Why Matte Looks Flat

Matte Mercedes C63 AMG Black Series

You’ve heard about matte paint care, and by now you know that this whole “matte” thing is getting pretty big… but what you might not know is why matte paint looks the way it does. What eliminates the shine and reflection? What is this optical illusion that mystifies passer-bys every time your matte car sits in traffic? Let’s take a look…

Matte Paint

This unique automotive paint finish isn’t unique to supercars. In fact, matte paint has been used in other industrial environments for years. Ever seen an M60 Patton? Truth is, matte paint has been around quite some time before luxury brands caught whiff of the revolutionary craze that would change the auto industry forever. The stealthy look has become awfully popular with celebrities, athletes and the wealthy, but all of that’s changing. Today we don’t just see U.S. Army tanks decked out in flat finishes, but we see stock options from Mercedes (Designo Magno), Lamborghini, and BMW (Frozen). What does this mean for the daily driver? Probably nothing unless you’re willing to shell out an extra $6,000 for the finish on a new M3, but then again there should be more to gawk at on the road as they get more popular. Not only does this unique, flat appearing paint finish accentuate the aggressive body lines of such supercars as the C63 AMG and the 2012 Aventador, it also captivates the focus of each and every car passed on the interstate. Quite dangerous really if you think about it. So why does matte paint look so flat? It has to do with our eyes and light’s reflection…

What We See

The trickery that matte paint plays on our eyes isn’t one of scientific wonder. In fact, it’s quite simple. Your typical glossy looking car is basically made up of a base layer (primer), a pigment layer, and a reflective clear coat. Mystifying isn’t it? Matte cars are basically that same car with a very finely dinged up clear coat. What clear coat does is add depth and “significance” to your car’s paint, but when it comes to matte, it dulls it down. What you see on matte paint that you don’t on a “normal” car is the dimples and divots in the clear coat that eliminate light’s ability to reflect directly off the car and therefore the surface appears flat with a sheen rather than a shine. Because there is no crisp, consistant clear coat layer on matte cars, you don’t see your reflections when you glance over the car. What is visible, however, is a natural satin sheen that doesn’t depict a direct reflection, but rather a hazy mirroring of the car’s surrounding. The human eye is then focused on the car’s innate features instead of the duplicate reality we see in glossy finishes – this really accentuates the body stylings of the car (hood lines, etc.). So you see, matte is really an optical illusion – in some cases worth in excess of $8,000.

And yet the question remains the same – will this fad die out or will it become a new standard among automotive brands? We’ve seen Mercedes, Lexus, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and just about every super-luxury brand start to offer factory options – will we see Ford, Chevy, Toyota, and Nissan follow suit? That’s a question for another day. Meanwhile, if you’re lucky enough to own one of these cars we’d love to see it! Share in the comments and on our facebook… and don’t forget, even matte paint needs protection!