As the use of decorative concrete continues to grow, so does the list of products and tools to assist the contractor in using and applying this incredibly versatile material in the field.

Contractors are aware of the new types of materials designed to help improve decorative concrete quality. But they may not realize that there is a new method to assist in selecting color, or more importantly, how to match the right color or color combination for integral or color staining of concrete to the owner's desires at the jobsite.

For many years, color measurement devices were only found at manufacturers' laboratories. But more recently, these devices are becoming sufficiently affordable to be used in the tinting department of the local paint store. This relentless advance of technology also can assist the decorative concrete contractor.

One tool, the Color-Helper, was introduced at World of Concrete in February. Priced at about $200, the device turns the potentially stressful, time-consuming task of field color matching into an opportunity to look like a consummate color professional.

This hand-held device is used in the field to measure a surface's color. Contractors can measure color on both vertical and horizontal surfaces. Until recently, designers and contractors in the paint industry had been the primary users of the device, but it is now finding acceptance in concrete.

Jason Findlay of Newlook International, Salt Lake City, tests the Color-Helper at this year's World of Concrete.
Color Savvy Systems Jason Findlay of Newlook International, Salt Lake City, tests the Color-Helper at this year's World of Concrete.

Makers of New Look International concrete stain featured the Color-Helper device on their stands at World of Concrete. “We have a great range of colors that we offer in our collection, but this is just a fraction of the colors that we can formulate” says Jaime Villagomez, president of New Look. “We are constantly looking for ways to help our distributors and their contractors make confident color choices, and we feel this is a great tool to bring to the market. This is something we believe can help us promote our products and help our customers.”

Database search

It is simple to use, yet offers timesaving features, including its ability to read a surface and identify colors that closely match. When looking to find a match to an existing color, such as a wall, ceramic tile, or other colored sample, contractors simply hold this hand-held device onto the surface for two seconds. The unit will search through its database of known colors to find the closest possible matching reference to your favored stain or pigment supplier.

If this is not a close enough match for the job, you can extend your search to a list of thousands of color options from dozens of color collections that can be custom-formulated to your specific needs. The Color-Helper comes pre-loaded with palettes from most suppliers, including New Look, Davis Colors, Scofield, and Solomon Colors. It also includes the palettes from major paint companies such as Sherwin-Williams, Valspar, and Behr.

The Color-Helper has additional functions to help contractors assist customers select colors that work well together. The device will determine if any two colors should not be used together. It also provides a list of alternative colors using ambiance color harmony technology.

The Color-Helper hand-held device measures a surface's color in the field
Color Savvy Systems The Color-Helper hand-held device measures a surface's color in the field

“Have you ever walked into a room and the colors just don't feel right?” says Phil Kenyon of Color Savvy Systems, developer of the Color-Helper. “You aren't sure why, but they just don't work. You go into other rooms and everything just seems to flow, even colors that might surprise you or colors that you would normally never dream of using.

“Great color stylists have an innate sense of what works and what doesn't,” Kenyon says. “They understand how certain colors and color combinations affect mood and emotion. This response to color has been studied for many years so we can understand the rules that professionals apply to ensure that you achieve color harmony that is universally appealing. Color-Helper recommends from the vast range of available options, only those colors that are in harmony with the colors you measure.”

The device offers another useful function. In its Compare mode, contractors can measure how colors may be different. It helps avoid subjective arguments about whether the color used in the finished product really is different to the color on the color chip. Contractors can use the feature to check a finished project against the project's mock-up. It can avoid the common “that's not how I thought it would look” complaint.

The device runs on a nine-volt battery and may be updated by connecting a data cable to a computer. Software enables downloads of all the manufacturers' databases, as well as Hue View software that displays the color matches and color schemes on a PC screen.

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