Color QC and Matching Blog

Spot On: Lessons from a Color-Matching Master

Posted by Elaine Becker on Wed, Mar 10, 2010
As the North American Manager of Color Services for Pittsburgh-based PPG, a $16 billion per year manufacturer of paints, coatings, chemicals, optical and glass, Shelley Sturdevant knows something about color matching. She manages and oversees color control for the Coil and Extrusion coatings business at 10 facilities nationwide, with a color palette currently holding over 100,000 colors.

We had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Shelley as she shared some of what she's learned managing color for PPG over the years:

CyberChrome (CC): What prompted your move into digital color matching and when?

Shelley Sturdevant (SS): About 10 years ago we decided we needed to find the right tools, the right hardware and software, to manage our color needs then and into the future. We needed to build a foundation to manage our huge color palette, including some colors we've been managing for more than 30 years.  That's when we settled on OnColor.

CC: What were you looking for in a color matching software application?

SS: Two things primarily, speed and productivity. The OnColor software can search through 50,000 to 60,000 colors in seconds. And, uniquely, it gives you the ability to do very specific color calibrations. It's an important tool for us in the lab but it's also key to our production in batch correction so technicians at all 10 of our facilities can consistently produce the same colors.

CC:  Anything else?

SS: Compatibility with a range of spectrophotometers. That enables us to get the best hardware to pair with the software. These tools form the foundation of our house so to speak, but where it really gets interesting and valuable is what you might call the ‘attached garage,' that is, how we use it to interface with our customers.

Now, we're all speaking the same language, not just internally, but we can communicate that directly to our customers. About 40 percent to 50 percent of our customer base has adopted our software and hardware systems models and we train them how best to use it. We can all access the same database which we put up on the Web and they can see new colors, research standard colors, and get precise, reproducible results.

CC: What are some of your newest challenges?

SS: Working to comply with the new ‘green' regulations that have recently been enacted, specifically achieving maximum solar reflectance values (SRVs) without sacrificing the quality of the color match. 

These new formulations take the known color matching rules and throw them out the door.  The use of brown (blended) pigments to effect L value (versus traditional black pigments) creates new color matching models and obstacles.  So, we have to rethink how we match colors.

CC: Thank you for spending time with us.

SS: Thank you.

(Note:  Shelley Sturdevant can be reached on email at

Tags: OnColor, Color correction, color matching, color formulation, color standard