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Measuring the Tone of Skin with CAPSURE Cosmetic

December 15, 2015 by Matthew Adby

Color is a critical factor when selecting cosmetics and skin tone products. Women everywhere venture into stores, compare sample after sample trying to find the closest match, and hope for the best. With hundreds of different options, product lines and color palettes, buying makeup can be an expensive and frustrating process.

Color technology to the rescue.

Today we’ll look at how the CAPSURE Cosmetic spectrocolorimeter and the CAPSUREme mobile app are revolutionizing the way women buy makeup.

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CAPSURE Cosmetic

In 2012, Walgreens Boots Alliance and another well-known cosmetics retailer came to X-Rite Pantone with the same problem:  “How can we help customers find a good color match between skin tone and foundation?” Although the color matching technology was there, it was expensive and the devices were too bulky for use at cosmetic counters. Plus, skin is hard to measure. It’s semi-transparent, textured, multi-layered and curvy.

X-Rite began testing the CAPSURE  spectrocolorimeter, which was originally developed for paints and textiles, because it’s easy to use, portable, and able to capture data from multiple locations.

The resulting CAPSURE Cosmetic is able to achieve good representation of overall skin color by taking 27 photos of each sample – from three different angles, under 9 LED illuminants. Then it compares each color sample against multiple databases to determine the best foundation shade and complementary harmony colors for any lighting condition.

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PANTONE Skintone and SkinCode

The color of your skin is just like any other color. It can be measured and plotted in color space to identify the exact shade. Undertone is the descriptor of your skin’s hue. It moves from neutral, which is the center of the hue range, in either a red or yellow direction. Tone describes the lightness of your skin’s color, which we describe from fair to dark.

But color is only one factor. Skin is a living tissue. It changes based on blemishes, blood flow, and even applied pressure. All of these factors required trial and error to develop best practices and methodologies for matching an opaque cosmetic to a transparent skin.

X-Rite Pantone performed a skin color study by measuring hundreds of ladies and gentlemen, which resulted in the creation of the PANTONE SkinTone™ grid, a snapshot of all 110 possible skin tones. Each color is represented by a four-digit alphanumeric. The first two reflect the hue (undertone), and the second two represent the tone (lightness). This is how CAPSURE specifies a color number for your skin, and how retailers assign the best foundation colors for each skin tone.

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The PANTONE SkinCode™ grid.

Retailers are developing product lines that use these skin tone numbers to identify the perfect foundation shade for every skin tone. Consultants no longer have to rely on trial and error, and can recommend colors their clients will love.


Now people everywhere can use this skin matching technology at home with CAPSUREme. Retailers work with X-Rite Pantone to create a custom database of products, then distribute branded CAPSUREme target cards to their clients. Clients simply download the CAPSUREme app on their smartphone and photograph the target card next to their skin to see the closest foundation matches from that retailer’s collection.

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Color matching technology is making a huge impact on the cosmetics industry. In fact, more than 40 million customers worldwide have already had their skin color measured using CAPSURE.


To learn more about how CAPSUREme is addressing the foundation challenge, visit our website or check out our short video.

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