Call for color - 4 ways to get colors to concrete
BY LINDA HIRVONEN
With graphic concrete the outcome is not purely determined by the pattern, although that is the key factor usually thought of first. But the look and feel of the final result, usually a façade and atmosphere of the surroundings are largely also affected by the color of the concrete.
Graphic concrete is quite often considered as grey, white or black&white surface. And although the most common and safest way to get color to concrete is sticking to only cement and aggregates, there are ways to get more colors. Sometimes we just need more vivid colors to brighten up the day, façade or the environment.
So let’s make a call for concrete colors.
Photo: Less is more or more is more?
When you first start to think about colors you should decide how visible or subtle the outcome should be also in terms of color.
Use descreet contrast:
- for elegant looks
- for subtle surface textures
Use bigger contrast:
- for illustrative or figurative graphics
- for photos, images and art
- for all types of 3D effects
Photo: Discreet or high contrast? Your choice, but an important decision to make.
The COLOR is determined by the color of the cement and the color of the aggregates (= the stones in concrete).
The cement can be white, grey or pigmented:
- White cement: recommended for graphic concrete surfaces. White cement is more consistent in color than grey cement.
- Grey cement: can be used with Graphic Concrete, but some variation in color will result on smooth surfaces using grey cement.
- Pigmented white or grey cement: pigments can be used with Graphic Concrete, but might result in color variations on smooth surfaces. Max. 3 % pigmentation is recommended.
The aggregates can be any color that the prefabricator can offer.
Color from only cement and aggregate
A graphic concrete surface can have various different colors. To decide on a simple concrete mix that contains only the colors from the cement and aggregate, is most often used for it's qualities to produce a more even smooth surface compared to a concrete mix with pigments. The color can be based on the aggregate color and the cement.
But based on what has been made with graphic concrete, this "basic" combination is far from being boring. Depending on your whereabouts, you should have many color mixes to choose from.
Pigments in cement
The aggregate + cement + pigment color combinations in concrete are endless. Pigments are quite commonly used, but there are things that you definitely should know.
Please note that similarly to concrete surfaces overall, the pigmented concrete can and almost most certainly will have color variations in the surface within a single panel and/or between panels. The color variations also occur on white concrete but for obvious reason, are not as visible than with other colors. Too much pigment, the cement surface is darker than the exposed aggregates and you loose the image. Warmer tone are more likely to be a bit more even.
Note! The color of the aggregate will always stay the same, pigments may fade.
Photo: Pigments set a mood to the surface and for example art pieces. Here illustrated beautifully triptych art piece
"Joensuun Elli" by artist Maria Mughal.
Tones and shades with a pattern
You can achieve different tones on a concrete surface by varying the amount of aggregates reveiled. The same pattern for example looks quite different when converted into a negative, even with the same concrete mix.
GCCollection Ikat and Ikat negative. Same pattern but different outcome in negative and depending on the contrast in color.
Stains and Surface treatments
You can also stain a graphic concrete surface. Different kind of stains does not seal the concrete surface and the concrete still holds to its character.
Bold or bolder? Metallic and
colored faceal surface
Painting over a graphic concrete surface may not be your first choice, but that's of course a possibility, considering the fact that it is concrete after all. Paint can give an interesting end result, where the surface becomes a 3D like surface with low contrast, but can showcase a vivid color scheme.
With the painted surface is good to remember that with small scale patterns the viewing distance will become shorter. But this is the a design choice and applies to also other low contrasting concrete colors.
Good to remembers that painting seals the concrete surface and may crackle overtime, therefore needs a higher and more frequent maintenance than just with pure concrete surface.
Top: Painted over a graphic concrete surface: Colosseum City Center and Tuusulan Tulppani Residential Building
Bottom: Skandionklinik Hospital's white elegant surface and dark and hight contrast surface at Talvikangas School
Through the years we’ve seen almost all the colors from the sprectrum used in graphic concrete projects. Tons of grey’s, which is always a good choice and of course not to forget, the classic black and white mix. The architect’s favorite black, but also yellows, oranges, reds, browns, blues and greens. And remember the sophisticated white, although technically is not a color, surely is a perfect option for timeless and crisp outcome.One color seems to be missing though, can you guess what it is? Maybe you could be the first one to introduce this at the moment quite trendy color also to graphic concrete facade? Please remember that concrete colors are area specific and all coloring options may not be available in your region. To make sure the colors or surface treatments are available in your area, please contact your local representative.