Monday, April 11, 2011

Why doesn't the color match perfectly?

Color matching is an art form.  However, there is a bit of science to consider as well.  Here are exerts of an e-mail sent to me from a leather technician experiencing the frustration of color matching.

"I can't understand why the color is really far off, yet it also changes drastically, depending on the type of lighting. For example, the pictures I sent you only show what the color looks like in the Sun, yet when in person (No Camera) it actually appears to be the exact opposite. Meaning the untouched cushion is actually deeper (more red and/or Organic Brown tones), and the one that I re-finished, is lighter and less Reddish tones.
" changes according to the light I view it under.  I can get it pretty close outside in the sun, however, when I bring it in under all types of House lighting, it changes drastically and does not look close to matching." 

So what's going on?   

One word...  Metamerism.

Read my blog entry from about two years ago.

The solution is to match in the dominant lighting source of the room where the furniture is located and forget about all other locations (like outside in the sun) as they don't matter.  If there are differing lighting sources inside, then pick the dominant source.

Keep in mind, the eye of a professional leather technician is highly tuned.  Unless the pieces are literally touching  each other, most people will not notice a slight difference.  What they'll see is how the refinished piece looks compared to what it looked like before.  

I always caution a client that if I do a partial refinish and not all the furniture there will be a "newness factor."  The original color will have oxidized to some degree. Furthermore, there will have been some fading, particularly if there are any red tones in the original.  The red will be leached out to some degree as reds always fade the fastest.  Therefore, the newly refinished leather will appear different than the pieces that were not refinished.

This is a key learning experience in color matching, particularly with mottled colors.  If you have a color variation affect, you will always have this dilemma to one degree or another.  

The lesson learned is the lighting source is the most important element in perceived color. And, to complicate things further, the viewing angle also changes your eye's interpretation of the color.  The color shifts when viewed on a horizontal plan versus a vertical plan, like the back rest to the seat top of leather furniture.  This is called geometric metamerism.

Always prepare for this phenomena. 

Copyright  2011, Kevin Gillan 

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