What are the Types of Color Measurement Devices? Do I Need One?

What are the Types of Color Measurement Devices? Do I Need One?

Fact: humans cannot accurately assess colors with their eyes. Many factors can affect how we perceive colors, such as the light source and our mood. The only way to truly get a more accurate representation of color is to use an objective color measurement device. 

This post will help demystify the common color measurement devices available, the basics of how they work, when you would use them, and which one is right for you.

Portable Colorimeters vs. Spectrophotometers

Color measurement devices fall into two device types: colorimeters and spectrophotometers. Both devices aim to measure and help communicate color in an objective manner but do so differently. 

  • Colorimeters are relatively inexpensive, portable devices that contain three filters known as tristimulus. These filters represent red, green, and blue—to simulate how humans perceive color naturally. When a measurement is in progress, an internal light shines over the surface of the sample; it then goes through the three filters. The device then quantifies the RGB values. Example applications for colorimeters are color identification, basic color comparisons, monitor calibrations, and quality control.
  • Spectrophotometers are more advanced devices that are able to generate color data on the entire visible spectrum, beyond the capabilities of what the human eye can perceive. These devices work similarly to colorimeters but include more filters. They come in different shapes and sizes depending on the application from handheld devices to large benchtops. Some printers are able to have inline spectrophotometers mounted on them for automated color measurements, such as the Epson P-Series printers with inline SpectroProofers. Example applications for spectrophotometers are measuring color on various different substrates, color formulation, and tight color control. 

Which Color Management Device Do You Need?

Now that you know the basics of colorimeters and spectrophotometers, you might be wondering which is the correct choice for you. Your decision comes down to your use case and budget. If you have basic color needs, a colorimeter is probably more suitable. For more complex applications requiring tight color control, a spectrophotometer might be the way to go.

Ready to get started with color measurement? Our color experts can help match your color measuring needs to the right color management device.

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