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What is a spectrophotometer?

A spectrophotometer is a color measurement device used to capture and evaluate color. As part of a color control program, brand owners and designers use spectrophotometers to specify and communicate color, and manufacturers use them to monitor color accuracy throughout production.

Spectrophotometers can measure just about anything, including liquids, plastics, paper, metal and fabrics, and help ensure that color remains consistent from conception to delivery.

The spectral reflectance curve provided by a spectrophotometer is commonly known as the color’s “fingerprint”.

Color spectrophotometers allow you to measure and quantify color on a variety of surfaces. Spectrophotometers come in a range of sizes, including portable handhelds, large benchtops, and inline instruments that measure color right on the production line.

As the global leader in color trends, science and technology, X-Rite offers a full range of high performance color measurement instruments to help you control color consistently and accurately from inspiration and communication to formulation and quality control.

Benchtop Spectrophotometers

X-Rite benchtop spectrophotometers offer the highest accuracy and repeatability for precise color measurement and quality control across the supply chain. They are used for standard creation, color formulation, and quality control in a variety of industries, including automotive, paint & coatings, plastics, textiles and garments, cosmetics, consumer electronics, paper, building materials, durable goods, food and beverage, and more. Browse our offerings below or contact our team to choose the best benchtop spectrophotometer for your business.

Portable Spectrophotometers

Lightweight and portable, handheld spectrophotometers offer the convenience of bringing the device to the sample. A handheld spectrophotometer is a valuable tool for capturing color data on a variety of surfaces on a printing press, in a lab, on a loading dock, or anywhere else your color needs take you.

X-Rite's portable handheld spectrophotometers come in multiple geometries to measure a variety of unique samples with consistency and accuracy. Browse our offerings below or contact our team to choose the best portable spectrophotometer for your business.

Inline Spectrophotometers

X-Rite’s inline spectrophotometers are mounted above the production line to continuously measure and evaluate color accuracy throughout the run for all stages of paper manufacturing, as well as for the coil coating, plastics, coated glass, textile, and automotive industries. X-Rite inline solutions can catch even small deviations immediately so operators can make a change before production moves out of tolerance for a very fast ROI. Browse our offerings below or contact our team to choose the best inline spectrophotometer for your business.

Color Spectrophotometer FAQ

Why is a color spectrophotometer used?

A color spectrophotometer is a device used to measure and control color data. Color spectrophotometers are used in all types of industries, and ensure that color remains consistent from specification through production. Color spectrophotometers measure everything from liquids and plastics to paper and fabrics. 

A color spectrophotometer takes accurate color measurements to identify color shifts and imperfections and quantify variations between the specification and the produced color (sample). The data collected from these measurements can identify a trend for continuous improvement and ensure compliance with ISO, astm, and other standards.

How does a color spectrophotometer work?

Spectrophotometers measure reflected or transmitted light across the spectrum and create a visual curve that describes the color on that substrate, under that lighting condition.

A white surface reflects all light energy across the visible spectrum, so its spectral reflectance curve is a straight line at approximately 90 to 100% reflectance. Black absorbs almost all light energy, so its reflectance curve is flat and approaches 0% reflectance. A mid-range gray, made by combining equal portions of white and black, is represented by a straight line at 50% reflectance. Other colors spike near the part of the wavelength range that is most reflected.

Many color spectrophotometers, like the X-Rite MetaVue VS3200, have an integrated camera for precise positioning and a color touchscreen for easy operation. Some spectrophotometers like the Ci64 UV can evaluate optical brightening agents and fluorescence with UV illumination. Other spectrophotometers like the eXact can measure the spectral reflectance of inks and pigments for print applications.

Learn More About Color Spectrophotometers

  • What is a Spectrophotometer? (Video): Watch our spectrophotometer video to learn more about this color measurement device and how to capture accurate color measurements.
  • Which eXact is Right for You? (Blog): Learn which print and packaging spectrophotometer is right for your business.
  • Colorimeter vs. Spectrophotometer (Blog): There are basically two types of color measurement instruments: colorimeters and spectrophotometers. Learn which is right for you.
  • How to Set Up and Use your Spectrophotometer (Blog): Just using a spectrophotometer to measure color doesn’t mean you’ll automatically capture accurate data. Here are some resources to help you get the most from your spectrophotometer.

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