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Interesting Objects for Color Measurement

Posted July 05, 2016 by X-Rite Color

Whether it’s using Munsell Color Standards or one of our many color measurement devices, X-Rite helps manufacturers around the world achieve accurate color. We talked to our support team to learn about some of the most interesting ways people have used our equipment to measure and control color. From archeologists to fur traders and gastroenterologists, here are a few of our favorites.

In 2014, the city of Los Angeles used one of our handheld spectrophotometers to help remove more than 37 million square feet of graffiti. Instead of chipping a paint sample to take to the paint supplier or warehouse, contractors measured the color of the background and used the color data to mix the perfect color to repaint the surface.

LA Graffiti


Archeologists learn more about human and animal activity by studying artifacts they remove from the ground. During digs in Turkey, archeology students used our spectrophotometers to measure burned bones and clay bowls to date and classify them. They were also used to measure core samples of the ocean floor near Vancouver to determine changes in the ocean life.


Do you think of soil as “just brown?” Soil scientists use Munsell Color Standards to assess and classify soil to determine its quality for crops.

Agriculture Students

Agricultural Studies Soil Chart

Munsell Color Standards were also used to classify Apollo lunar soil samples and provide insight into the differences in the mineralogy of the various layers.

Lunar Sample Core Tube

Food & Beverage

Although many of us don’t think about it, the color of our food and drink plays a huge role in whether it even makes it to our mouths. Munsell creates standards to help the USDA grade food and produce quality and doneness. A few of our favorites include McDonald’s French fries and salmon flesh.

munsell; xrite; french fries; frozen french fries; measuring french fries

Munsell creates standards to evaluate the doneness of cooked foods, like this USDA Frozen French Fried Potato Color Standard.

Using special attachments, spectrophotometers can be used to measure food and beverages without coming into contact with the surface. The Bacardi Bottling Company uses an X-Rite benchtop spectrophotometer to measure all of their incoming ingredients to ensure each bottle of Bacardi Mojito mix is the perfect color to ship to stores, and the Algida Ice Cream Factory uses the VS450 to ensure your double scoops match.

bacardi mojito production


The color of safety is ingrained in each of us, and it’s not by accident. Have you ever wondered how they get all of the stop signs to match? Munsell creates color standards to ensure safety and reliability and maintain compliance with federal regulations.

Aerospace suppliers and wire and cable manufacturers use these standards to communicate with each other, to comply with government regulations, and to ensure the safety and reliability of electrical products. Those in the electrical wire and cable industry rely on color accuracy every day. Wires are color-coded based on their purpose, and if you’re asked to cut the red wire, you need it to be 100% sure it’s not dark orange!

Munsell Laboratories developed electrical color coding charts for the Electronic Industries Association (EIA) to ensure that wire colors are within tolerance. Each chart has a center color that represents the ideal color of the wire, plus several acceptable variations to allow for manufacturing variables.

Munsell Laboratories developed electrical color coding charts for the Electronic Industries Association (EIA) to ensure that wire colors are within tolerance. Each chart has a center color that represents the ideal color of the wire, plus several acceptable variations to allow for manufacturing variables.

Did you know NASA uses our color technology to create specially designed patches for spacewalk safety? Worn on the arm of the space suits, this patch will change color if the suit is contaminated so the astronaut knows whether it’s safe to re-board the shuttle.


We’ve found that bird feathers are a very popular item to measure. Our spectrophotometers have been used to measure the color of feathers from birds that are sucked into the engines of airplanes for animal control purposes around airport runways. They’re also used to measure the feathers of birds in Vermont to determine if their colors change before they lay their eggs, when they fly home for the winter, and when they come back in the spring.

Photo courtesy of Audubon.com.

Photo courtesy of Audubon.com.

Some lucky lizards have had their scales measured. Their changing colors help scientists determine when they will begin their winter vacation in hibernation.

Sea life is another popular target. Our spectros have been used to measure the molting cycle of Maryland blue crabs to find out if their color changes for life events, such as mating, in an effort to determine the best time for harvesting. And for all of you Finding Nemo (and Dory!) fans, fish sellers use spectros to measure the color of clown fish scales to grade them for purchase. Did you know some of them, especially from Australia, are worth up to $10,000? I think I’d want to verify that purchase with my own spectrophotometer.


Textiles are a huge industry for color measurement. From sheets to curtains to matching outfits, spectrophotometers are used to ensure color is correct before products are shipped to stores. For instance, sports merchandisers must adhere to strict brand color requirements when producing sports jerseys, helmets, and shoes. Here are a few more that are little more interesting than the norm.

Fur traders in Canada use color measurement to match furs for sewing clothing and accessories. (Did you know the best time to buy fur is in early spring?) Popular designers from NY and LA use them to color match as they sew dresses for stars like Taylor Swift to wear to award events. Our spectros were even used by a Grand Rapids MI rug maker to match the threads used to hand stitch the Presidential Rug in the Oval Office of the White House!

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 11.00.55 AM

When judging color, stable lighting conditions are also important. One of our customers, Malti Rugs, created an entire X-Rite Harmony Room with SpectraLight QC bulbs to evaluate the color of each of their rugs.


Would you buy two pills that don’t match? When it comes to health, color measurement is crucial for patient safety. Companies like 4Life use spectrophotometers to verify the color of their harvested raw materials so they can create supplements with consistent color. We know of a gastroenterologist who uses one to measure stomach bile to help diagnose ulcers and cancers. And one of our favorite technologies is their use to measure skin to create matching prosthetics for amputees and reconstructive surgeries.

Image courtesy of http://spectromatch.com.

Image courtesy of http://spectromatch.com.

Do you use your spectro to measure something interesting? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

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