Full spectrum paints

legomom23September 30, 2012

I have been a lurker on this board for long enough to have heard a lot about this type of paint. I am getting ready to repaint most of my main floor. It is a large open room/kitchen with a whole wall of north facing windows. We don't use any curtains and our backyard is all grass and trees. For the past 8 years it has been painted a yellow that goes green a lot. When it was going up the painter said it looked like new baby poop, and I should have listened. I have hated it unless there is snow on the ground! The reflection from that makes it look lovely.

I am working with a designer/paint consultant and she selected some very neutral tans - BM krisp khaki and coastal path. I am paying a professional painter to come in to paint because there is a lot of drywall repair work to do.

Needless to say, this is now making me nervous! It is expensive, and I am going to be living with it for a long time. Should I be looking at full spectrum paints? I want my walls to come alive:) Are those the colors and conditions where they would work?

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We toured a home several years ago painted with C2 paint, which is a full-spectrum line. Everything looked alive as you say. Since, we have painted two bathrooms, kitchen, FR and main hallway with C2. Love how the colors liven each space and especially appreciate how it applies.

This paint is only marginally more expensive than top-of-the line BM or SW and they do have available huge sample chips or paint testing containers to actually apply to your wall and evaluate. Absolutely agree that colors have a perceived shift in different light and surroundings. Gaining confidence before making the commitment is a good idea.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 5:51PM
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I LOVE full spectrum paint. I have used Ellen Kennon's and Citron Paints which are INCREDIBLE!! The color has such depth; the colors are SO beautiful and each goes with the next one. At least do one room with this type of paint.

This room was painte with Ellen Kennon's Lilac paint:

This stairway was painted with Citron Paint color called Latana and now that I live in the desert in Arizona (where Citron Paints are manufactured) I see how true that color is!

Best of luck to you!

Here is a link that might be useful: Citron Paint

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 10:25PM
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I had a different experience. I've used full spectrum paints and thought BM was just as nice. And when we went to sell it was a pain to get matching paint with the full spectrum. I went back to Benjamin Moore paints with no regrets!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 10:26PM
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Hmmm - Interesting thoughts. I wonder how much you have to apply to the walls to get a feel for it? I have got to get moving. I have been waiting for this painter for almost 6 weeks and my turn is coming up:)

I can't really do just one room as they are all connected, there is also a large ceiling that will be painted.

I really want it to be bright and I am thinking with such pale colors the full spectrum will really help.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 2:26PM
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Ok - I ordered some samples from Ellen Kennon just to see if I can tell a difference. I know I would regret it if I didn't investigate further.

I also ordered the pumpkin spice - loved the orange idea that someone gave me on my "Wyeth/Wythe blue" thread that started so much fun! :)

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:11PM
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A well-known color specialist told me full spectrum is a fad, and I agree. There's nothing wrong with adding black tint to a paint.

I tested full spectrum paints for my kitchen and ruled them out due to the enormous change in color throughout the day. I don't want a wall that goes from minty green to bright blue to dull nothing depending on the hour. In addition they are impossible to color match, unlike regular paints.

Full spectrum paints are fine if you like them, but if you're asking whether you need to use them--no.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:31PM
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That's interesting marcolo. These rooms already change colors a lot throughout the day. Thanks for the thoughts.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 4:21PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Full spectrum is a method of color mixing that's eons old. If fads last that long, then I guess it's a fad.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 6:38PM
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I will say this about the full spectrum paint. I have two rooms painted in Ellen Kennon's paint and those are the two rooms that I get the most compliments on the color.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:42PM
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I havemy master bedroom and bath painted w/EK paint and it's the look I like best. I'm hoping to use EK or another FS paint for the rest of my rooms. If only I could find a color I like LOL

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 11:23PM
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Full spectrum is a method of color mixing that's eons old. If fads last that long, then I guess it's a fad.

How long has gray been around? Since light first appeared? Guess it can never be a fad, then?

Ben Moore just put their full spectrum color mixes into their retail stores across American last summer. The other players have only been available for a few years. It's a fad. It may be nice, you make like it, but that doesn't mean it's not a fad.

