Dave Stribling
July 9, 2019
Contributers: Dave Stribling

Getting Paint Color Right
Just opened my paint I got for my 1967 Mustang and the color is nothing like what was on my car originally. I took the back of my headlight bucket and had them use their camera on it just like you said. The paint guy said he can't tint it for me. Is there a brand I can use that is "correct?"
Aaron F.
Mooresville, Indiana

The short answer is no, and it is getting harder to get correct paint matches. But first, if anyone comes up and tells you your color isn't "correct," nine times out of ten they don't know what they are talking about. You could go back to 1967 and line up cars painted the same color from every month of production, and none of them would be exactly the same.

Having said that, I recently went to a car show and saw a Gulfstream Aqua car that was painted the wrong color. I know this because I had just gone through a color search for the closest Gulfstream Aqua blend for a customer's car. It is getting harder to find exact color matches and paint reps who will tint paint. Remember, the camera only gives the mixer the closest match in the computer—not the exact match from your sample. You will find less and less that they will try to custom-tint paint for you, because there is liability in messing up the paint (and more problems if you need additional paint later). This is different than the body shop that tints all the time to blend into a repair. They won't be seeing the car again, and if they do, they'll just blend it again. When you do have something custom-tinted, you often can't take it back—you are stuck with it.

The paints have changed over the years, and some of the current leading companies weren't making paint in the 1960s, so their blends are guesses. I painted a 1967 convertible in code "I" Lime Gold, and then I tried to buy more paint to touch it up 10 years later—it was a nightmare. Same company, different mixing bank components. The new code "I" was nothing like its old one.

I usually end up shopping several different paint lines to find the closest match. I can usually get a very small sample size of the paint and spray out a test pattern and choose the best match. For Gulfstream Aqua, I ended up shooting Sherwin Williams. For Black Jade, I ended up with DuPont. The colors will vary that much. If you have your car painted in a collision shop or shop that has a mixing bank, they may be able to tint the paint if you ask, but they are getting wary about doing so on all-over paint, at least in this area of the country (Indiana).

One other piece of advice: Once you choose a paint line, stick with all their products. Don't use one brand of primers, another brand of base coat, and some other manufacturer's clear. If you run into a problem, you will never get any help from anybody, and paint can react between brands. Your friends and "experts" will tell you they only shoot this brand or that brand, but don't buy it. If you stick to a good brand of paint and follow its directions (not the advice of your friend who has been painting for years), you should come out with the right color for your car. Good luck with the '67!

Three different Code "C" 1969 Black Jade mixes from three major paint brands. The one on the left is too dark, the one on the right is too green, and the one in the middle is fairly close. Before you discount the other two manufacturers, note that they were closest on other paint colors I had to match, so no one paint brand has it all right.

Photography by Dave Stribling