Color Names VS Color Codes, Color Swatches, & Identifying Interior and Wheel Colors


Always stick to the code. Bro code, zipcode, app code, pirate’s code, paint code. When you’re presented with the choice of a paint color’s name or its code, the code is what matters.

TouchUpDirect’s reasons to seek out your vehicle’s paint code when ordering are manifold:

  • Some colors don’t match their name.
  • Other colors have different names but look alike.
  • There can be multiple names for the exact same paint.
  • It’s rare to get the paint name right with the naked eye when your reference is a swatch or paint chip: only use a chip or swatch as a first step, to narrow your options.

For instance, General Motors has a history of using the same paint on different makes – say, Pontiac and Oldsmobile – with several different names for the exact same paint (with the exact same code). In other instances, “Vivid Red Pearl” and “Vivid Red Metallic” can look a lot alike, but have different codes, and one of those codes says “Vivid Red Metallic” is actually a color called “Sangria”. There are also colors that look alike to the human eye, but behave differently in certain lighting conditions.

Some colors defy their name: what color would you say is “Ringed Sunset Pearltallic”? Auto manufacturer’s “marketing” staff have also been known to change the name of a paint color in their promotional materials to pursue some amorphous customer target, to the point of a “metallic” finish being called a “pearl”, or as stated earlier, the name might have nothing to do with its color (i.e. “Goodness Landscape Flake”).

Confused yet? Good. If there’s one thing that auto manufacturers get right, it’s paint codes. Stick to the code.


Whether you’re referring to TouchUpDirect’s online color swatches, ones you’ll see at other paint vendors, or any printed paint swatch you might have picked up, the “match” they offer is in name only – it’s an approximation. TUD provides online color swatches to help you in the process of narrowing down paint colors and styles for your vehicle, but a tablet or computer or printout can’t reproduce luster and depth and light effects. NEVER trust a physical or online swatch to determine the paint code necessary for ordering touch up paint. Trust the code. Stick to the code.

You may also read about/have/see “paint chips”, which are essentially small samples of the finished coating itself. Paint chips are nice, and handy for basic visualization. However, unless you’re the bionic freakin’ guy with microscope eyeballs, you cannot determine a match – especially for a pearly or metallicy multi-stage paint – with the naked eye. Keep to the code.

All the information necessary to find the paint code on a vehicle has been generously provided by TUD on our resource page titled “Paint Code Location Information”. If you follow the instructions and you’re still having trouble, please give us a call.


The paints and colors used to finish the interior surfaces of your vehicle are – as a rule – hard to identify. As good as the OEs are at tracking and branding their exterior paint, they do an equivalently poor job informing consumers about the specs of their interior finishes. TouchUpDirect has a lot of paint that is good for interior surfaces (metal, plastic, etc) and we’ll try to work with you on these. Just be aware that there are no specific codes for many of these interior paints, and you may have a tricky time getting a match spot-on.

If – that’s an “I” and an “F”, not a “when” – you can figure out the official “name” of the interior color, this is a good starting point for pinning down the interior paint color code. In general, an interior paint color is not paired with an exterior color. The interior color/hue needs to be identified independently.


The paints and finishes on wheels are as hard to identify as interior colors, but for somewhat different reasons. Interior paints are applied as a protective coating as often as they are a requested color, so they’re viewed as much functional as fashionable. Wheels, while definitely a fashion statement (or a utility statement, a bling statement, or an I-can-only-afford-steelies statement), also need protection – lots. Because wheels inhabit this unique dual role of high-visibility and high-abuse, there are many wheel options, and their coatings vary widely based on manufacture and application balanced against durability requirements. This makes tracking their coatings difficult, and those coatings can be exotic, complicated, irreplaceable, or not even paint.

Very minor differences in appearance will sometimes involve significantly different manufacturing processes. Know the difference between PVD (paint-vapor deposition), CVD (chrome-vapor deposition) and chrome plated? How about cadmium plated? Painted versus powdercoated? Anodized or magnesium? Find out before you do anything with paint.

Fortunately, wheel finishes can usually be pinned down by way of the original window sticker or build sheet. You can also compare the wheel style with factory options guides. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily identify the paint needed to retouch them (or if you can). TouchUpDirect will help you as best we can, but wheels are a particularly tricky surface to match: don’t be crushed when you find that the curb rash on your sexy anodized wheels is untouchupable.

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