With full spectrum I found it critically important to look at the paint on every wall and at every hour. BM Sea Glass was a gorgeous color at certain times of the day. At others, it was either a dark but unidentifiable color, or a color that normally signifies a sinus infection. However, I can see that in a different room it could be great.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 10:45PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Tonalist vs. colorist spans centuries. It's much bigger than Benjamin Moore and commercially available paints. The debate of killing (or not) color with black goes way back. Still very much alive in art communities today.

Kaufuman, a house painter by trade, was the first to introduce the method to the mass market - gosh, might be two decades ago at this point. I know it's been at least 15 years. Before mass marketed paints, painters used to carry tint kits and would mix colors on site using their own tints. But back then there was lead paint and it covered really well. Because of the lead they didn't need the boost of black to aid opacity. So, their artisan colors were echoes of full spectrum. They could mix any color using three colors. Blah, blah, blah. It's goes on and on, a big ol long history and story. Tip toes in to fine arts, The Old Masters and other stuff I always have to look up because it's boring. I never can remember all the details and who all was involved.

The notion that Benjamin Moore is some how part of the history of full spectrum / no black color philosophies is sad. Because Benjamin Moore is so - like - a fart in the full spectrum wind it's not even funny.

Maybe I should work harder on remembering the historic specifics because I really don't want to be one of those colorists who have not one fat clue what they're talking about when it comes to full spectrum paint/color.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 12:10AM
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Lori A. Sawaya

I think it's Tonalism v. Colorism for better Google results. Not even sure tonalist vs. colorist is correct. Not kidding about not remembering this stuff.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 12:21AM
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I spent a fortune on Aura for a large open area in my home that has many windows. I painted large samples and thought I was getting a color that looked like coffee with lots of cream. The color looks fine but I don't love it because of all the reflection from grass and trees during certain times of the day.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 5:39AM
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dee - is the Aura full spectrum?
So does FS - have more of a tendancy to change with light/furnishings then regular quality paint?
I can't say that I have noticed a major change in the room I have FS in when the light changes. I notice a slight difference and I see some shadows - but since the room is smallish maybe that's why I don't see it as an issue.
If I would paint a larger space w/FS - would I see more variation?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 10:25AM
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My bedroom is a FS color, and the attached bathroom is a Sherwin Williams close match. While I've tried to tell myself there isn't a difference, there's actually a big one. It has less to do with changing colors and more to do with dimension, if that makes sense. The FS blue looks a bit like a mist that you could put your hand through and the regular blue is very clearly a coating on the wall. I have no idea why this is. The mist thing wasn't true of a darker FS color I used, though I would say that that too was less flat, more interesting to look at, like a painting. All subjective!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 11:09AM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Ben Moore Color Stories collection is their full spectrum palette and it is exclusively mixed in Aura base.

Aura Affinity color collection and other BenM colors are not full spectrum.

C2 isn't full spectrum either. C2's special thing is their 16 colorants. Kind of like Farrow & Ball and their special pigment process.

Full spectrum is mixing color using a representational amount from each spectral hue category. It's kinda hard to do. I tried mixing my own for a while but soon found out it's just easier and cheaper to buy it.

Every single paint color no matter how it's mixed is going to shift with the light. There are several considerations like metamerism, color constancy and quality of nuance, etc. that converge in every paint color each creating a unique experience of color.

With the different methods of color mixing you can create various experiences of color in the three dimensional built environment. From full spectrum to 16 colorants to European pigments to your basic rack of a dozen or so 'regular' colorants at the corner hardware.

No matter which method you choose to create a paint color, it breaks down to the inherent quality of natural light. Each room has a unique bundle of light waves bouncing around - spectral distribution. And each paint color will respond to and reflect said light waves - spectral reflection.

Paint color's spectral reflection is called a curve. How the color is built, how it's mixed defines that curve. Black, obviously, does not reflect it absorbs. So, colors with black will have a curve and reflective quality that differs from colors that do not contain black. Paint colors containing more pigments logically have a more robust curve with which to respond to the inherent quality of light. This is where the perception of dramatic color shifts comes from -- there are more colorants in FS and multi-pigmented to respond to more light waves in the room.

