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12 Frequently Asked Questions About Color Management Instruments

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Our experts and sales team get asked a lot of questions on a daily basis. Over the years, we recognized a pattern, so we compiled this list of frequently asked questions about color management and color management instruments. Hopefully this article is helpful, but if at the end you still have a question, please connect with us!

1. Do I really need a color measurement instrument? Why can’t I just evaluate colors with my eyes?

Although we can all agree on the general color of some objects – like grass is green, the sky is blue, and some roses are red – we all see colors differently. There are many physical factors (light source, background, altitude, temperature) and personal factors (age, medications, memory, mood) that affect how we perceive colors.

When it comes to professional color control, our eyes can lead us astray. This is why it’s important to have color management instruments to evaluate colors and ensure that all samples and products are a good match.

2. How do I know if a material is metameric?

Metameric colors appear to match under a certain light source, but have different spectral curves.You can perform either a visual or instrumental test for metamerism. The visual test requires that you confirm that two objects match with a primary light source, then use a secondary light source .

If they still appear to be the exact same color, they are probably not metameric samples. But if they differ, that’s an indication of metamerism. Similarly, the instrumental test uses a spectrophotometer to perform a test with a different illuminant/observer combination. If the curves differ, then it’s likely metamerism.

Download this free white paper to learn more about metameric materials and metamerism.

3. What are the different types of color measurement instruments?

Datacolor offers a wide range of instruments for digital color control, depending on your company’s specific needs. Here’s a quick overview.

  • Benchtop instruments require samples to be portable and “presentable” to the measurement port.
  • Portable instruments let you take measurements at a store or in the field.
  • Specific models (d/0º, d/8º/ 45º/0º geometries) are tailored to the needs of particular applications and sample types.
  • Repeatability and inter-instrument agreement vary by instrument type.

4. Are colorimeters and spectrophotometers the same thing?

Both instruments measure color, but in different ways and to varying extents. A colorimeter simulates how the human eye perceives color. It’s a measurement tool that objectively evaluates color-based light passing through the primary filters (red, blue, green). A spectrophotometer performs full-spectrum color measurement to generate color data beyond what’s possible by the human eye.

Read about the differences between these two instruments

5. Can I measure more than one color at a time?

You can—if you have the right color management instrument for the job. This is why we created Datacolor SpectraVision. It can easily measure a range of “nontraditional” samples, including:

  • Buttons, gems or even hair samples
  • Pattered materials or lace
  • Textured materials that need shadows excluded
  • Small 3D objects

6. How do I determine how close of a match I need for my colors?

Delta E is the color difference from one measurement to another. Your company’s tolerance for these differences should depend on several factors. The level of uniformity your company needs may vary based on color, material, business application and more.

Here are some things to consider when establishing your own Delta E tolerances:

  • The quality demands of your customers.
  • Agreement with visual assessment.
  • The DE* calculation to be used. We recommend CIEDE2000 or CMC.
  • One size does not fit all. White and pastel colors may have different perceptibility or acceptability versus deep and high chroma colors.
  • The color accuracy of competing products.
  • Your time constraints. If you set strict tolerance standards, does your team have the time and resources to ensure your products meet those standards and maintain production throughout?
  • The benefit-cost ratio of improved color matching. The right tools are an investment, but they’ll help you achieve more first-shot matches and over time save you money.

7. My instrument readings aren’t consistent—what’s wrong?

This may be because your samples have inconsistent color and or surface effects. To account for this, measure them multiple times. You should also rotate and reposition the sample between readings to increase the surface area that’s measured. Then, average the data.

Inconsistent or irregular samples can yield different measurements if you measure different parts of the sample, so moving the sample between measurements and averaging your results is a great solution.

8. What if I have multiple company locations measuring color?

Whether you have three or 30 locations measuring color, you can still achieve consistent results. Adhering to best practices is key. Here are six things to keep in mind for consistently, accurate colors—no matter how many locations you have and where in the world they are.

  1. Wherever possible, use the same or similar instruments throughout your production chain. This will ensure your samples and products are as closely matched as possible. To learn more, we recommend these articles on inter-instrument agreement and backward compatibility.
  2. Keep all instruments regularly serviced and calibrated, and maintain them all, according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  3. Store and measure your standards and samples in a controlled environment.
  4. Calculate the variation from your standard for each of your instruments to ensure they are all operating properly.
  5. Choose “close tolerance” spectrophotometers for the highest possible precision.
  6. Closely monitor the performance of the instruments to ensure a healthy fleet.

9. How long can I expect my spectrophotometer to last?

As a general guideline, if the service contract for your current spectrophotometer has expired, you might want to consider trading it in for a newer model. The accuracy of an older instrument will decrease over time, not overnight, so you may not realize changes to color quality until they’ve significantly impacted your operations.

The good news? We work hard to make the transition to a new instrument as smooth as possible. We even created a free guide to trading in. Whether you have a Datacolor spectrophotometer or a non-Datacolor instrument, we’ll accept it and offer you a discount towards a new machine.

10. How do I know if my instrument needs maintenance?

Did you know your spectrophotometer can only provide accurate color data if it’s properly maintained? Both the Datacolor Spectro 1000 and Datacolor Spectro 700 instrument families let you know on-screen when maintenance is required.

  • If the code is green – everything’s running smoothly.
  • If the code is orange – you’ll need to perform maintenance soon.
  • If the code is red – your white tile or your instrument is no longer certified.

When calibrating with the White Tile:

  • If the code is green – everything’s running smoothly.
  • If the code is orange – you’ll need to perform maintenance and change the white calibration tile soon.
  • If the code is red – your white tile or your instrument is no longer certified.

You should also follow the manufacturer’s maintenance and testing recommendations, maintain consistent temperature and humidity, recalibrate frequently, and maintain calibration standards. Here is more information on how to care for your spectrophotometer.

11. Do I really need to calibrate my spectrophotometer?

Short answer, yes. Why? Your spectrophotometer’s photometric scale is calibrated to specific standards. Consistent (daily) calibration ensures that those standards are maintained, which results in more consistent and accurate color measurements. This includes maintaining your calibration tiles, an essential part of getting accurate and reliable readings and optimizing inter-instrument agreement.

12. Are there more affordable solutions for matching color?

Our ColorReader Spectro portable spectrophotometer may be what you’re looking for. It’s an affordable, handheld, Bluetooth-connected device designed to easily and accurately match colors. The ColorReader Spectro is currently available for paint retailers.

Get Optimized Results with Color Management Instruments

Understanding your color management instrument will get you closer to optimizing results that increase quality color measurement, improve productivity, help you get the best out of your budget, and so much more.

Have another question? Connect with our color experts to get the answer

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