User login

Seeing Eye to Eye: An overview of spectrophotometers

(April 2008) posted on Tue Apr 08, 2008

Spectrophotometers are valuable measurement tools that can help prevent costly color-matching mistakes and improve the quality of your printed images. Here

click an image below to view slideshow

By Ben P. Rosenfield


Most spectrophotometers come with proprietary or bundled software that extends the device’s functionality and, in some cases, is essential for it to operate properly. In general, the software allows data transmission between the device and computer, handles color-formulation and color-matching tasks, keeps color data organized, and maintains the accuracy of the spectrophotometer through calibration routines. Building color databases with the software can help you develop highly accurate color logs organized by job, ink manufacturer, and other parameters.

“You should make ten samples of each color at different concentrations, and measure all to get a baseline for making any color,“ Olmsted recommends. “And you should rebuild your database at least every two years.”

Some spectrophometers can function at a useful level without software. Others must be connected to computers in order to take readings. These tethered devices rely on the computer and software to perform the same functions as the internal hardware in standalone spectrophotometers.

The color-management software included with spectrophotometers today can handle routine tasks that shop personnel might consider painfully mundane. “The days of sitting in front of a computer and writing down numbers off the screen, or typing them in off of a pad of paper, should be long gone,” Goldberg says. “All data should be automatically captured to eliminate transcription errors and the waste of time that goes with that.”

If the software included with your spectrophotometer just doesn’t meet your needs, you could look into third-party software products. But be very careful. “If you buy third-party software make sure it’s a reputable company,” Good says. “Anybody can write software. Anybody can look up mathematical equations. But there’s a lot more to [software] than math equations. Make sure the software manufacturer is there to provide support—the software takes more support than the hardware.”


The human factor

Software is but one way to keep a spectrophotometer running at optimum levels. Operators should regularly calibrate the instruments by using color references and other standards provided by the manufacturers. Some units come with internal timers that remind operators to perform calibrations, but Marcus advises users to calibrate once a shift.

If you are working within ISO standards, take advantage of annual certification services provided by some manufacturers. Other than that, keeping the unit clean and using it in the cleanest environments possible will help the spectrophotometer to continue providing reliable results.


Critical eye

Color matching will always be a subjective excerise until you remove human perception from the process and present color in concrete numbers. Spectrophotometers allow you to do just that, providing an accurate means of assessing color, regardless of lighting conditions and other variables that tend to fool a viewer’s eye. Using these valuable tools as part of your quality-control procedures is a great way to expand the spectrum of services you offer and the number of orders that come through your doors.


Editor’s note: This article was updated from a version that appeared in the Mar. ’03 edition of Screen Printing.



Spectrophotometer Manufacturers

Barbieri Electronic snc

Via Ignaz Seidner, 35

39042 Bressanone / Brixen, Italy


Fax: 39-0472-833-845




Beta Industries

707 Commercial Ave.

Carlstadt, NJ 07072

201-939-2400, 800-272-7336

Fax: 201-939-7656


Color Savvy Systems Ltd.

724 Pleasant Valley Dr.

Springboro, Ohio 45066


Fax: 937-743-7101



28 Center St.

Clinton, NJ 08809


Fax: 908-236-7865



5 Princess Rd.

Lawrenceville, NJ 08648


Fax: 609-895-7472


Hunter Associates Laboratory

11491 Sunset Hills Rd.

Reston, VA 20190


Fax: 703-471-4237


Ihara U.S. Inc.

25030 Avenue Tibbitts, Bldg. K

Valencia, CA 91355


Fax: 661-257-5880



Konica Minolta

101 Williams Dr.

Ramsey, NJ 07446


Fax: 201-529-6070


Tobias Associates, Inc.

50 Industrial Dr.

PO Box 2699

Ivyland, PA 18974

215-322-1500, 800-877-3367

Fax: 215-322-1504



X-Rite Inc.

3100 44th St., SW

Grandville, MI 49418


Fax: 616-534-8960



Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.