Material, texture, reflection, and lighting all influence any project requiring specific colors. Candy Apple Red on plastic will not look the same as Candy Apple Red on fabric.
The differences in appearance of a color applied to different material has many factors contributing to color matching. Let’s cover the basics and then we will review a project where we encountered this challenge and how we worked through it.
Factors affecting the perception of color:
Lighting – A color will change in appearance when under different lighting like, halogen, LED, and natural lighting. The strength of the lighting will also influence the appearance of color. For example, when light is diffused by sheer fabrics or blinds, colors will appear more delicate or softer.
Reflective Surfaces – Colors appear brighter or stronger on reflective surfaces.
Textured Surfaces – There are light-absorbing and light-reflective textures. Silk, for example, is a light-reflective material. Colors on light-reflective textured material appear brighter or stronger, or even lighter. Matte paint, linen and wool are examples of light-absorbing material, which causes the appearance of a color to be darker.
Texture, reflection, lighting and color are equal considerations for color matching. Obviously, your starting point must be with the color you are matching. If no one knows what the exact color is, you can eye-ball it. We prefer to use a color meter.
On the Cosi cafe project we recently completed, one of the challenging elements of their branding update was getting the closest printable color red for the new red banners. They had existing patio umbrellas with a specific Sunbrella fabric that they were looking to get as close as possible to the color. The items we produced – canvas banner and window graphics – were fairly straightforward on their own.
The red patio umbrellas were a challenge to match the updated canvas banners since the materials were different. Again, different material, with different textures and reflective properties will change the appearance of a color, even if that color, on its own, is the exact same color.
The new canvas banners were updated from a green primary color to red. The red on the canvas banner required educated color tweaking and several test prints sent to our customer for approval. Consider that Cosi is a multi-location franchise – NJ, IL & CT – and you begin to understand the importance of due-diligence.
Once the a color was approved, we were able to put in production the banner printing, and you can see the results in the pictures.
The take-away message is this – Be aware that applying the same color on a different material or on the same material under different lighting will affect the appearance of the color and be a challenge to a successful color match.