Fewer colorants and/or the addition of black means a less robust curve resulting in a more stable or constant paint color.

Constant paint colors, colors that are limited in their ability to respond to multiple light waves and thus shift less has been what the color industry assumed consumers wanted. Adding black helps make colors more constant. And some colors are naturally more constant than others and those colors are often pulled forward simply due to their constancy. Juxtaposed to that standard of constancy, full spectrum and multi pigment colors are the odd ones out.

It's really not that big of a deal to be honest. It's just a different way to go about mixing color, crafting more intricate color curves thus creating a different kind of color experience in the built environ.

No matter which method of mixing architectural color you choose it all boils down to choosing a hue and then partnering the perfect pitch of color nuance with inherent light. The varied methods of making color simply you give you more to choose from.

It's like a super fun color buffet. :)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 11:18AM
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Thank you again, funcolors, for your masters' degree program in understanding light and color.

Legomom, I'll also remind you what funcolors wrote for us a few days ago about why you should never test colors directly on the wall. Paint primed sample boards instead, and move them around by themselves.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 12:18PM
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Has anyone ever done blind testing on full spectrum paint versus ordinary paint? Paint pairs of identically lit and furnished rooms (or just walls) and have interior decorators who do not know which paint was used on which room identify the room with the full-spectrum paint.

I know if you do blind testing of audio cables - the expensive versus normal ones - the vaunted differences in richness of sound disappear.

Are the fans of full spectrum paint fooling themselves? Is it real or is it because you "know" it should look better so you see it that way.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 12:56PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

A paint color mixed with 5 or 7 colorants is no less real than one mixed with 2 or 3.

The light is the light and reflective curves are reflective curves.

If you can intentionally make a color more constant, then you can make one that's not.

If one method looks better, is preferred over another depends on observer color acuity and tolerance.

Then there's the whole metaphysical aspect and how some people choose to apply that philosophy to creating a certain quality of shelter.

The history, the philosophies, the methods - there's too much involved to proclaim one method better or more correct, more real or less real than another.

As often happens with the art and science of color, there's no right or wrong. Simply artistic choices and individual interpretation.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 1:21PM
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SO it's totally subjective then:)

Funcolors -do you have a preference, do you use full spectrum paints?

I ordered several samples from Ellen Kennon just to test. I wish I had read the directions on the sample boards before though - I would have ordered her boards. However I already have lots of paint swatches throughout the room.

Where do I find primed sample boards to paint?

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 2:06PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

There are commonalities and consistencies. Calculations and measurements, memes, pyschophysiological responses, symbolism, and meanings that you can use to draw conclusions and develop universally applicable color strategies.

But the bottom line is Color is subjective because it's a sensation and experiential.

I do not have a preference for any particular method of mixing color or brand of paint. They are all options in my color toolbox.

Primary objective is to partner the perfect pitch of color nuance with the inherent quality of light. Light is light, waves are waves, curves are curves, eyeballs are eyeballs.

So, my preference will always be the paint color that is the best fit for the light in the room, the waves bouncing off the walls, and agrees with the eyeballs and person attached that has to live with the color(s).

Primed isn't a concern when it comes to a sample board because most paints are self-priming enough to paint a sample. That's not saying you won't need a primer for the walls, however. Painting samples of shear or vivid color may require a tinted undercoat to aid opacity build.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 6:47PM
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So - after reading these posts - I'm still not sure of what I need for my room.
I wanted full spectrum - whether it's EK or BM (though, I am mad that you can't easily get BM samples only on-line).
But, since my room does not have as much light as I would prefer and I prefer a more consistent look to all the walls in that room, during different times of day and lighting situtations,should I not go w/FS?
I don't mind that the color changes alittle - but, I want to avoid a washed out dead,dreary look and also I would like the walls to all look pretty much the same when the lighting changes.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 12:29PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Jeannie, the amount of light doesn't matter so much. Low light or lots of light, any hue can work with any cardinal or intermediate direction of natural light exposure. Just have to find the right pitch of nuance, the right shade or tone to work with the quantity and quality of light.

