Last updated

Colorimetry is "the science and technology used to quantify and describe physically the human color perception". [1] It is similar to spectrophotometry, but is distinguished by its interest in reducing spectra to the physical correlates of color perception, most often the CIE 1931 XYZ color space tristimulus values and related quantities. [2]



The Duboscq colorimeter was invented by Jules Duboscq in 1870. [3]


Colorimetric equipment is similar to that used in spectrophotometry. Some related equipment is also mentioned for completeness.

Two spectral reflectance curves. The object in question reflects light with shorter wavelengths while absorbing those in others, lending it a blue appearance. ReflCurve.png
Two spectral reflectance curves. The object in question reflects light with shorter wavelengths while absorbing those in others, lending it a blue appearance.

Tristimulus colorimeter

In digital imaging, colorimeters are tristimulus devices used for color calibration. Accurate color profiles ensure consistency throughout the imaging workflow, from acquisition to output.

Spectroradiometer, spectrophotometer, spectrocolorimeter

The absolute spectral power distribution of a light source can be measured with a spectroradiometer, which works by optically collecting the light, then passing it through a monochromator before reading it in narrow bands of wavelength.

Reflected color can be measured using a spectrophotometer (also called spectroreflectometer or reflectometer), which takes measurements in the visible region (and a little beyond) of a given color sample. If the custom of taking readings at 10 nanometer increments is followed, the visible light range of 400–700 nm will yield 31 readings. These readings are typically used to draw the sample's spectral reflectance curve (how much it reflects, as a function of wavelength)—the most accurate data that can be provided regarding its characteristics.

CRT phosphors CRT phosphors.png
CRT phosphors

The readings by themselves are typically not as useful as their tristimulus values, which can be converted into chromaticity co-ordinates and manipulated through color space transformations. For this purpose, a spectrocolorimeter may be used. A spectrocolorimeter is simply a spectrophotometer that can estimate tristimulus values by numerical integration (of the color matching functions' inner product with the illuminant's spectral power distribution). [6] One benefit of spectrocolorimeters over tristimulus colorimeters is that they do not have optical filters, which are subject to manufacturing variance, and have a fixed spectral transmittance curve—until they age. [7] On the other hand, tristimulus colorimeters are purpose-built, cheaper, and easier to use. [8]

The CIE (International Commission on Illumination) recommends using measurement intervals under 5 nm, even for smooth spectra. [5] Sparser measurements fail to accurately characterize spiky emission spectra, such as that of the red phosphor of a CRT display, depicted aside.

Color temperature meter

Photographers and cinematographers use information provided by these meters to decide what color balancing should be done to make different light sources appear to have the same color temperature. If the user enters the reference color temperature, the meter can calculate the mired difference between the measurement and the reference, enabling the user to choose a corrective color gel or photographic filter with the closest mired factor. [9]

The normals are lines of equal correlated color temperature. Planckian-locus.png
The normals are lines of equal correlated color temperature.

Internally the meter is typically a silicon photodiode tristimulus colorimeter. [9] The correlated color temperature can be calculated from the tristimulus values by first calculating the chromaticity co-ordinates in the CIE 1960 color space, then finding the closest point on the Planckian locus.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Color temperature</span> Property of light sources related to black-body radiation

Color temperature is a parameter describing the color of a visible light source by comparing it to the color of light emitted by an idealized opaque, non-reflective body. The temperature of the ideal emitter that matches the color most closely is defined as the color temperature of the original visible light source. Color temperature is usually measured in kelvins. The color temperature scale describes only the color of light emitted by a light source, which may actually be at a different temperature.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Optical spectrometer</span> Instrument to measure the properties of visible light

An optical spectrometer is an instrument used to measure properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, typically used in spectroscopic analysis to identify materials. The variable measured is most often the irradiance of the light but could also, for instance, be the polarization state. The independent variable is usually the wavelength of the light or a unit directly proportional to the photon energy, such as reciprocal centimeters or electron volts, which has a reciprocal relationship to wavelength.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Metamerism (color)</span> Perceived matching of colors in colorimetry

In colorimetry, metamerism is a perceived matching of colors with different (nonmatching) spectral power distributions. Colors that match this way are called metamers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spectrophotometry</span> Branch of spectroscopy

