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Fashioning the “it” color of the season or creating a brand’s signature shade? Getting the color right is important, and more complicated than you might think. Color seems like a concrete thing, but in reality, it is the perception of light modified by an object. Making matters more complicated, this perception can be altered by light, the shape or texture of an object, and by the observer. When it comes to achieving a constant color all three of these variables play an important part.

Light

Consistency is key for color. For light, that means using the same light source, whether it’s at the dyehouse or the retailer. This comes down to the type of light box, bulb, and even the cleanliness of the light box. Just a little bit of dust can filter the light, and change a color’s appearance. The location of the light box can affect results as well, since natural light or other conflicting light sources can throw off the color perception.

Fabric

Whether it’s cotton, nylon, polyester, or a blend, the type of fabric impacts the color. Not only does it change the way a color is perceived, it also determines what kind of dye is used. Consideration also has to be taken for how the fabric will be used – sportswear, formal wear, etc. – since this can impact the wear and fading of the color. With all these factors to consider, it’s clear why consistency is vital to the process.

Observer

The final piece of the color-perception puzzle is the person seeing the color. The human factor has the highest chance of irregularity since even the keenest eye can be thrown off by simple variations. In addition to making sure those conducting the test have superior hue-differentiating abilities with regular testing, extra measures can also be taken. Wearing a grey, neutral-toned lab coat keeps clothing colors from interfering with samples. Those same factors that throw off the light, also throw off the human eye. So, a clean workspace away from conflicting light sources equals more consistent results.

Qualifying Color

From start to finish, there are over 120 steps in the dyeing process. That’s over 120 steps that have to go right to achieve the desired color. It’s also, to be slightly more pessimistic, over 120 opportunities for something to go wrong, which is why color matching is such a vital process. Having an understanding of how color is perceived and what impacts that perception is the foundation for color matching consistency.

UL and Color Matching

UL’s color expertise extends around the globe with labs in Arkansas and Hong Kong. Both facilities employ color experts capable of turning around assessments within 24 hours. UL color experts are assessed twice a year with the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Test, and are required to have a superior rating. Their proficiency, along with our technology and resources, enables UL to customize color programs that simplify the complex world of color matching for your brand.

UL experts provide regular contribution to blogs of interest to the Consumer and Retail Services community.  Join the discussion and learn from your peers.

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