What is Pigment Volume Concentration in Paints?

pigment volume concentration in paint

Most of the house paints contain a material which is known as pigment.

It’s a natural coloring matter of animal or plant tissue that imparts the color to the coating materials (such as paints) or to inks, plastics, and rubber.

In general, these pigments can be of four different types…

White pigments (titanium dioxide) to provide opaque look to the painted surface.

Color pigments made from synthetic chemicals to provide color to the painted surface.

Inert pigments that are used as fillers. These are used for altering the basic characteristics of the paint.

Functional pigments that helps to provide extra performance and protection like from UV rays.


What is Pigment Volume Concentration?


When shopping for paint, you may have noticed a term on the side of the can denoting PVC percentage or a pigment volume concentration number.

Understanding what it is will help you choose the right paint for the job.

Pigment Volume Concentration (PVC) describes the volume of pigment found in a paint film.

The PVC number will tell you how much of the total volume of the paint is made up from the pigment in comparison to the binder.

When choosing a paint, you will want to know the PVC value so you get what you need without exceeding your budget.

This number, however, should not be confused with the weight.


PVC Numbers in Different Paint Types


Different types of paint have different PVC values.

It should be noted that the range of PVC value is at its optimal from roughly 30% to 60%.

This translates as 40% up to 70% is made up of the binder.

While this may sound counterintuitive in terms of getting the most PVC value for the right color, the truth is that the binder is necessary for the application and duration of the paint itself.

What follows are examples of the desired PVC value for the color of Cobalt Blue for various paints.

Paint TypePVC Value
Acrylic20%
Oil28%
Watercolor64%
Egg Tempera72%
Casein72%

As you can tell each of the paints listed have different PVC values.

Once you get past the optimal range, too much PVC in a paint will lead to a less durable, more permeable, and matte finish that may not be desired.


Is PVC Number and CPVC Same or Different?


PVC and CPVC are two different numbers and are not the same.

Critical pigment volume concentration (or CPVC) is generally defined as a point at which there is enough binders present within a paint to cover each extender particle with a thin layer.

This should also be efficient to fill in all the voids between the extender particles.

In general, if the CPVC number is higher than the PVC number, the coating will have more resin than pigments.

Due to this excess resin, paint produces high level of gloss.

It has been seen that as the CPVC is reached, there occur rapid changes in properties which include glossiness, permeability, rusting, tensile strength, blistering properties, etc.


Does It Affect the Paint Performance and Color?


The answer is yes. Depending on how much lower or higher the PVC value is from its optimal range, the more its performance will be affected.

As described above, a PVC value that is too high tends to create a matte finish which is thinner and not as durable.

Conversely, too much binder creates a glossy finish that while durable is far less colorful than desired.

This is because the greater the percentage of binder, the more it will reflect on the surface.

The result is a finish that appears quite glossy and highly reflective.

The right balance of pigment and binder creates the right color combination that also enhances the durability of the paint itself.


How Does PVC Number Impact the Cost of Paint?


Generally speaking, the higher the PVC number the more expensive the paint.

This is because the PVC is more expensive compared to the binder which a common product.

This means that a cheap paint may have a higher percentage of binder or lower PVC percentage which means you get a durable paint, but one that is not as colorful and may be more reflective that desired.

Conversely, the more pigment, the more expensive the paint will be.

Too much pigment and it may have to be mixed with a binder or used under special circumstances for it to last.

This is why understanding the optimal PVC percentage is important when purchasing paints.

While in most cases the paint you buy will have a good PVC percentage, you may be able to get more of what you want when you understand how it really works.

The Bottom Line

PVC and CPVC are the two numbers that describes the properties of a particular paint.

The gloss, permeability, contrast ratio, enamel hold out, scrub resistance and many more properties of the paint can be recognized just by checking these numbers.

While it may not sound to be important for a homeowner who wants to DIY paint his home, it’s critical for many professionals to know how the paint will look and feel when done.

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