Fair Wage for a Color Matching Specialist

      What's fair pay for a worker who's skilled and experienced at formulating a finish to match existing? January 4, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
How much is a good color matcher worth hourly? Someone who can match stains, paints, glazes, and dye toners.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor F:
My local MLC distributer recently hired someone for that exact position. He was an out of work finisher and that position started at $18 an hour with full benefits. It is my belief that a finisher does this as part of his position (I certainly do) so then the pay would have to be higher.

From the original questioner:
I have several finishers but I want to keep them busy and get the product out the door. I figured if we have one person matching color samples and making up custom colors for orders everything would be more organized. We are in Southeast PA. I’m just trying to figure out a fair wage for the position.

From contributor H:
Sounds like a $10.00-$12.00 per hour position in my area. The thing is smart career individuals just don't want to mix paint/stains for a living.

From contributor F:
I think you may be underestimating the importance of this position. If you pay someone $10-$12 no one descent would do it.

From contributor H:
People who are smart or career minded have better things to do than mix stains all day. Anybody with the talent to do this well is probably skilled finisher who is worth far more than $18 per hour. I don't know anybody who can match colors competently who would settle for anything close to that. In other words either be prepared to overpay for somebody who is over skilled, or treat this as a general labor type position which it is all it is worth. Educated, talented persons don't want to mix paint all day. Anybody else is barley worth more than minimum wage.

From the original questioner:
I don't think color matching is for everyone. When a customer comes to me with a sample from another cabinet shop I need to hit that color head on. Some people are just color blind and have no idea how to go about making a color. The position would also include resolving any finishing issues that may come up. If there were no custom color matches they would be working somewhere on the floor.

From contributor J:
Doesn't your supplier mix/match colors for you? If you can plan far enough ahead, there might not be a need for a dedicated color mixing guy. Your situation might be different? I also think that if you hire someone at $10-$12 an hour, you and your customers will probably be disappointed with the results of any color matching done by that person.

From the original questioner:
Yes I do have a supplier. They have been doing color matches in the past. I can order the same color three times and each time it will be a different color. Sometimes the sample is not even close to what I approved. I am thinking of switching to Sherwin Williams because of all the troubles. If I have to pay someone $18/hour or more to get it right it will save me all the trouble I have been having lately. If my hire can be consistent with color matches I guess it is well worth it, and my customers will be happy not to have any delays.

From Contributor R:
How are the finishers you have now at mixing colors? To be able to look at a sample and then develop it in reverse is a skill. Something that may help is to give your supplier a piece of the same wood that the project is being built out of. When making up samples, I find it's best to use a nice size piece of material. This gives the eye a broader spectrum to visualize what the overall color will look like. To the color mixer and also to the person who signs off on it.

From contributor G:
$18.00 per hour won’t get you the sharpest tool in the shed. It sounds like you need someone with far more skills. They won’t want to work for a low wage. What makes you think that you will end up with someone that is any better at color matching than your supplier?

From the original questioner:
I don't know if giving someone top wages before they proved themselves is a smart choice. I was thinking $18 as a starting point. After a month or two of doing a great and consistent job they would be entitled to a nice raise. Of course experience factors into this as well, but to start someone out at top dollar before seeing what kind of work they are capable of is just crazy. What kind of wage do you think is appropriate?

From contributor G:
What would you need to live a modest lifestyle while supporting a family in your neck of the woods? Hopefully you could come out slightly ahead of the average person (b, and c players) and put something away for retirement. Anything short and you will never get someone with top notch skills.

From the original questioner:
A few of our finishers can get the colors but they are always second guessing themselves. I know some colors are more difficult to match than others. Before you know it I have 3-4 people standing in a corner saying “Hey what do you think it needs?” My supplier has been messing up paint jobs as well. I always try to give them a piece or pieces of wood that will be used for the job. I don't believe most finishers in this area even make $18/ hour.

From contributor C:
I did a stint at a fairly large architectural shop a few years back. The guy that developed the colors was the lead finisher/finish department manager. They used the system/products/gear he recommended. He hired the people he wanted. He was in the production meetings and collaborated directly with the project managers. He earned $30 an hour. When things were busy, he groaned about the endless sample transmittals. He would seek feedback from his number two guy on some twitchy stuff sometimes. One of the biggest issues was to value engineer (condense steps) once a complex match had been attained. Lighting changes in the various testing/approval stages drove him nuts - he mixed under halogen, the architect reviewed under fluorescent and the field lighting was halide or some such. Depending on where you are in Southeast PA, have you used Till Paint Co? They handle the Valspar Wood line.

From contributor J:
We were having the same issues that you were and switched to Sherwin Williams. The new F3 formaldehyde free CV is a great product! Their color matches are very professionally done, and are as close to right on as it can get.

From Contributor R:
A benefit to having one of your own in-house finishers do the color work is because they are most likely aware of your shops application techniques. If you’re copying a sample that's stained, toned, glazed and highlighted, an out of house mixer might mix up a potion according to way he/she would approach the project.

Often times this could create a problem for your own finisher who might approach the project differently than the one who mixed the color would. Simple pigment stains mixed by someone else would be straight forward and easily applied by both the mixer and the one who's tasked with the job at hand. If the color sample dictates multiple steps to complete I can see a slowdown in production.

From contributor E:
If you are going to bring color matching in house then keep in mind you will need more than a competent color matching person. You will need at least most of the products and equipment used at a distributor level color lab. This includes all manner of bases, pigments, dyes and solvents as well as color dispensing equipment such as a color wheel and or a mixing machine and digital scale. Paint shakers and some sort of record keeping and batching software is also a good idea. There are finish providers who can supply all of this as well as help with training your personnel.

It is my belief that any finisher should be able to do at least basic color matching and should always be working towards advancing their skills in this area. A solid, experienced finisher should be able to take a finish process all the way from color and process development through production to completion. If they can't then I wouldn't call them a finisher.

As far as wages are concerned, this like any position is locally market driven and will vary according to regional wage scale as well as supply and demand of specific skill sets. Generally speaking, someone like this who understands the chemicals involved and has a good color eye and overall grasp of different types of finishes and processes should be making upwards of $20.00 per hour.

From Contributor S:
I was the finish foreman for a high-end shop for 14 years. I have all the above experience mentioned across all finish styles and coatings. I created multi-step finishes for 50 thousand square foot homes across the country for the super wealthy. That job paid $27 per hour plus benefits and unlimited access to the shop for any personal projects or needs. I left that job because after years of managing, supervising, babysitting, training and inevitably fixing workers mistakes, the thing I loved turned into a monster I hated.

I know design and match finishes for an MLC distributor and took a substantial pay cut by leaving. I can tell you that I enjoy matching and mixing stains all day and can also verify that not everybody can do it! A reasonable wage for only stain matching and mixing is $15 per hour. For an experienced finisher this is an easy stress free job.

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