Spectrophotometry is a branch of electromagnetic spectroscopy concerned with the quantitative measurement of the reflection or transmission properties of a material as a function of wavelength. Spectrophotometry uses photometers, known as spectrophotometers, that can measure the intensity of a light beam at different wavelengths. Although spectrophotometry is most commonly applied to ultraviolet, visible, and infrared radiation, modern spectrophotometers can interrogate wide swaths of the electromagnetic spectrum, including x-ray, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and/or microwave wavelengths.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dominant wavelength</span> Any monochromatic spectral light that evokes the corresponding perception of hue

In color science, the dominant wavelength is a method of characterizing a color's hue. Along with purity, it makes up one half of the Helmholtz coordinates. A color's dominant wavelength is the wavelength of monochromatic spectral light that evokes an identical perception of hue.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Color rendering index</span> Measure of ability of a light source to reproduce colors in comparison with a standard light source

A color rendering index (CRI) is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with a natural or standard light source. Light sources with a high CRI are desirable in color-critical applications such as neonatal care and art restoration.

A spectroradiometer is a light measurement tool that is able to measure both the wavelength and amplitude of the light emitted from a light source. Spectrometers discriminate the wavelength based on the position the light hits at the detector array allowing the full spectrum to be obtained with a single acquisition. Most spectrometers have a base measurement of counts which is the un-calibrated reading and is thus impacted by the sensitivity of the detector to each wavelength. By applying a calibration, the spectrometer is then able to provide measurements of spectral irradiance, spectral radiance and/or spectral flux. This data is also then used with built in or PC software and numerous algorithms to provide readings or Irradiance (W/cm2), Illuminance, Radiance (W/sr), Luminance (cd), Flux, Chromaticity, Color Temperature, Peak and Dominant Wavelength. Some more complex spectrometer software packages also allow calculation of PAR μmol/m2/s, Metamerism, and candela calculations based on distance and include features like 2- and 20-degree observer, baseline overlay comparisons, transmission and reflectance.

A white point is a set of tristimulus values or chromaticity coordinates that serve to define the color "white" in image capture, encoding, or reproduction. Depending on the application, different definitions of white are needed to give acceptable results. For example, photographs taken indoors may be lit by incandescent lights, which are relatively orange compared to daylight. Defining "white" as daylight will give unacceptable results when attempting to color-correct a photograph taken with incandescent lighting.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Correlated color temperature</span>

The correlated color temperature is defined as "the temperature of the Planckian radiator whose perceived color most closely resembles that of a given stimulus at the same brightness and under specified viewing conditions

<span class="mw-page-title-main">CIE 1931 color space</span> Color space defined by the CIE in 1931

The CIE 1931 color spaces are the first defined quantitative links between distributions of wavelengths in the electromagnetic visible spectrum, and physiologically perceived colors in human color vision. The mathematical relationships that define these color spaces are essential tools for color management, important when dealing with color inks, illuminated displays, and recording devices such as digital cameras. The system was designed in 1931 by the "Commission Internationale de l'éclairage", known in English as the International Commission on Illumination.

The Standard Reference Method or SRM is one of several systems modern brewers use to specify beer color. Determination of the SRM value involves measuring the attenuation of light of a particular wavelength (430 nm) in passing through 1 cm of the beer, expressing the attenuation as an absorption and scaling the absorption by a constant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Illuminant D65</span> Standard illuminant defined by the International Commission on Illumination

CIE standard illuminant D65 (sometimes written D65) is a commonly used standard illuminant defined by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE). It is part of the D series of illuminants that try to portray standard illumination conditions at open-air in different parts of the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Standard illuminant</span> Theoretical source of visible light

A standard illuminant is a theoretical source of visible light with a spectral power distribution that is published. Standard illuminants provide a basis for comparing images or colors recorded under different lighting.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">David MacAdam</span> American physicist and color scientist

David Lewis MacAdam was an American physicist and color scientist who made important contributions to color science and technology in the fields of colorimetry, color discrimination, color photography and television, and color order.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Colorimetry (chemical method)</span> Technique to determine the concentration of colored compounds in solution.

In physical and analytical chemistry, colorimetry or colourimetry is a technique used to determine the concentration of colored compounds in solution. A colorimeter is a device used to test the concentration of a solution by measuring its absorbance of a specific wavelength of light.

