I recently got the question:
“Is the ‘pop’ in color the same as a dry vs. wet look. I’ve applied sealers and although they looked matte, they still made the concrete look darker than before sealer is applied. Will the change the color of the concrete?”
When a sealer “pops” the color of the concrete, it’s making the color seem richer, darker and more vivid. This is similar to what water does when it wets out the surface of concrete. A dry piece of concrete often looks very light, dull and lifeless. But when you wet it with water or seal it with certain sealers, the concrete comes to life, the color is truer and more vivid. This is all because of the way the sealer (or water) helps visible light reflect off the concrete.
Dry concrete scatters a lot of white light, so most of the light shining on it is scattered. The result: the concrete looks pale and lifeless.
Wet concrete, polished concrete and concrete sealed with certain sealers reflects more of the light as colored light (the color of the concrete) and has less white light scattering. That’s why the concrete looks richer and more colorful.
“Wet-look” sealers are sealers that make the concrete look like it’s wet with water. They pop the color and are typically very glossy. Not all finishes that pop the color make the concrete glossy. But high gloss finishes give the “wettest” look because of the combination of gloss and low white light scatter.
All sealers will affect the depth of color somewhat, although some waterbased acrylic sealers do very little to deepen the color. In effect they are the opposite of wet look sealers. Though the surface might be shiny from the acrylic, the color of the concrete still looks pale as if it were dry and unsealed. Every sealer is different, so you have to test the sealer to see whether its effect on the concrete’s color depth is what you want.
Thanks for the question, and I hope that helps.
(I also covered this topic in a recent article for Concrete Decor Magazine.)