t have waste.

“If it’s a small shop that builds two or three cars a year, it might not make sense to invest in a mixing bank,” said Kidd. “You can go into the Sherwin Williams branch and use our mixing bank. We can create whatever you need and it’s still your custom formula.”

House of Kolor (a division of Valspar), based in Pittsburgh, will introduce its own custom color line this spring.

“Sometime in May or early June we will unveil an entire new line of House of Kolor called Shimrin2 [which will] open up a whole new palette of unbelievable color ranges,” said Nick Dahl. “First, it will be a complete compliant line, meaning it will be below the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)-compliancy level in California. Currently, the clean air districts have a 3.5 VOC for base coat. The Shimrin2s will be a 2.8 VOC and below, so they will be way ahead of the curve and they’ll be around for a long time.”

Greener Pastures

BASF of Southfield, Michigan has also released new greener products, said Antonio Leandres.

“BASF R-M Automotive Finishes launched products in North America that are better for the environment, such as Onyx HD waterborne base coat,” said Leandres, adding that many shops are interested in environmentally friendly products. “They offer all the benefits of a solvent-borne base coat system with 90 percent less solvent emissions [so it’s] also safer for painters to use. R-M Onyx HD waterborne products offer more than 35,000 color formulas and the ability to color match any color from the early Ford black to the candy apple red color that is loved by so many hot rod enthusiasts.

“Customers can expect greener products, including a new waterborne line of R-M Carizzma custom colors that range from crystals, candies and metallics to the traditional blacks, blues, reds and yellows,” Leandres added. “R-M Carizzma waterborne will be available July 1, 2010.”

“With the Shimrin2s, we’re going dual- component design, which means you’ll have a range of colors,” said Dahl, adding that House of Kolor’s Custom Creator program invites people to create new colors. “The effects, the pearls, micas or metallics that create the illusion in the color, will be in effect packs. If you want a cobalt blue base coat (BC), you would buy the cobalt blue color pack and then the BC effect pack, pour them together and you would have your cobalt blue medium metallic-type base coat.

“For the first time, you can take a solid color and add any kind of effect pack to take it any direction you want,” continued Dahl. “That will open up the palette to an infinite number of choices. They can create a custom one-off color that only they have the formula for and will allow complete control over bench mixing.”

New Trends in Paints

Understated colors such as black, gray and silver are making a comeback, said David Vivian of SEM Products.

Leandres noted that it’s possible to create a paint look that was specific to a certain time period.

“Many people think that you cannot achieve the original look unless an old lacquer is used,” he said. “Modern automotive finishes combined with a painter’s abilities can produce any kind of look from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s classic looks to the flame and vibrant colors that began in the ’70s. With R-M paint, hot rod aficionados can have their cars look the historic way they like while having the durability of the most advanced paint technology available.”

David Vivian of SEM Products in Rock Hill, South Carolina reported some repeating trends.

“Color trends are like history, they seem to repeat every so often,” he said. “A lot of what we’re seeing these days is the use of understated colors like silvers, grays and blacks. But just because it’s not bright and colorful doesn’t mean that these are not custom colors. They’re being done as multi-stage paint jobs and using different effect pigments to achieve a unique or custom look.

“While we don’t see any ground-breaking effect pigments right now, painters are using existing products to create new looks,” added Vivian, noting that another trend is matching the exterior to the custom interior. “The trend is moving away from color-shifting pigments to multi-stage colors and multiple gloss levels. By applying base, various pearls and candies in different layers, you can add dimensions to particular color families. We’re working on products that give custom painters some flexibility to create one-off or unique colors.”

Dahl reported that House of Kolor also has a new clear coming soon.

“We’ve done field testing in California [for our Urethane Show Clear, USC01], and the painters replied they can’t believe the brilliance of it, how easy it is to spray and how productive it is,” he said. “A lot of times with clear coats, you’ve got a certain window where you can get back into it and buff a shine into it. With this, we have cut and buffed as much as one month after it was applied. It’s a user-friendly clear coat and will be the industry’s highest UV-resistant clear.”

Planet Color and Barrett-Jackson Auctions created factory-packaged colors.

