Early in my career as a professional painter, I took for granted the importance of consistency in the paint I was using. I suppose I never thought about the quality control processes that must exist to ensure that every gallon or quart of a paint produced at the factory maintained the intended chemical and physical properties. If the label said the formula and color were correct and the mixer said it was correct, who was I to second guess things?
That line of thinking came grinding to a halt after my team used a paint that was later recalled for “chemical irregularities.” For weeks we waited to learn if the quality of paint we used on an important job didn’t meet the standards required for the work. Thankfully, we didn’t have to redo the job, but I gained a new perspective and greater appreciation for high-quality paint materials made by reputable manufacturers.
The truth is that every successful paint factory and paint manufacturer must rigorously and continuously test the paint they produce to guarantee that each batch is up to the exacting standards required in the commercial paint sector. In order for you, the professional painter, to have confidence in your materials, you must first have confidence in the brand of paint you’re using. While your customer or client might not ever notice a subtle difference in things like color or gloss, a paint manufacturer’s reputation is staked on their customers – painters and paint professionals like you – trusting the products they produce each and every time.
The simplest way for these manufacturers to test the color, opacity, and gloss of a paint sample begins with a drawdown card. As the name implies, a drawdown card is a piece of firm card stock that features a black portion and a white portion. Drawdown cards can help measure color, spread rate, opacity, bleed, viscosity, thickness, gloss, and a wide number of other physical properties critical to identifying the specific qualities of a particular paint. Regularly confirming that these properties are within the designed specifications of the paint being manufactured is the first step to guaranteeing that the end-user never faces a recall or unforeseen paint issue as I did.
Drawdown cards are most often used when a paint is being manufactured or when a designer is comparing paint colors. As a result, you may not be familiar with draw down cards and their myriad uses. Painters may rely on paint swatches to confirm colors, but drawdown cards are significantly more accurate, as they offer a larger paint sample area and multiple color contrast pallets.
Applying a sample of paint to a drawdown card and spreading it over the card at a consistent speed creates a thin film covering that can be analyzed for color, gloss, and reflectivity. Drawdown cards work by measuring the contrasting properties of the paint on the white portion of the card and the black portion of the card with the same sample of paint. These differences allow for measurements that determine the exact color properties of a paint before it’s used for a commercial job.
Despite what may seem like a simple product, drawdown cards come in a number of variations. Different paint types (oil, water) and substrates (metal, wood, fiberglass) are replicated by using different types of drawdown cards. Some drawdown cards feature a clear-coat or vinyl covering to simulate gloss, while others are laminated with plastic film to simulate greater solvent resistance. Some cards help test for the leveling property of paint while others test color uniformity across different surface types. An astounding variety of drawdown cards exist in an effort to help paint manufacturers replicate most any condition or substrate, so you can be sure there’s one available for your particular upcoming job.
It might seem that actually using a drawdown card would be a difficult or messy process, but nothing is further from the truth. Drawdown cards are relatively inexpensive items, and as this demonstration shows, applying a sample of paint as a thin film is simple and quick. Plus, it can save you lots of time and trouble down the road by catching problems with your paint before you start a job.
When we think about testing paint, we most often think of either complicated chemical tests or a quick “eye test” against a paint swatch. In reality, there are a number of tests that take place in factories and test facilities every day. Drawdown cards are simple to create and offer much more information than a simple paint swatch, meaning that if you are NOT using drawdown cards regularly, you’re missing out on a wealth of information that can help you do a great job. Drawdown cards don’t just belong in paint factories or with designers – they should be used by professional painters as well.
BYK-Gardner Drawdown Cards
Click here to see some of the amazing varieties of drawdown cards offered by BYK-Gardner!