Colored cement is available in a several varieties and can be used in place of standard Portland cement in the mix design The pigments in this method are generally consistent. Colored cements are easy to handle and easy to batch when bulk storage is used.
Mineral oxide pigments are also used to color concrete mixes, much in the same way as in paint. Both natural and synthetic oxides offer a full range of colors. Undertones, shades, and tinting strengths may vary. Overall, synthetic oxides provide a more vibrant color than natural oxides. Costs for synthetic oxides will run higher than their natural counterparts, but tend to offer a better value.
Another means of coloring concrete is color-conditioning admixtures. These admixtures are specifically designed for use in ready mix and pre-cast concrete, and offer improved performance over raw pigments. The coloring admixture is added to the concrete during the batching and mixing phases of the concrete mix. Typically, color-conditioning admixtures are packaged in cubic-yard dosage units. Bag weight may vary with color choice and design-mix cement content, but dosing is usually one package per cubic yard of concrete.
Concrete can also be colored by using dry-shake color hardeners. These are ready-to-use products designed for coloring, hardening and finishing new concrete floors, patios, pool decks, walks, driveways and other horizontal surfaces. They may also be plastered on small vertical surfaces of freshly placed concrete, such as curbs, risers, and planters. They should not be used as plaster or stucco on large vertical areas.
Colors can be made more intense with dry-shake hardeners as they concentrate color at the surface. Dry-shake colors can make pastel colors possible, while the same shades created with integral color would require white Portland cement. Unlike other color applications, changes in cement content and water content will have little to no effect on the creation of the desired shade or tint. Dry-shake color hardeners can be specially designed to match other building materials and/or existing colors.
Dry-shake color hardeners are also commonly used with concrete imprinting applications to provide a finish that is both beautiful and structurally sound. This method is also less expensive than the conventional stone, granite, tile or brick effect it creates.