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Why is it important to understand
optics when studying paints?

– We are surrounded by surface coatings, man made and natural. The

development of coatings and paints is ruled by the empirical approach.
Fabrication would be simplified if one could quantitatively calculate the angular
as well as color reflectance properties of mixtures from a knowledge of the
fundamental optical properties of the constituents

– The reflectance of binary powder mixtures may be divided into three classes by
characterizing opacity of each of the two phases.
1. opaque- opaque
2. Opaque- transparent
3. Transparent- transparent
Opaque- Opaque

– For a surface consisting of opaque particles, the reflectance primarily depends

upon the particle reflectance, multiple scattering being small. Thus, for a
substance consisting of a mixture of two kinds of opaque particles, the
reflectance will depend upon the relative surface areas of the two components
Opaque- Transparent

– For opaque- transparent mixtures, the analysis is not as simple because the
transparent particle scatters radiation
Transparent- Transparent

For mixtures of transparent particles, the reflectance becomes


– Tailoring depends upon the availability of pigments having the desired

absorbing properties as a function of wavelength.
– The primary considerations for a paint or coating are the color (ie. The
wavelength dependence of reflectance) and the angular scattering properties
(i.e. the diffuseness or glossiness)

– The impression of color is produced by the absorbance of light by colorants

(pigments) in the paint film
– The color is produced by the absorption and scattering properties of the surface
arising from two surfaces, a surface reflection component and a body and
surface scattering component
– The surface reflection component is due to the difference in the complex index
of refraction between the coating and the ambient medium
– The body and surface scattering can be dominant contributor of reflectance.
The magnitude of reflectance due to body scattering depends on the ratio of
the absorption coefficient to the scattering coefficient

– Pigments are used to give colour to a coating and/or to obtain hiding power of
the coating. A coating has full hiding power, also called full opacity, when the
substrate cannot be seen through the coating. Two principles are mainly used to
obtain full opacity: absorption and/or scattering of visible light by pigment
Color Testing

– Metamerism- is the standard and test panels contain different pigment mixtures,
their colors may match under standard light source but not under another source.
– Color comparison is most successful if the two paint films have the same or only
slightly different gloss.
– In testing of coatings with special optical effects (e.g. metallic finishes) the flop
effect also has to be included. Flop is the change in color observed when the angle
of observation is varied.
– Colors can be defined with the CIELAB color space in which all colors are arranged in
a circle around a central vertical lightness axis. The center of the hue circle is
considered to be neutral gray.
– ISO 7724 describes methods for the instrumental determination of the color
coordinates and color differences. ISO 7724 specifications are satisfied by many
color measuring devices: tristimulus colorimeters, spectrophotometers, and
abridged spectrophotometers.
– Spectrophotometers can measure the spectral reflection of a sample ; they are
a useful aid in the analysis and synthesis of color samples.

– Gloss as defined by the Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage (CIE) is the

mode of appearance by which reflected highlights of objects are perceived as
superimposed on the surface to the directionally selective properties of that
– Specular gloss denotes the degree of mirror reflection and is the primary visual
gloss impression.
Classification of specular gloss according to ISO 4628 System:
- high gloss, gloss, semi gloss, semimatt, matt, and dull matt.
Gloss Measurement

– Arbitrary gloss scales were initially used.

– Psychometric scaling of gloss has been recently proposed and
describes a method devised for the multidimensional
assessment of gloss.
– Human eye recognizes additional gloss phenomena described
by RS Hunter who proposed six types of gloss: specular gloss,
sheen, contrast gloss/luster, absence of bloom/reflection haze,
distinctness of image/image clarity, and directional or surface
– Hunter and Judd, in 1939, found that specular gloss measured
at 60⁰ in a reflectometer provided a useful classification of
paint finishes according to glossy appearance.
– The instrument was standardized as ASTM D 523, improved
and subsequently standardized as ISO 2813.
– The 60⁰ reflectometer is now used worldwide as the standard
instrument for measuring specular gloss.
– The 60⁰reflectometer has been supplemented by the 20⁰ and
85⁰ reflectometers.

– Whether or not a pigment is able to absorb visible light depends on the

chemical composition of the molecules the pigment particles are composed of.
– Carbon black absorbs all wavelengths λ that are present in visible light (λ ≈ 400
– 800 nm). Only a low percentage of fine carbon black pigment is needed to
obtain full opacity.
– Clean fillers, like synthetic barium sulphate (BaSO4), and white pigments like
TiO2 do not absorb visible light at all.
– Colour pigments absorb only part of the wavelengths of visible light.
– Each molecule in a pigment particle participates in absorption. This implies that
molecules in the core of a big particle do not have the ability to absorb light
because the light was already absorbed by the molecules that are in the shell of
the particle.
– A pigment that consists of small particles contains more surface molecules per gram
than a coarse pigment. The amount of light that can be absorbed per gram of
pigment goes up when the particle size of the pigment goes down because of that.
– Apart from this, it is more profitable for the producer because more colour strength
can be obtained from a gram of an expensive pigment when the particles are fully
separated from each other during the dispersion process and are stabilised against
– The colour strength of fine and well dispersed pigments is higher than the colour
strength of coarse pigments that are not dispersed well.

– Solid white particles in a coating can change the direction of light when the
particles and the matrix, that surrounds the particles, have a different refractive
index n. This phenomenon, called scattering, results in both white colour and
hiding power of the coating. Scattering efficiency is governed by a few
– First, scattering is strong when the difference in refractive index of particle and
matrix, Δn = np – nm, is big. The refractive index of a material is governed by its
chemical composition. Secondly, for a specific wavelength of light, λ, there is an
optimum with respect to particle size. The optimal particle diameter d for
scattering light is about half the wavelength of the light.
– The refractive index of binders, as used in coatings, is around
1.6. White pigment titanium dioxide, TiO2, is preferably used
as a scattering source because the pigment has a high
refractive index2. It is important to realise that scattering is
not a surface effect like absorption: scattering involves the
whole particle.

– TiO2 is a pigment that gives hiding power and whiteness

because of scattering all wavelengths in visible light. It will
come as no surprise that the particles of TiO2 pigments, as
used in coatings and inks, have a diameter of around 300