The color rendering of a light source refers to its ability to reveal the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source. Light sources with good color rendering are desirable in color-critical applications such as neonatal care and art restoration. It is defined by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) as follows:

Effect of an illuminant on the color appearance of objects by conscious or subconscious comparison with their color appearance under a reference illuminant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tristimulus colorimeter</span> Device to measure color values

A tristimulus colorimeter, colloquially shortened to colorimeter, is used in digital imaging to profile and calibrate output devices. It takes a limited number of wideband spectral energy readings along the visible spectrum by using filtered photodetectors; e.g. silicon photodiodes.

A colorimeter is a device used in colorimetry that measures the absorbance of particular wavelengths of light by a specific solution. It is commonly used to determine the concentration of a known solute in a given solution by the application of the Beer–Lambert law, which states that the concentration of a solute is proportional to the absorbance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Günter Wyszecki</span>

Günter Wyszecki was a German-Canadian physicist who made important contributions to the fields of colorimetry, color discrimination, color order, and color vision.

A color appearance model (CAM) is a mathematical model that seeks to describe the perceptual aspects of human color vision, i.e. viewing conditions under which the appearance of a color does not tally with the corresponding physical measurement of the stimulus source.


  1. Ohno, Yoshi (16 October 2000). CIE Fundamentals for Color Measurements (PDF). IS&T NIP16 Intl. Conf. on Digital Printing Technologies. pp. 540–45. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 May 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  2. Gaurav Sharma (2002). Digital Color Imaging Handbook. CRC Press. pp. 15–17. ISBN   978-0-8493-0900-7.
  3. Cal Poly Humboldt [ dead link ]
  4. 1 2 "ICC White Paper #5" (PDF). Retrieved 28 May 2023.
  5. 1 2 3 Lee, Hsien-Che (2005). "15.1: Spectral Measurements". Introduction to Color Imaging Science. Cambridge University Press. pp. 369–374. ISBN   0-521-84388-X. The process recommended by the CIE for computing the tristimulus values is to use 1 nm interval or 5 nm interval if the spectral function is smooth
  6. 1 2 Schanda, János (2007). "Tristimulus Color Measurement of Self-Luminous Sources". Colorimetry: Understanding the CIE System. Wiley Interscience. pp. 135–157. doi:10.1002/9780470175637.ch6. ISBN   978-0-470-04904-4.
  7. Andreas Brant, GretagMacbeth Corporate Support (7 January 2005). "Colorimeter vs. Spectro". Colorsync-users Digest. Archived from the original on 11 July 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  8. Raymond Cheydleur, X-Rite (8 January 2005). "Colorimeter vs. Spectro". Colorsync-users Digest. Archived from the original on 10 July 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  9. 1 2 Salvaggio, Carl (2007). Michael R. Peres (ed.). The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography: Digital Imaging, Theory and Application (4E ed.). Focal Press. p. 741. ISBN   978-0-240-80740-9.

Further reading

1. Schanda, János D. (1997). "Colorimetry" (PDF). In Casimer DeCusatis (ed.). Handbook of Applied Photometry. OSA/AIP. pp. 327–412. ISBN   978-1-56396-416-9.

2. Bala, Raja (2003). "Device Characterization" (PDF). In Gaurav Sharma (ed.). Digital Color Imaging Handbook. CRC Press. ISBN   978-0-8493-0900-7.

3. Gardner, James L. (May–June 2007). "Comparison of Calibration Methods for Tristimulus Colorimeters" (PDF). Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology . 112 (3): 129–138. doi:10.6028/jres.112.010. PMC   4656001 . PMID   27110460. S2CID   1949232. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2008.

4. MacEvoy, Bruce (8 May 2008). "Overview of the development and applications of colorimetry". Retrieved 17 July 2008.

5. Optronik – Photometers An informative brochure with background information and specifications of their equipment.

6. Konica Minolta Sensing – Precise Color Communication – from perception to instrumentation

7. HunterLab – FAQ | How to Measure Color of a Sample & Use An Index A guide to measuring color and appearance of objects. The section provides information on numerical scales and indices that are used throughout the world to remove subjective measurements and assumptions.

8. NIST Publications related to colorimetry.