Trade Resources Industry Views The Range of Colors Available in Most Coatings Sectors in Europe Is Too Wide for Customers

The Range of Colors Available in Most Coatings Sectors in Europe Is Too Wide for Customers

Consumers in Europe are now almost spoiled for choice in the range of colors available in most coatings sectors.

As a result coatings and colorant producers, as well as  suppliers of materials running in-plant coatings facilities, are having to put in a lot more effort into detecting variations in consumer tastes.

This is especially the case with coatings for interiors  of homes, offices, commercial premises  and automobiles, in particular the equipment and consumer products used within interiors, such as electrical and electronic devices.

In interiors there is at present a tendency for a mix of colors with a common theme such as neutrality and natural hues, but with accented colors, often bright and vibrant, which compliment  the predominant shades.  Also within this color assortments is a growing application of  coatings with metallic effects, sometimes showing a pure metal look such as gold or silver.

Increasingly the objective behind interior design is not just a visual impact  but a tactile one as well so that the coatings have to have both attractive colors  and a haptic quality.

New and improved coatings technologies are having a strong influence on the choice of colors.  

The ability to apply powder coatings at lower temperature, for example, is resulting in stronger and brighter colors appearing on a wider range of wood and plastic products.

Powder coatings are now being cured efficiently at  temperatures of approximately 120C  compared to the normal range of 160C – 200C, which has limited their application mainly to metals.  

Applicators of powder coatings are now opening plants specifically built for powder coating of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) panels.  MDF  Specialised Coaters, Sheffield, England,  operates a dedicated power coatings unit with a gas-fired, infra-red curing oven able to give  4,500 meters of MDF per day smooth and textured single powder coatings,

With both MDF  and melamine-faced chipboard (MCF),  powder coatings are supplementing  spraying with conventional coatings  and printing as a coating process.  In addition  systems applying textured plates are available for adding embossed effects,  such as wood grain patterns.

The dispersions and pigments business of BASF has developed a system for the mass coloring with pigment dispersions of  the wood fibers in MDF boards.

“The pigment preparations are added during the production process,” explained Juliane Kruesemann, BASF’s pigments  marketing manager. “ They  ensure an even mass coloration of the material, since they stay affined to the wood fiber, and stand out due to their great shine as well as their color and light stability.”

BASF has just jointly developed a range of four new colors for Glunz, Meppen, Germany, an MDF production subsidiary of Sonae Industria Group of Portugal, which will complement black and grey shades already provided by BASF.

“The new color collection opens up a completely new range of aesthetic options for MDF,” said Kruesmann, adding that it reflects both current and long-term trends.

Most of the leading coatings, pigments and woodboard manufacturers now have their own design teams keeping  up with the latest color trends to provide an advice service to operators further down the value chain.

“Our customers expect us to come up with new designs which reflects the current color preferences of both industrial and ordinary consumers, “ said Elliott Fairlie, head of décor development at the UK branch of Egger Group, a German-based panel manufacturer.  “It is easier for us to provide the ideas for designs,” he added.

Although being affected  by technological advances in coatings, color trends are mainly driven by economic, political and social factors.

“We have to look at a wide spectrum of current influences, which are evident during visits to fairs and exhibitions but also in lifestyles and behaviour patterns,” explained Judith van Vliet, a designer at the Swiss-based pigments manufacturer Clariant. “We translate the results of all these observations into predictions of color trends the next 1-2 years.”

In recent years the main theme in interior design has been a predominance of soft and neutral color but with a growing tendency for prominent accents in the form of  brighter and bolder colors  on relatively small accessories or equipment.

“Soft neon colors are popping up in several consumer electronic products: headphones, speaker sets and  mobile phones as accents or covering the whole surface,” said  Stephie Sijssens, performance coatings color design manager at AkzoNobel. “Sport accessories and the new generation of Scandinavian designers were a big inspiration for (this change).”

At last year’s Milan Furniture Fair, one of the biggest in the world with more than 350,000 visitors, the use of color accents was even more noticeable as a means to “create more personalized and individual pieces,” according to Fairlie.

This contrasted with a growing trend for cooler greys, often in a combination of  shades.  “Mix and matching (in interior design) is nothing new,” said Fairlie in a commentary on the show.  “We now see this trend in a new form, with designs  appearing individually and at random, yet stylishly balanced and complemented.”

Brighter colors are now gaining more prominence in interiors possibly due partly to the wider applications of powder coatings and the greater availability of colored MDF and other fiberboards.

“There is a lot more accenting going on perhaps because consumers are willing to take more risks with colors in their own homes,” said van Vliet.  “The stronger colors are also now being applied to larger surfaces  such as tables and chairs.”

In parts of northern Europe where traditionally  cool but light reflective colors have prevailed, bolder colors are starting to be adopted by designers.

“In Scandinavia pastel colors and neutrals have been very important in the last years because they give out light,” said van Vliet.  “So I was pleasantly surprised to see during the Stockholm Design Week last month (February) colors like bright orange and teals with a mix of greens and blues being used in interior design, often combined with the softer neutrals and pastels.”

“This use of brighter colors in interiors in Europe is a sign of a greater optimism, particularly among the young even though they are experiencing high levels of unemployment,” she said.  “They are fed up with the years of negativity since the 2008 financial crisis  and want to show they are being  positive.”

As the mood of Europeans change amidst economic and political uncertainties, the coatings sector, particularly that serving the interior design market,  will have to continue to grapple with fluctuations in consumers’ color tastes.

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European Color Trends Offer Wide Variety of Options
Topics: Construction