Developing Colors to Match Your Car
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Developing Colors to Match Your Car

How does an auto body shop get a newly painted body panel to look like it did when it left the factory? Spies Hecker comes out with 25,000 new paint formulas each year that can be recreated in body shops like ours to recreate factory paint. Those formulas are the result of work starting before OEM paint colors are on the market and ends with tests to make sure the results perfectly match production body panels.

Building the Right Paint

There are so many paint finishes on the market that it would be impossible to keep each one in stock. Instead, the paint is mixed at the auto body shop using a combination of materials. It starts with a base paint, designed to give consistent performance in all kinds of weather. From there, a series of materials are added to recreate the right appearance.

Standard pigments are mixed in to give the paint its color, while effect pigments are added to give the paint a unique shine and texture. These materials include metal flakes, pearlescent powders, and glass flakes. Often, these require additives to hold them in the paint.

Reducers and hardeners are mixed with the paint to let it spray on and dry evenly. These have to be mixed to match the heat and humidity inside the paint booth. If these components are slightly off, the paint may hold, but it won’t have the right appearance.

While factory paint is designed around a single color coat sandwiched between primer and clear coat, custom paint jobs can use a combination of dark or light paint layers to change the main paint color as well as pinstripes and custom designs.

Developing a Formula

Spies Hecker operates color labs in Europe, China, Mexico and the U.S. Each lab develops paint mixing formulas to match what automakers are using locally. Getting perfect paint requires a multi-step process that starts before the first cars hit the showroom floor.


  • Working with Pigment Suppliers — Spies Hecker works with pigment manufacturers to develop new coloring agents to keep up with automotive trends. New, super-intense pigments like Vantablack and The World’s Pinkest Pink have rocked the art world, and they’re starting to make their way into automotive paints. Currently, most of this work has concentrated on brighter reds, but other colors are being tested by manufacturers to help their designs pop.
  • Collect information from OEM manufacturers — Car companies work with paint manufacturers to ensure paint applied for repairs matches their own internal coating standards. Spies Hecker has more OEM-approved paint systems and formulas than any other manufacturer.
  • Collect parts from production cars — The same color may look slightly different depending on the factory where it was applied, so the labs go out of their way to get factory-painted parts to ensure the final product is a perfect match.
  • Analyze the color — Factory paint samples, production parts and formula test samples are analyzed in labs using spectrophotometers and microscopes to match the exact color and effects of the original paint. Using digital information and plain eyesight, scientists make sure each new formula is an exact match.
  • Test painting — Color samples are sprayed using robots much like they are at the factory. This ensures each test panel is exactly the same.
  • Color checking — Paint will look different depending on the light, whether it’s from the sun or an old fluorescent bulb. OEM paint samples, test formulas and factory parts are compared under different lighting conditions to make sure the formula’s appearance remains consistent with the original paint.
  • Finalizing the Formula — The completed formula goes into Phoenix color software, followed by entry in the Color Index. This gives painters using the Spies Hecker system the exact recipe for mixing a matching paint. In some cases, a little more finesse may be needed to get an exact paint match. Over time, paints can fade, so a freshly painted panel will stand out on the vehicle. It’s up to the painter to get the final mix to match existing paint so the repair blends in.


When You Want Quality Paint, Go to Merton Auto Body

Merton Auto Body uses the Spies Hecker paint system to get an exact match on every vehicle we paint. We’re also an I-CAR Gold Class certified shop, which means we have the latest equipment and training to paint your car, so it looks like it just rolled out of the factory. When you come to us for collision repair, you can rest assured that we’re just as committed to quality as the original manufacturers of your car. Want a unique look for your car or motorcycle? We offer custom painting and pinstriping. Stop by our Sussex, WI location or visit our website to request an online estimate. We proudly service the Waukesha County and surrounding Lake Country areas, including Oconomowoc, Hartland, Pewaukee, and Delafield.



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