Matt Painted Models

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Matt colours, or paint finishes without gloss, have become increasingly popular options on full-scale cars in recent years.  Nowadays, we can see all sorts of matt finishes on cars running in the street, from exotic Lamborghini's to more common Mercedes-Benz's. Even Hyundai now offers a factory matt finish. The most popular no-gloss colour is, of course, matt black, followed by matt white. These colours are mostly found on sport cars.

A matt-finish body may look cool, but few people realize how difficult and costly it is to apply the paint.

More and more car makers are now offering a matt finish as one of their colour options, but the premium for such colours can be so high that some car dealers are charging well in excess of £10,000 for it. The matt-colour paint itself may not be more expensive than the normal glossy paint, but the application of the paint is much more difficult and time consuming.  

When painting the body with a glossy color, any minor imperfection or tiny dust particle trapped in the paint layer can be repaired by means of sanding and buffing the affected area.  However, when the same imperfection happens in matt-finished paint, the problem area cannot be spot-repaired. Once the affected area is polished or buffed, the matte effect is removed and the area becomes shiny. Therefore, when applying a matt finish to a car body, the paint finish must be perfect, as any dust or imperfection in the paint requires the reworking and repainting of the whole panel. Because of this, it takes an extra effort to apply a matt finish, and it uses more paint.

Applying matt colour to a model car is not much different than applying it to a real car. Repainting a whole panel is often necessary due to minor imperfections or dust being trapped in the paint. In some cases, when repainting is not possible, the whole body must be scrapped. Repainting involves the removing of the old paint with a strong chemical solution before a new layer of paint can be applied. The process is time consuming and labour intensive.

Another problem is variable shading of the matt effect, meaning that under different humidity and temperature conditions, painting a matt finish will yield a different shade of the matt effect. The contrast can be quite obvious between the two shadings when they are adjacent to each other. Therefore, if, say, a door needs to be repainted, even though the same matt paint is applied, the shading can be slightly different when compared to the main body because it was not painted at the same time and under the same humidity and temperature conditions.

Even if the body is perfectly painted with a matt finish, any slight mishandling by the workers during the assembly will force the body to be scrapped. The most common scenario happens when the model is handled by naturally oily fingers. Once an oily fingerprint is stamped on a matt-finished body, it cannot be cleaned because any cleaning agent will tend to make the area shiny and thus not match the surrounding areas with respect to the matte shading.  

Another common problem is when the body is touched by or scrubbed with a hard object. The object will leave an obvious mark that sanding or buffing cannot repair.  In most cases, the body must be scrapped. All these problems can be repaired easily when the paint has a gloss base. Fingerprints can be cleaned off and contact marks can be buffed away. With a gloss finish, no trace of contact is left after polishing, and the affected area looks shiny and perfect again.

The scrap rate is high when making models with matt colour. Scrappage does not happen just during the painting of the body. It can also happen at any stage during assembly, when the opportunity for mishandling is great.  Model cars have several hundred parts that need to be assembled by hundreds of workers. Thus, the chances of mishandling are directly proportional to the hundreds of processes and hands the model must pass through during assembly. When the model is finished in matt, the production cost can easily increase by 10% to 20% just because of the paint finish that was selected.  

The only time there is no price difference between gloss and matt finish is when the model maker does not apply strict quality control on the paint finish. If the producer allows the defects mentioned above, which are quite common on mass-market products due to the desire of their makers to control costs, then there is no difference in the production costs of a matt finish compared to a gloss finish. But there certainly is a difference in quality, one which we believe collectors of fine scale models would never tolerate.