“We sell a lot of product through NAPA and other jobber distribution channels,” said Kidd. “They don’t want to mix paint; the guy just wants to buy something off the shelf. We [created] colors that are reminiscent of the muscle car era. We haven’t changed these colors. From 20 feet away, they’re still the same color. But if you look at the color really close in the sunlight, we’ve pulled the old metallics out of those formulas and replaced those old metallics and micas with cleaner metallics and different pearls that give a really nice, clean appearance without ruining the color phase. We wanted to update the paint without ruining the heritage of the color.”

According to the manufacturers, primers are also undergoing a lot of changes.

“With the Shimrin2 line, we are unveiling a new undercoat called a Foundation Primer Sealer,” said Dahl of House of Kolor. “The undercoats, called the KD series, will be available in gray, white, black, red, yellow and blue. You can take those colors and mix them to create any color you want for the undercoat. If you start with [a] color undercoat that’s a close proximity to your top coat, a rock chip leaves less of an eyesore. It also allows the painter to achieve more of evenness to their paint job.”

Planet Color offers primer in eight different colors.

“Eventually, you’re going to get a stone chip,” said Kidd. “We have 140 colors formulated off of these eight colors so that if someone is doing a pale yellow, you’ll use a pale yellow sealer. If someone is doing a bright red, use a bright red sealer. When you get that stone chip, it’s not as obvious.”

Tech Tips & Tricks

Always use a chamois or soft cloth to wipe waterspots off a car after washing, said Antonio Leandres of BASF.

Each product requires slightly different practices to achieve the best results, so the first place to look for tips is the directions.

“My recommendation to anyone is to always refer to a tech manual,” said Dahl. “House of Kolor has a fantastic, professionally bound tech manual. The first 20 or so pages include the digitized color book. For $5, people can have a very thorough technical book that has all the low VOC regulations, along with how to mix our products for low VOC, [and other] technical tips.”

Vivian of SEM Products suggested a measured approach to avoid problems.

“The first tip for any custom paint job is to take your time and plan the job accordingly,” he said. “Whether choosing a stock color or mixing different products for a specialized look, make test panels to ensure the color effect you have in mind is really what you want. Pay attention to the details by shaking all products, using the proper reducers/activators and following application directions. Catalyze each layer of color. Bases, candies and pearl layers perform much better with hardener.

“When it comes to painters, the biggest mistake they can make is assuming something will work,” added Vivian. “This is especially true on repairs to a fresh paint job. Investigate and ask questions, especially if the car has been refinished in the past. Don’t play chemist on the car and try something that has a limited chance of success and could lead to bigger problems.”

There are several misconceptions and mistakes that will derail your intentions. One of the biggest concerns is the number of layers to apply. However, it varies with the type of paint and the manufacturer.

“The biggest misconception is that more clear is better,” said Vivian. “A job with eight coats of clear doesn’t look better than a job with two to four coats [that have been] applied properly.”

Kidd agreed.

“Everybody thinks more is better, but that’s not the case,” he said. “Applying multiple layers is bad in urethanes. Don’t do that. It goes back to the old days of using lacquers and different systems that required multiple layers, but the new urethanes don’t like a lot of coats. There are only disadvantages to that. The biggest risk is getting solvent pop, which creates little circles all throughout the paint job.

“If the painter is lucky enough not to get the solvent pop, the paint surface just doesn’t look very good and you can also get what they call pinching,” he said.

“The best practice is to apply two coats on a car, allow it to cure for 24 hours or give it a bank toner color,” continued Kidd. “Then, go back over it, give it a quick sand to level everything out and then apply two more coats over the top of that.”

That advice applies to urethane paints. House of Kolor has a different take with its products, said Dahl.

“The number of coats you put on represents what you’re going to get,” he said. “If someone is looking for a desired effect, they keep applying coats until they achieve that effect. If they apply more coats, it goes darker and if they apply fewer coats, it goes lighter.

“Our claim to fame in the hot rod and custom paint industry is our Kandy coat,” added Dahl. “We have multiple layers of base coats and then candies and then clears to achieve a color or an effect.

“My tech tip is to always purchase just a little bit of extra paint and keep it on the shelf just in case you have a mishap,” added Dahl. “That eliminates the need for all the frustration of matching the same color.”

Choosing the right products and properly completing each step in the process can go a long way to creating a happy customer.