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Dear Joslyn: Color Options for Custom Thermoformed Products

Dear Joslyn:

I’m looking at color options for custom thermoformed products. There are so many to choose from, but I don’t know if I should opt for a custom-colored sheet or painted parts. What do you suggest?

– Roy G. Biv

Color Swatches Book on Wooden Table

Dear Roy G. Biv:

You’re right — the color choices are seemingly endless. Pantone offers thousands and most can be color matched for your custom thermoforming application. You’ll need to consider the pros and cons of each process to determine the best choice for your custom thermoformed products. We’ve put together a quick comparison to get you started.

  Pros  Cons 
Custom Color Paint 
  • Less restrictive production process; any imperfections can be sanded out prior to paint application
  • Easy to clean 
  • Stain and chemical resistance
  • Ability to have multiple colors on one part
  • More finish options, including automotive specifications
  • Parts can be "touched up" if damaged by the end user
  • Production lead time increases due to added days for paint process 
  • Custom colors can be costly and must go through a color match process
  • Extra caution is required during shipping and handling
  • Adhesion may become an issue with certain materials, so surface prep is necessary.
  • Paint may crack under stress
  • If paint is scratched, base layer color of plastic may become visible
  • Paint curing process may warp the parts

Custom Color Material
  • No extra processing; sheet can be formed and trimmed as is
  • UV protection can be added directly into the sheet
  • Often less expensive than painting
  • Some materials can be chemical resistant
  • Many color options, including chrome, films, patterns, etc.

  • Material minimums are often high, which is not cost-efficient for small production runs

  • Must go through a color match process, which can take a few weeks
  • Color variations may occur from run to run
  • May be difficult to get an exact match on certain colors and gloss levels
  • End color may appear different on each type of material (ABS vs. HDPE, etc.)


– Joslyn Manufacturing

As a custom thermoforming manufacturer, we’re proud of our reliable, proven processes – as well as our versatility and innovation – when helping customers create their most challenging products.

Have a question for Dear Joslyn? Send your inquiry to or use the hashtag #DearJoslyn. 

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Topics: Dear Joslyn, Custom Thermoforming, Custom Thermoformed Products

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