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Color of the "Police Public Call Box" sign

Started by Bob's your Uncle, Apr 17, 2016, 06:21 pm

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Bob's your Uncle

Apr 17, 2016, 06:21 pm Last Edit: Apr 17, 2016, 06:29 pm by Bob's your Uncle
After extensive research (about 30 minutes  ::) ), I've been unable to find the answer to this question.

Did the blue color of the "Police Public Call Box" sign match the color of the Police Box, or have they always been a few shades different?

To put it differently, when looking at this photo of the Crich box, am I seeing the original paint color of the box based on the color of the top sign?

Type4-3.JPG

Or these photos. Closer in color, but still not the same shade of blue.

DoMbw4DdBmq3o9e8hRwzY7IHo1_500.jpg

met_box.jpg

I'm getting started on producing the signage for my Crich TARDIS, and would like to be as accurate as possible. If there is a already a thread on this subject, please nudge me in that direction.


Thanks,
Greg.
"Listen. All I have to do is dive into another dimension, find the time traveler, help her escape the monster, get home before the entire dimension collapses, and Bob's your Uncle."

'Hide'  S07 E09

Mark

Hi Greg,

I'm not sure if its been posted or if I imagined it but when me and Matt did extensive measuring and stuff at the museum we did do a colour chart test on various paint samplrs and stuff and I'm sure we did the lintel signs.

If its not on his box build diary then I'm sure if you PM him he will part with the information.

The tests were done with one of those posh Pantone colour charts but I'm certain you can figure out the shade from the data.

Volpone

Apr 18, 2016, 04:35 am #2 Last Edit: Apr 18, 2016, 04:39 am by volpone
The quick answer is "I don't know." A slightly more useful answer is that the color of police boxes changed over time.  By the '60s the blue paint was so dark it looked almost black.  I believe that the blue was a lot lighter when they first started painting the phone door and the windows white, around the mid 1950s.  Before that, the trim around the phone door and the windows were blue like the rest of the box.  And it was definitely a much lighter shade of blue than the 1960s and beyond boxes.  Before that we've got pretty much black and white photos to work from so judging color is tricky.  I've considered grey-scaling color TARDIS builds to get a feel for how they match up to the police box photos to try to guess what color blue they are, but there are so many other things in Life that make demands on me.  And the very first 1930s boxes were the lightest blue of them all.  Meanwhile, during that whole time, the blue of the POLICE BOX signs has remained more or less constant (I think).  Which is just a long way to go to get to "Who knows?"

Oh, and rereading the original question, my answer is still "I don't know" but I think they've never matched up perfectly. 
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.

hb88banzai

Apr 18, 2016, 08:40 am #3 Last Edit: Apr 18, 2016, 09:04 am by hb88banzai
Simple answer to your initial question - no, the the drapes never quite matched the carpet. Even when in black and white photos they are almost exactly the same grey tone, the actual shade of blue was different.

The top signs seem to have been very consistent as to the shade of blue of the sign's background, at least for as long as the background has been blue (it was white before late 1937, and a lot of the older signs didn't get upgraded for a very long time - note that before 1935 they just said "POLICE" as well). The colour of the Boxes themselves, however - as volpone indicated, that changed a great deal over the years, starting a very light blue, going to a more medium blue by the mid-1930s only to become horribly sun-bleached during the War years when nothing was repainted, to a very dark blue with white trim in the early to late 1950s depending on where it was located. Then, for the very few remaining Boxes after 1970 (those not changed to Red) the colour drifted back to lighter (though more accurately, the Heathrow Mark 5s were probably always a medium blue).

Now, as to the photos - best guess is yes, that first photo is a reasonable approximation of the original colour for Crich when first in service, being a Mark 4 probably erected during or shortly after WWII to replace an earlier Box (we may even finally know which one). Only difference is that it was undoubtedly a gloss paint rather than the satin/eggshell or semi-gloss of that (first) photo of Crich.

This Box colour, though from a Post War source (Genevieve, 1953), is probably very close to the colour Mark 4s were initially painted --

Genevieve-1953.jpg

As you can see, the top signs are ever so slightly darker and with more red in the mix than the body of the Box. Interesting to note, this is a transitional era as the windows here had already been painted white, yet still retaining the medium blue paint on the Box itself. The very much darker blue was really the final change, but a few examples had already been painted such by the time this film was made. And again, not all Divisions (or even Sub-Divisions) upgraded their colours, or even combinations of colours, at the same time. The signs, however, were spec'ed to an outside contractor, so remained much more consistent.