FS is actually a good choice for low light rooms because it's not mixed using black. So, FS does have a different quality of tone which is often a good fit for low light.

As far as constancy, a lot depends on what color. Because some colors, FS or regular, shift more than others.

Avoiding washed out, dead, dreary would be an argument for FS. Wanting them to appear constant is a crap shoot - maybe it will, maybe it won't. Just remember all colors, FS and regular, respond to and shift with inherent light as it changes throughout the day.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 1:58PM
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I don't think you should decide in advance to do FS or not.

Just collect some colors you like, regardless of how they're mixed, and try them all out, on different walls and at different times of the day.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 4:05PM
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My advice is get the sample boards or make your own to come to a choice. Then, once you think you have made the right choice, invest in one can of that paint and paint as much as you can with that, but be sure you do two coats. Then, if you still like it, you'll be pretty safe paying for the contractor to come out and do the thing.

I used Ellen Kennon and am very happy. She was also very pleasant to deal with. I'll be calling her again whenever I get the time to do more painting. First I contacted her to get some sample chips. They were pretty small. From there I narrowed my choices down and ordered the large boards, something like $5 each and totally worth it.

I also contacted Citron, and they sent me back a very nice e-mail but wanted me to pay several hundred dollars for a color consultation. All I had asked for some sample chips to start with. That e-mail from them, though worded very, very nicely, scared me away.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 11:31PM
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I too have EK samples - I even purchased a few sample pots but none of them are really "doing" it for me.
I have painted I can't tell you how many large samples and still I haven't found a color that I like. I have also painted some of the samples on the walls hoping one of them would make me say ahhh that's it!
Funcolors - any thouhts on Bm Vellum or Barley - would they get that washed out dead look?
I just bought samples of those two and I am going to paint up a couple of large samples and see if they look better.
I've had 5 decorators and none of them have come up w/a right color for the walls or the answer of should I keep the cream ceiling or go whiter. Jezz, I would think one of these people would be able to pick a color!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 7:20PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Limited color palettes are a bonus on one hand but a negative on the other. Having a focused collection to choose from prevents being overwhelmed with choices but sometimes you need a lot of choices.

All you can do is try 'em. Barley will likely show as the 'brightest', more clear than Vellum. If washed out and dead has happened with other colors, my guess is you have a certain quality of 'dim' to deal with. Barley would bust thru the dimness better than Vellum. Vellum in that quality of light could possibly show with an olive green undertone.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 7:43PM
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Funcolors, thank you so much for taking the time to write yur great explanations. I'm learning about color (as a hobby) by taking webinars, reading and such, but your expanations always include that dose of reality on how to make color work for individual people.

One comment - My BM rep told me that some Aura colors are really full-spectrum because certain color formulas do not have black in them. Would you agree?

And to Legomom (sorry for the brief hijack), I can't stress anough the advice you have received about test boards placed on different walls at different times of the day. That method, although a bit time consuming, makes a huge difference in what paint will "work" in your home - whether you choose a FS paint or not.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 12:53PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

cal, there are a boatload of paint colors out there that are mixed sans black. They just don't need it. Don't need it to make the targeted color. Don't need black to boost with hiding, opacity.

You will find colors with no black in the formula in just about all brands, all collections.

But that doesn't make them full spectrum. No black is just one piece of the puzzle. The trick is a representational amount of colorant from each spectral hue in the can. Full spectrum literally means a full spectrum of colorants in one can of paint. From a metaphysical and methodological point of view, all the hues in the can matters most and defines full spectrum color.

I know I say the same things over and over again like partner the perfect pitch of nuance with inherent light. And you cannot look at a color's formula and predict anything about the color, its undertone, or what it's going to do in situ.

But I will share one little secret about reading formulas. There are patterns. Colors sans black ideally partner with certain qualities of light. Sorting colors according to light character and quality is possible and one key factor in doing so is which colors contain black and which ones do not.

