While not ideal, you could probably do your job on three hours of sleep. Yes, you might accidentally sign off an email to your boss with an affectionate “Love”, but hey — at least you’ll get through the workday. Probably.
The same is true when it comes to spectrophotometers. Sure, if you set up your spectrophotometer according to the required technical specifications, you’re going to get a machine that functions reliably.
But just like sleep improves productivity and employability, the environmental conditions of the location you set up your spectrophotometer can drastically affect the accuracy of your color matching results.
Spectrophotometer Best Practices for Premium Results
Before we delve into the specifics of how environments alter results, let’s jump back to the basics. Understanding the how and why behind what makes a spectrophotometer indispensable to color matching is the first step colorists should take in optimizing its use.
The more often you recalibrate your instrument and make sure tiles stay clean the closer you are to seamless results.
After controlling your environment, there are other factors to consider when measuring samples including translucent materials, directional orientation, and non-uniform colors.
You’ve consistently calibrated, done your due diligence with measuring, now you need to keep up with maintenance to ensure your instrument is operating to specification.
What Environmental Conditions Affect Spectrophotometer Color Matching?
Spectrophotometers are sensitive color management devices. As with any scientific device, managing variables is important to optimizing results. The more variables you change, the less accurate your results will be.
One important variable to consider are the environmental conditions of the physical space in which you store and use your spectrophotometer.
Environmental Conditions that May Affect Spectrophotometer Color Matching:
These environmental variables can significantly impact your spectrophotometer’s color matching results. And this could have downstream effects on the quality of your products. Environmental factors like those above can change the composition of your samples, affect air quality, or even cause slight variations in the equipment itself.
Taken together, these factors may lead to inaccurate results.
How to Tell if Environmental Factors are Affecting my Results
Your spectrophotometer’s color accuracy is important. Better color accuracy improves the quality of your products — helping drive sales and customer satisfaction while reinforcing your brand identity.
So how do you know if your spectrophotometer’s color matching results are being affected by these environmental conditions?
1. Inconsistent Readings
The first sign that environmental conditions are affecting your spectrophotomer’s color matching results will be if multiple readings of the same sample on the same device differ. You may also notice larger variations when measuring different samples from the same batch, especially with thermochromic colors such as red or orange.
2. Instrument Physical Appearance
The maintenance of your spectrophotometer is vital to the success of your readings. Your measurements won’t yield the results you’re seeking if your instrument has deterioration such as:
Aperture lens becomes cloudy due to heat and humidity
Oxidation build upon some interior parts of the instruments due to humidity
Contamination in your sphere, such as loose fibers, stains, dust particles
Calibration tiles have scratches and chips
Common Environmental Condition Questions
That’s where environmental specifications come in. When considering whether your spectrophotometer is really giving you everything you need, it’s important to consider these environmental conditions.
Here are a few questions colorists often ask about environmental conditions and spectrophotometer color matching:
Does Temperature Affect Spectrophotometer Readings?
Is the temperature of the room where you keep your spectrophotometer(s) between 21 and 25ºC and stable? If the temperature of your room varies by even four degrees, measuring the same sample on the same instrument may result in a 0.4 dE—which is 1.75 times the dE variation your instrument is capable of achieving.
Can Sun Exposure Dim Your Measurements?
Is your device away from direct sunlight? Even in a temperature-controlled room, sunlight can heat up the instrument and lead to inaccurate measurements. We suggest placing your instrument in a windowless room where you have complete control over lighting and temperature.
What Role Does Moisture Play In Color Matching?
Most instruments’ operating range for humidity is 20% – 85%, when it’s clean, in a dust-free atmosphere, and at the same temperature as the air around it. With that said, the optimum operation for relative humidity is 65 +/-2%. Anything outside the optimum may cause color differences depending on what you’re measuring. For example, textile samples are more susceptible to humidity changes than Paints, Plastics, Inks, etc.
To learn more about humidity’s (and temperature) impact on color matching, check out this blog.
Will Contaminants Increase Errors in Your Instrument?
Is the air contaminated by chemical vapors or do operators smoke while using the instruments? Both of these can drastically reduce the operational life of the sphere and gradually reduce the long-term accuracy of your instrument.
The Role Inter-Instrument Agreement Plays
What is inter-instrument agreement and why is it important?
IIA is when the measurements taken between different instruments under the same environmental conditions match each other throughout your supply chain. This becomes a major factor in producing accurate measurements when a garment has multiple components coming from multiple suppliers around the world.
Your Datacolor instrument will come with tight inter-instrument agreement capabilities to make your color management as consistent as possible.