Color Matching is a huge skill and a must in the leather repair industry. I’ve been coming across a few vehicles lately that have been dyed with not so good color matching. Knowing that it’s usually someone either color blind or just down right…well I won’t go that far, but if the color isn’t right then your repair will look worse then if you had just left it alone.
Good lighting does help and pretty much a necessity. Natural lighting is better but in the garages we get stuck in the winter months it doesn’t help much, but what do you do, you improvise as my wife says. I use a dent light, which works pretty good, but I have also have used a under the hood light bar then hooking inside the car that stretches the width of the car and hooks on the door jams, they work great. Shorter light bar are great for light in a small places. Be careful with using florescence they sometimes throw your tinting off, if you can get some natural light to your project then great. The customer sees the the car in natural light mostly anyways so your color needs to be spot on.
Test a spot with a dab of leather dye on your finger, wipe a spot in the area to be repaired, dry it, and if it disappears, bingo. Otherwise tint it.
Most of the colors we encounter in today’s cars are tans, grays, blacks of course, some blues, burgundy, not many reds, but I have seen on Mustangs red bolsters, whites in some, and in the custom world, Wow look out. A lot of tricks I would love to learn in doing real custom work like custom airbrushing in the interiors of vehicles, anyways..
The colors I use the most in my leather repair dyes are Black, White, Yellow oxide, Red oxide, and Brown. I also use on occasion Green, Blue, and Purple, rarely Yellow and Red, Silver and Gold for metallics with Pearl white to offset the side tones, and growing everyday, with the growing automotive industry. Colors and more colors, fun, fun, fun…
Of course white and black make gray, and brown and white make tan, so, add a little black to go grayer with tan or darker with both, white to lighten, yellow oxide or red oxide to richen the color or to give the yellow or red tints you see in today’s autos, brown works good sometimes but the browns seem to be on the red side, if it’s too red add green to tone it down. BMWs have a blueish tint to their dyes add a little blue or purple to the grays, Dodge add a little red oxide to the dye to give a reddish tone, Infinity’s light tan has just a hint of green to it, Chevy’s have a little bit more of a yellow-brown look to them in the darker dashes adding a little yellow oxide gives you that tone. Ford has a pretty true grey with a little yellow oxide though in some cases even add a little brown, this is for both the dark and light. Ford trucks tan has kinda a pink look to it, in some older models, add red oxide but they do have a lot of yellow to them too. Cadillac is pretty easy white and brown with a hint of yellow oxide and a bit if black, just a little though. With black tone it down for a duller look with a little bit of white, add your duller and you have flat black sometimes a little brown too for and older Dodge steering wheel but eliminate the duller save that for like BMW dash pieces. Dodge light gray seats add a little purple. Whew..that wore me out. You get the picture I hope, colors are just one of those things either you get it or you don’t.
Just test each time you add a color and look at it and see what color it’s missing. I use my pigments sometimes to get there a little faster. If it looks like it needs a color…add it a little at a time and dab another spot, dry it, then check again. You want it to disappear. If it does then your ready to go. Add your flex, cross-linker, strain your paint with a paper paint strainer into the cup and spray away with your leather dyes on you leather repair. If I left something out and your having problems with a color let me know maybe I can help you figure it out.
I’ve never really sat down and counted the amount of cars that I have done in my 10 years in the automotive reconditioning business so theres been a lot of colors fly in front of my face, the only one that has ever kicked my butt was teal, wow I spent all day when I first started on a boat seat that was teal, holy crap, that was back when I used the lacquer based systems, bad move, I had to give up. With the water based it is so much better. I found with the water based mix that green, blue and a touch of white, I got it, I think I added a little yellow too, I try not to do to many teals, that color and me just don’t get along.
Thats kinda the way I look at it when I go to mixing colors, which I do all by eye, God help me if I go color blind. I just look at the work and see the colors. It’s pretty cool. Each and every car is different no matter if they are the same identical vehicles, each one as been exposed to completely different elements. Every color is different I promise you, premixed dyes are fine to get you there quicker, but check a spot first before you go hog wild and just start dyeing. So tint your dyes, tweak them until they disappear. The color wheel does help, I find myself every once in a while having a brain fart and can’t get a color right so I pull out the old stand by, if it’s the color your trying to get rid of use it’s opposite to get rid of it. Look on the wheel and the color on the opposite side of the wheel, thats it’s opposite. I know that’s not the correct word for that but it sounds good. But I never start my repair until my color matching is right. If you don’t think you can match it, don’t do it. The customer will respect you more for your honesty. If your color doesn’t match then the ending result won’t be perfect, and that’s what the customer wants is perfection in leather repair, or any repair…Right.
Make sure to apply your conditioner after your repair is done on your leather repairs. It will make your ending result look and feel better. Top coat all your repairs with a clear topcoat, it only adds more resistance to the wear and tear and abuse that the vehicles will encounter instead of just the dye.
If you have anything to add to this article I would love to hear from you, these tips can be used with all your color matching needs not just dyeing leather. So please jump on board and lets help all the techs out there and lend a helping hand so that we can ALL get one more step closer to perfection in our leather and vinyl repairs, plastic repairs, velour repairs, and carpet dyeing.