Because black / lil black / sans black, is the rub of the whole color-light-3-D-architectural space enchilada. More so than how many colorants make it into the can, IMHO.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 3:29PM
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"No matter which method you choose to create a paint color, it breaks down to the inherent quality of natural light. Each room has a unique bundle of light waves bouncing around - spectral distribution. And each paint color will respond to and reflect said light waves - spectral reflection."

okay, I've been buying into the whole full spectrum thing. Time will tell if it's just a passing "fad" or not but I'm interested because paint colors look rather flat like solid coatings to me, which of course they are. Even when I like the color, depth seems to be missing. It's too consistent. So, I'm wondering. With the broader spectrum of natural light making FS paints come alive (makes perfect sense to me), does it make much of a difference at night under the limited or distorted spectrum of artificial light?

The other question is, while at first it made sense to me, I'm wondering why can't you match a FS color later if you have the formula for mixing it?

I'd also like to try mixing my own for kicks! Color Stories is the only brand readily available but I don't see "my" colors. (And honestly, I think the swatches look a little dead for some reason and I love looking at paint chips!). Someone in another thread noted they mixed DK recipes using artist acrylics because they are the finest pigments. Is that the type of pigment to use? I have them on hand. Then I was thinking Aura white base. Does that base contain the color lock feature or is that in the pigments they use?

I was trained to mix colors, more specifically neutrals, without black because they are more interesting that way.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 2:21PM
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No blacks are used. Mix 7-8 pigments. Look at Citronpaints.com. GORGEOUS full spectrum paint colors.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 2:28PM
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I did see your post somewhere on the Citron and checked it out. I guess they ship out of state but didn't see that. I would love to try them but the fan deck is $100. A bit daunting!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 2:30PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

If you have the formula for a FS color, then you can absolutely keep mixing to that formula.

BenM you get the formula on the can. The boutique brands, Kaufman, Citron, Kennon - you don't get the formula. You have to go thru the original channel to get more paint.

Every interior space will have a distorted or unique quality of light. . . because it's not outside.

And, no, the uncontrollable state of inherent light doesn't matter. A little or a lot, bright or dim. Bundles of wavelengths are bundles of wavelengths.

The goal is to figure out what paint color is packing the right stuff to partner with whatever quality of light there is to work with and deliver the desired affect, create the desired atmosphere.

$100 for a fandeck is ridic. Farrow & Ball wants $35 for theirs and it's the most poorly organized and frustrating thing to work with ever. I busted it a part and reorganized it so it was at least useable.

Understandable that all color swatches can't be free but, dang, there has to be value in there somewhere.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 3:19PM
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Based on physics, real full spectrum is by definition white light. FS paint may avoid black which means it reflects more of the visible light but it can't reflect more than white does. Adding more different pigments/hues in makes it closer to black, since all pigments absorb different wavelengths of light individually - each pigment you add subtracts light OUT of the perceived color, it can't add it in. All you see when you look at paint it the light that it fails to absorb, so the less pigment in a paint the less light it absorbs and therefore the closer to truly "full spectrum" - using a physical science description - the color appears.

So to me the term "full spectrum" paint is a meaningless marketing tool. I am sure the colors are masterfully selected and mixed to give off a certain feel, but any well designed color will look vibrant and appealing to those who like it, whether or not it reflects more or less of the spectrum.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 11:49PM
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Funcolors, I just want to thank you for the knowledge that you so freely share here. I consider you the color expert in this forum, and we're so fortunate to have you here!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 10:14AM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Thanks, Sunny. :)

tinan, you're very close. "All you see when you look at paint is the light that it fails to absorb"

Had to read that one twice. :) And that's the part you need to think thru more. Can't focus on only one portion of the equation of color as a visual sensation. Spectral reflection curves holds the answer. Here's a really, truly certified 100% neutral gray paint color. It literally shows as the color gray yet it reflects the full spectrum evenly. So cool yet so mind boggling.

Here is a link that might be useful: Click on Description

This post was edited by funcolors on Thu, Jan 31, 13 at 18:11

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 6:09PM
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