Neutralizing a Pink Stain

Picky customers sometimes pick up on color variations between day and night lighting conditions. Fixing that is a puzzle. Here's discussion of a case. March 4, 2009

I need some advice on fine toning a kitchen cabinet job. It has maple plywood cabinets, with Mohawk Burnt Sienna penetrating dye with Minwax Early American wiping stain over it. It also has Mohawk pre-cat sealer and pre-cat semi-gloss.

In daylight, the color is exactly what the customer wants. However, under artificial light she feels there is a slight pink tone. I have been told that applying a green toned lacquer may correct the problem, but I am concerned the suspended green lacquer might give a green tone? Should I look at using a cherry tone or a VanDyke brown to neutralize the pink?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor S:
Are the cabinets installed? If so, the easiest and most accurate thing to do is to tell her to change her artificial lighting to daylight bulbs. The full spectrum should be 5000-6500 Kelvins or somewhere in-between with a Color Rendition Index of about 92. That should solve the problem, and her mood may improve too.

Your concern about the green cast if you tone these is valid. You also may go over the mil thickness maximum for your coating if you spray again. Some burnt sienna's do have pink cast, some maple does also. Red's tend to be the most fugitive colors, and if you used an alcohol dye they are the least lightfast, so the pink will fade in time.

From contributor R:
What you are dealing with is called "metamerism". You should always tell your client that you match your samples under daylight lighting and that they should check the color match under the same lighting that the job will be in. I use 3M's Sun Gun in my shop so I have a consistent daylight reference even if I have to work at night.

From contributor C:

Maple tends to have pink tones in the wood itself and the undertones of burnt sienna are vivid reds, so there are your color problems. Now to fix them - I have often used transparently tinted clear top coats to correct this very type of problem (always on other finisher's cabinets though - I get mine more accurate to begin with).

I find that the pthalo colors (pthalo green and pthalo blue which is a greenish blue) are best for this application as they are very powerful pigments that require only small amounts to alter the perceived colors and are extremely fine so that they act more like dyes than most pigments even though they are more permanent than most dyes.

Contributor R is very right about the lighting though to go one step further you have to take your samples into the kitchen where they will be installed for final approvals. Even then be aware that cloudy days versus sunny ones and daytimes versus night viewings will produce varied perceived tints and with more complex color layering’s this can be more noticeable. The customers who require the most complex finishes are also likely to be the most sensitive to these variations.

A thin slightly tinted coat such as I use for these fixes will generally produce the desired result with few drawbacks. In some applications the topcoat may be detectable with its greenish hues. This is minimized by using as little tinting as possible to still correct the overall hue and by including it in a thin layer of clear-coat. The topcolor is made more visible by acutely angled lighting and by inclusion in thicker layers.

I will sometimes add a bit of color onsite when a door sits directly in the wash of a closely spaced light or a bit less in a dark corner. I know these are very picky refinements. Many of my customers have been the most challenging to please that this area produces and so I have to do such things

From the original questioner:
I appreciate the responses. I'm not sure if she has just gotten used to the color or if the pink has faded out in the week these have been in my shop, but they are now acceptable. BTW - I could see the pink then, and no longer do either.