As a proud Grand Rapids-based color company, X-Rite Pantone is excited to once again sponsor the most-attended public art event on the planet. For the past few years, we have partnered with ArtPrize to bring color to life throughout our city. Ranging from the Pantone® Pathways – a color-coded stencil map of the ArtPrize venue locations – to keynotes from Pantone’s top executives, we have enjoyed bringing color to the forefront.

This year we were thrilled when ArtPrize revealed 2017’s shipping container installation series, ArtPrize Murals, and asked us to sponsor one of the artists. We were curious how an artist would approach color on such a unique canvas! We chose Tanner Wilson, graphic designer by day and artist by night, as our sponsored artist.


For many, a large, corrugated metal “canvas” would seem daunting, but Tanner likes the challenge. In fact, his comprehensive design and painting background has prompted brands, cities, and art competitions alike to request his services.

We recently sat down with Tanner to find out how he addresses three challenges our manufacturing customers face every day to discover whether artists and manufacturers approach color the same way.

Challenge #1: Design & Planning

While many of our customers have an entire team specifying and designing exact product layouts, Tanner wings it… to a point.


A popular tool to help artists and designers capture inspiration colors for their projects is the X-Rite CAPSURE. Simply place the CAPSURE on the inspiration color, click the measure button, and the device will identify the closest Pantone Color match. Read more about CAPSURE on the X-Rite blog.

No material, surface, or container is too big for his artwork. According to Wilson, “I grid out a sketch to try to replicate size, but when you’re drawing on a piece of paper versus painting on something that’s 10 times bigger than you, you have to be flexible. There will always be curveballs. Maybe the yellow looked bright and crisp online but is actually dull coming out of the can. Or the placement from the sketch doesn’t work when I step up to the shipping container. Maybe it rains and I don’t get to paint for three whole days. I can plan as much as I want, but there are certain things I just don’t know until I start painting.”

Challenge #2: Color Selection and Application

Many X-Rite customers are trying to achieve very specific colors within little to no variance. Think of printers who are producing brand colors for packaging. They have to ensure all of the packaging – from foil packs to signage and box displays – matches on the shelf. The same holds true for manufacturers in automotive, plastics, textiles, electronics… if the parts don’t match when they all come together, the product will likely end up on a discount store shelf.

While many of these printing and manufacturing professionals take careful measures to adhere to exact color specifications, Tanner takes a different approach to color – he is more concerned with creative expression. If he wants “peach,” he may only have a few choices of graffiti paint: dark peach, light peach, or pastel peach. These color choices are meant to convey an artistic message, not achieve an exact color match. The variations of both the colors – and their graffiti paint coverage – are all anchored by an artistic (rather than a calculated) set of requirements.  

“With spray paint, you can correct easily. For instance, a pink can cover the darkest black. The spray paint can be high pressure, which comes out fast to cover more, or low pressure, which comes out slower. It’s great for someone like me who likes to work fast and use a lot of colors.”

Challenge #3: Background

Most of our customers need to consider the background color of a material – also known as the substrate – when choosing colors. For example, if a printer is creating an image on a white coffee cup and a brown sleeve that must match each other, they will print different colors on each. That’s because the color of the corrugated cardboard will show through and mix with the ink to create a darker color. The same is true for plastics and textiles. Manufacturers must adjust dyes and colorants to accommodate the substrates they are being applied to.

Tanner doesn’t have this problem. Since spray paint is thick, it can be applied to all types of surfaces. As long as it’s not peeling or flaking, any type of background will work well.

“Spray paint is beautiful because it’s completely opaque. You can put a white over the darkest black and it will be white. You can quickly correct lines, where latex can take multiple coats. However, the type of material you’re painting on does dictate how much paint you need to order. For instance, brick will absorb a lot more paint than a metal surface.”

The Finished ArtPrize Masterpiece: “Dancing Tigers”

We asked Tanner how he came up with the design and selected the colors for his larger-than-life ArtPrize Nine entry.

“Recently I’ve been into painting Korean and Thai tigers because of what they represent – a struggle and an honor. They’re not like the American version of the tiger, which we tend to portray as a beast. Koreans think of tigers as guardians of gravesites, courageous souls who are persecuted because they are wild. My idea was to paint a tiger playing in the grass under the sun on one side, and a nighttime tiger laying in the weeds on the other. For the daytime tiger, I chose warm colors – reds, oranges, grass green, yellows, tans, and creams. To reflect a nighttime scene, I used a cool palette for the other side – a lot of blues, aqua, blacks, dark blues, and yellow for highlights for stars.”

What We Learned

Our conversation with Tanner taught us that although artists and manufacturers may approach color very differently, color remains a crucial element in both workflows.

Be sure to stop by and show your support for the artists who have used color, background, and design to create beautiful and amazing works of art. You can find “Dancing Tigers” near the Blue Bridge.

By X-Rite Pantone on