I need larger color samples for my project

December 1, 2011 | By Richard Prince


I am rebuilding a 1956 Chevy Bel Air 4-door hardtop. I have started looking at colors for the project, which will be a two-tone. Is there some place to order index card-size color samples for body paint? The auto paint stores seem to have one or two books of color samples but they cannot leave the store.

I do not want to invest in paint that I’ve only seen in a one-inch-square sample under the store’s lighting.


I am not aware of anybody who sells index card-sized color samples for body paint. You can buy original color chip charts and books from vintage literature dealers but these will be virtually the same as the color chips your paint supplier has. And even if you could get index card sized samples, there’s no way to guarantee that the paint you buy ends up exactly the same as the paint on the samples you viewed. This is because there are so many variables that affect paint color, and subtle changes in ingredients, atmospheric conditions, spray equipment and technique, substrates, and so on will change the way paint looks in its final form.

If you are extremely particular about the exact color and appearance of your Chevy’s body paint your best course of action may be to narrow down the colors you’re considering as much as possible and then have those “final choices” mixed up by your local paint supplier in the smallest quantity he can provide to you. You will have to pay for these samples but given the high overall cost to completely paint the car the additional investment may be worth it to you.

Bring the paint samples home and do some “spray outs” on pieces of scrap sheet metal that you prep in exactly the same way you’re going to prep the car’s body. Even with this the paint you spray onto the car can deviate from the spray samples in noticeable ways unless you go to extreme lengths to control all of the variables that can impact the paint’s appearance. This means spraying the car in the same temperature, humidity and other atmospheric conditions that existed when you sprayed the sample. It’s not that difficult if you have the luxury of a climate controlled paint booth but quite a trick if you don’t. Use the same equipment and the same equipment settings and the same painter for spraying the samples and spraying the entire car. And, of course, the paint used on the whole car needs to be mixed up in exactly the same balance as the sample from ingredients that came from all the same batches as the sample mix.