So it really depends on which era you want to emulate with your paint scheme. Specifically for Mark 4s: early to mid-40s - all medium blue; late 40s to early 50s - medium blue with white windows, with the colour of the phone door frame more often than not blue, though sometimes later on possibly white; mid-1950s to 1970 - almost universally very dark blue with white window & phone door frames.

Bob's your Uncle

Thanks for the replies, you've made my job a lot easier. Trying to match colors perfectly can be a real pain, and I like the two-tone look better, it makes the signs stand out a bit more.


Thanks,
Greg. 
"Listen. All I have to do is dive into another dimension, find the time traveler, help her escape the monster, get home before the entire dimension collapses, and Bob's your Uncle."

'Hide'  S07 E09

matt sanders

Quote from: Mark on Apr 17, 2016, 06:35 pm
Hi Greg,

I'm not sure if its been posted or if I imagined it but when me and Matt did extensive measuring and stuff at the museum we did do a colour chart test on various paint samplrs and stuff and I'm sure we did the lintel signs.

If its not on his box build diary then I'm sure if you PM him he will part with the information.

The tests were done with one of those posh Pantone colour charts but I'm certain you can figure out the shade from the data.


When we were at Crich, Mark and I both thought Pantone 2745C was the closest match for its lintel signs - though it's hard to tell for sure, when assessing something that is old and dirty and translucent(!)

Anyway, that's what I aimed for when getting my signs done - see this photo:

IMG_2450.JPG

domvar

Quote from: hb88banzai on Apr 18, 2016, 08:40 am
This Box colour, though from a Post War source (Genevieve, 1953), is probably very close to the colour Mark 4s were initially painted --

Genevieve-1953.jpg

As you can see, the top signs are ever so slightly darker and with more red in the mix than the body of the Box. Interesting to note, this is a transitional era as the windows here had already been painted white, yet still retaining the medium blue paint on the Box itself. The very much darker blue was really the final change, but a few examples had already been painted such by the time this film was made. And again, not all Divisions (or even Sub-Divisions) upgraded their colours, or even combinations of colours, at the same time. The signs, however, were spec'ed to an outside contractor, so remained much more consistent.

So it really depends on which era you want to emulate with your paint scheme. Specifically for Mark 4s: early to mid-40s - all medium blue; late 40s to early 50s - medium blue with white windows, with the colour of the phone door frame more often than not blue, though sometimes later on possibly white; mid-1950s to 1970 - almost universally very dark blue with white window & phone door frames.


I wouldn't use that Genevieve shot as a guide for anything, it's a technicolor film (which is known and celebrated for its highly saturated i.e. fiddled with colour) then converted to a digital still and then displayed on your monitor.  This box could quite easily have been the same colour as every other one with white windows before it was technicolored, look at the phone box it's far too red.

davidnagel

Kind Regards,

David

www.spiffinglyniceguy.co.uk

domvar

Apr 18, 2016, 10:30 pm #8 Last Edit: Apr 18, 2016, 10:31 pm by domvar
met_box.jpg bit more primitive than technicolor 3 pass but you get the idea

meantimebob

I'd just like to add that paint fades over time when exposed to the sunlight. My box is a lot paler now than when it first went up in the garden 15 years ago and is badly in need of another paint job. It looks as pale as the one in the Genevieve photo. Does anyone know how often the Met boxes were repainted, if at all?

Bob's your Uncle

Thanks Matt, that helps a lot. Your Police Box is looking great. I wish that I had the attention to detail that you possess.


Greg.
"Listen. All I have to do is dive into another dimension, find the time traveler, help her escape the monster, get home before the entire dimension collapses, and Bob's your Uncle."

'Hide'  S07 E09

Volpone

1) 15 years?! I'm in awe.  Mine is at around 6--with a fairly major refit 2 years ago and it is quite knackered.  I shudder to think what it will look like in 9 more years, even with the most diligent upkeep.  

2) That "Genevieve" still is like those eye puzzles where some people see an old lady and other see a young girl.  I look at those windows and see blue paint.  But looking at them again now, I clearly see the white paint and can't see it with blue paint.  

3) coming back to the topic, even if the intent was ever to have the signs match the paint, the difference in medium (screen printed glass -vs- painted wood and concrete) and a host of other things makes me think they've never had a box where they matched--the medium would cause the blue to look different even if it was the same shade (and the screen ink naturally can't be the identical paint as the exterior paint, so there's another variable), and then they'll age at different rates.  Heck, even the blue on my box has aged at different rates and looks different in different spots.  

And that isn't even getting into trying to get more paint.  By the time I needed to repaint, the Big Box store had discontinued the color and the code had faded off the label.  I made about 3 attempts to get a color match--brought in the old paint can, brought in a scrap board, and a big paint flake--and eventually the store guy just eyeballed it because the computer was so far off every time it tried to get a match.  Blue is so effing tricky.  

