Finishers and designers have a powerful new tool to help them select the right finishes for furniture, cabinetry, flooring, and millwork. Launched in February, Sherwin-Williams’ Virtual Panel Studio is an online database of hundreds of sample panels coupled with robust search, sorting and sharing tools that can be accessed around the clock from anywhere with an internet connection.
“It’s essentially our color studio online,” said Joe Kujawski, director of marketing for wood segments at Sherwin-Williams. “You can search hundreds of samples, searching by finish terms and download them in a variety of file formats.”
Each of the panel samples is a high-quality photograph of a real panel that was developed by the Sherwin-Williams Global Color and Design Center. The panels represent a wide selection of wood species, looks, and finishing types, covering everything from traditional finishes to some of the latest trends.
For example, using the search term “gray” returns photos of nearly 100 panels by itself. The panels have names such as “Casual Gray Maple” or “Rustic Silver Birch,” reflecting the wood species and basic finishing category. Panels include flat samples, raised-panel doors, and slightly more unusual applications such as a door with an applied carving.
Panels can be sorted by picture orientation (vertical, horizontal), color family, market (residential furniture, kitchen and bath, etc.), finish effect, gloss level, style, substrate, and other categories.
“Designers can pick panels right of the product they are launching,” said Kujawski. “Then they can come to the design studio and fine-tune the finish, dialing it in based on target audience or region of the country.”
Each panel has information about the color family, gloss level, wood species, and any special finish or effects used to accomplish the look.
Sherwin-Williams did lots of research to develop the tool, inviting 150 designers to take it for a spin. “It’s beyond a beta pilot,” said Kujawski. “We’ve gotten lots of feedback. This is going to be a home run.”
One of the reasons he is so confident about the success of the Virtual Panel Studio is the number to tools built into the system. First off, you don’t even have to be in your office to use it. You can download a mobile app and use it on the go, perhaps calling it up at a client’s office or looking at panel samples while checking out other design elements under consideration.
And you don’t have to be a slave to someone’s daytime schedule to explore the panel samples. “These designers work around the clock. This is a 24-hour business,” said Kujawski. “You can log on at 2 a.m.”
The Virtual Panel Studio is a password-protected service, so you do have to register to obtain access. And, there are some cautions to consider. Although every one of the panel samples shown is a real photograph of a real panel sample, there could be differences between what you see on your screen and how the panel looks in person. That’s why Sherwin-Williams urges designers and finishers to obtain physical samples from the company’s design center before making critical decisions to go ahead with a new product.
For finishers, once the decision to proceed is made, Sherwin-Williams makes it easy because each panel has a recipe attached to it. That way finishers can expertly and consistently duplicate the finish seen on the sample.
Other powerful tools in the Virtual Panel Studio include features that make it easy to sort and share the virtual samples. You can download any of the images in a variety of file formats. You can download one at a time or multiple panel images all at once. You can create, save, and access collections in the system, so you could group samples for different products or clients. Then you can share individual panels or entire collections by URL or email.
You can also mark panels as favorites so they will show up first in later searches.
Kujawski emphasized that as powerful as the Virtual Panel Studio is, the tool should be used hand-in-hand with a good working relationship involving the Global Color and Design Center. He noted the fast-changing trends affecting finishes in the woodworking industry today. “It goes back to having an exciting finish to differentiate your product,” he said. “You see the stormy blues, denim blues, two-tone kitchens with lowers darker and islands darker. We can advise how manufacturers can change their palette.”
For more information about the Global Color and Design Center and to obtain access to the Virtual Panel Studio, visit oem.sherwin-williams.com/gcdc.
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