In a quiet, light industrial neighborhood in Rutland, Vermont, on a tree-lined street named Quality Lane, there is a lot of good color activity going on; dare we say a lot of “quality color”.

This is the U.S. home for the StoColor 800 – a collection of 800 colors formulated to match the range of human visual perception. First released in 2002, this color system remains a valuable resource for those planning the use of color in architecture. But it doesn’t stop there. The Sto Color Lab turns out, on average, 70 fresh color variations and 100 samples a day.

Sto’s Color Lab in Vermont is a critical component in the company’s production of superior coatings and finishes. They offer what is in effect a color customization service, responding to requests from designers, architects, contractors and applicators seeking to match a particular shade that can be derived from the StoColor 800.

The Sto color formulations begin at a color computer there. A physical sample, or perhaps a color chart, is measured using a spectrophotometer. With the specific color target (standard) established, the color computer then uses previously stored colorant and product data to establish a new color formula. This initial formula is called a “starting point”. Once the color formula is approved, it is entered into the Sto color database where it “locked in” as a new standard for future use.

Color Representation: The Real World

The Sto Corp. Color Lab strives to produce the best possible match every time it develops a color formula in order to deliver ideal color representation.  This means that after all the inherent variables are factored in, the final color will closely match what was ordered. This can be tricky business, because color by nature is very subjective.  One person’s perfect match is another’s unacceptable hue.

Everyone sees color a bit differently.  Some people can have limited perception in certain color ranges; some might be completely color-blind. Color blindness, for example, is more prevalent in men than women. Color perception can also deteriorate as the lenses in our eyes begins to yellow with age.

The receptors in our eyes (or rods) that distinguish light and dark are 1500 times more sensitive than the receptors for color or hue (cones). That means when comparing a sample against a standard in the Color Lab, the easiest thing to distinguish is whether it is too light or too dark.

Once the color sample leaves Vermont, there are many other known variables that can impact the appearance of a color and can contribute to perceived color issues including:

  • Application technique
  • Substrate
  • Drying conditions
  • Angles/shadow
  • Colorant integrity
  • Texture
  • Gloss and sheen
  • Age/weathering
  • Light source
  • Dispensing machine accuracy

When a color matches under one light source and not another, it is a called a Metameric Match. Metamerism occurs when two objects display different spectral reflectance curves.  Different spectral reflectance curves are typical when the two objects being compared have a different chemical composition, i.e. they are derived from different colorants. This means a color can look good under daylight when compared to the standard but look totally different under another light source such as fluorescents.

Fortunately, Sto representatives are well-trained and well-versed in addressing these issues. They also understand that “hue” is the color perception that allows an object to be judged red, blue, yellow, purple, and that “chroma” is an attribute of color perception that expresses the degree of departure from gray of the same lightness (sometimes referred to as saturation or density).

The result is a lot of beautiful color for clients and achieving “just the right match” for the color requested.

Join us next week when we visit the Sto Tint School.