Martorelli, Spain - Creating a new paint colour and implementing it is a far more complex process than most people realise. Just ask the Seat employees at the Martorelli colour and trim department, who were recently tasked with a distinctive new shade of metallic red for its upcoming Arona.
It all starts with a market study - ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ - but, “Creating a colour is an inside job,” said Seat colour and trim specialist Jordi Font. “A lot of intuition also goes into defining a new shade. You have to feel the pulse on the street and run with it.”
But the actual mixing is done in a lab, using a Pantone colour guide, which makes creating a new colour strictly an exercise in chemistry.
The team mixed 50 different pigments and metal particles,” said colour specialist Carol Gómez, “and we created nearly 100 variations of the same colour - 1000 litres of paint - to find the perfect shade.”
Font agreed: “Colours get more sophisticated every day and the demand for customisation is a growing trend.”
From mathematical formulation to real life
Once the colour has been defined, it has to be tested on metal plates similar to the materials used in the production of the actual car bodies, to make sure it goes on smoothly and produces the desired visual effect.
“We check the depth and subtlety of the shade,” explained paint specialist Jesús Guzmán, ”on plate in full sunlight and in the shade to make sure that the applied colour is a perfect match to how we designed it.”
The actual cars are painted in a spray booth with a ventilation system similar to those in surgical operating theatres, to prevent dust and other impurities from settling on the wet paint, at a temperature of 21-25 degrees.
Each car is sprayed with 2.5kg of paint, applied in seven coats - each the thickness of a human hair - by 84 robots in an automated process that takes six hours per car, with each layer baked at 140 degrees before the next is applied.
And once it’s done, all it takes is 43 seconds to pass the newly sprayed body-shell through a CAT scanner that checks for smooth surfaces and makes sure there are no inclusions - but, as you’ll see in the video, each body still gets checked by a young lady with very sensitive fingertips…