I need to do a repaint and I'm thinking about going '60s Police Box/pilot, so I'm just going to get the darkest blue they've got--in a gloss finish.  
"My dear Litefoot, I've got a lantern and a pair of waders, and possibly the most fearsome piece of hand artillery in all England. What could possibly go wrong?"
-The Doctor.

hb88banzai

Apr 19, 2016, 04:56 am #12 Last Edit: Apr 19, 2016, 06:28 am by hb88banzai
Quote from: domvar on Apr 18, 2016, 08:14 pm
I wouldn't use that Genevieve shot as a guide for anything, it's a technicolor film (which is known and celebrated for its highly saturated i.e. fiddled with colour) then converted to a digital still and then displayed on your monitor.  This box could quite easily have been the same colour as every other one with white windows before it was technicolored, look at the phone box it's far too red.


If it were red, perhaps - Technicolor's saturation and colour hue issues are far more pronounced on the red end of the spectrum. All this is one reason they had a team of experts at just about every stage of the filming, processing and printing process to try to make sure those effects were minimized and produce the best results possible. Saturated, yes, but not nearly to the extent your photo seems to show, noting that you also appear to have done a whole lot more than just supersaturated that photo when making your adjustments - saturation alone wouldn't lighten it that way.

Also, this estimation of colour is not in a vacuum, as we have other sources that testify to the shade visible in Genevieve as likely being very close to correct. If it were as oversaturated and/or skewed and/or overexposed as you suggest by your treatment of the Françoise Rubartelli w/ Police Box photo, then the top signs would look equally off. In Genevieve they instead look just about identical in hue and shade to the Crich signs, and just about every other real Met Box sign we've seen in photos, scans or in real life. Can't effect one without affecting the other, as you've pretty well proved by your experiment (just look at the top signs in your adjusted photo). All things considered, I can honestly say, with no reservations and near absolute certainty, that the Genevieve photo was not of a Box with the very dark blue paint scheme.

Oh, and we've seen age/sun faded and patched paint jobs in many black and white photos, while the one in Genevieve is much, much too even and consistent not to have been repainted some time in the Post War period, with it being more likely to have been only a couple years before being photographed on paint supply/shortage grounds alone.

Just remember that not only film colour timing and digital transfer, monitor settings, etc., but even sunlight can have drastic effects on the perceived colour. Still, we have to start somewhere.

From a faded, rare pre-war Kodachrome home movie from 1938 (Kodachrome usually a bit on the saturated side as well when new, but that was a long, long time ago as the faded skin tones will attest) --

J11-1938Clip-Box3.JPG

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaYGmohPByg

Compare all the above to this scraping sample taken from Crich's inner door by Mark, where sunlight wouldn't have been a big factor --

Crich Inside of Door Colours (Mark-10Jul2014).jpg

What you are seeing is the more modern medium blue they had painted it, on top of the dark Met Blue it was painted when they received it, on top of older medium blue. The chipped paint layers on the spare beacon base supports the same colour progressions (sans the post donation repaints), as does the Box's concrete base before it was recently repainted dark blue again (even showing a very early medium blue that had been sun faded to a light blue).

Mark's shot of the lamp base (the colour swatch next to it is Pantone 653C, which seems to be pretty close to the old British Standard (BS 381C) No. 166 "French Blue", while the dark blue is essentially the same standard's No. 106 "Royal Blue") --

Crich Spare Lamp Base Colours (Mark-10Jul2014) - Pantone 653​ c.jpg

And a pic of the concrete base before repainting (sorry, don't remember off hand who took this) --

Crich Base Colours.jpg

domvar

I'm not suggesting there wasn't different colour schemes over the years but I am saying the genevive pic is no yards stick.

The other issue with the lighter layers of paint on the boxes is that the Crich box has been a different colour every time I have visited 1989 blue 1998 dark blue 2008 light blue 2014 dark blue.

Equally paint fades in sunlight and we don't know which layers are primer / undercoat or the actual outer colour.


hb88banzai

Oh, I agree that the concrete base paint layers on Crich are problematic in that regard, but the ones on the spare lamp base are all original - applied before the Box was donated. No evidence of it ever having been touched by a brush since then.

As to base layers vs. top coat - point taken, but primer layers usually aren't full gloss, while the medium blue mid layers on the lamp base look to be glossy to me, so more likely an old top layer or layers (who knows exactly how many repaints are represented).

Genevieve has always been a provisional example, but I think enough supporting evidence now exists from many sources and time periods to estimate that it is pretty accurate, despite it being Technicolor. Just means the colour timer did his or her job well (discounting the reds, of course, which were always overblown with Technicolor).