Establishing a Color System: How to Define Color Tolerances with Spectrophotometric Technology

Color measurement may seem pretty straightforward at first glance, but due to the limitations of the human eye, instrumental color measurement tools soon become a necessity for creating consistent and repeatable colors. Color quality plays a huge role in nearly every industry, and setting up a color system based on advanced color measurement instrumentation can make a difference in product quality and appearance. Although setting up a color system may seem tedious and difficult at first, especially with all the bells and whistle of today’s spectrophotometers, with the right support these steps will definitely pay off in the long run. Implementing a color system is not only important for identifying color measurement standards, but clearly defines color tolerances as well, which is the key in creating a system that works.

variation fan color system
Color measurement plays an important role in nearly every application of every industry. Color variations are a part of human perception, but the ability to clearly identify these differences and establishing color parameters is an important part of a color system that works.
Image Source: Flickr user frankieleon

Spectrophotometric technology allows you to create an effective color system with a method for monitoring that system which can save time and money. A good color system first begins with identifying color variations. These variations or differences are commonly referred to as Delta-E. Delta-E (dE) expresses “the ‘distance’ between two colors” and can be represented in numerical form using color measurement data. A dE value of 1.o represents the smallest measurement of color difference that can be perceived by the human eye. Anything less that dE 1.0 will appear to be the same color no matter who is viewing the sample and is not affected by angle or light source. A dE measurement slightly above 1.0 usually goes unnoticed by the average viewer and can be considered an ‘acceptable’ color difference, but establishing these boundaries with an effective color system is a fundamental element in quality control and production efficiency. This range of acceptability is defined as a color tolerance and is a foundation in establishing an effective color system.

Catching color variations early

Advanced spectrophotometric technology can measure Delta-E levels that are impossible to identify with the human eye. Despite the fact that these slight differences are often overlooked by the average consumer, as the dE values increase the effects soon become apparent. This often results in both timely and costly recalculations and wasted materials. Advanced spectrophotometers offer quantifiable data that can be used to ‘catch’ these slight color variations in their infancy and can prompt quick and effective recalibration to ensure color quality and product acceptability. When specific color tolerance levels are established as part of a color system, the results lead to a higher quality product, better production efficiency, and a larger profit.

verticle blue blinds color system
Variations in lighting and angle can affect color perception making instrumental color analysis an important part of color quality control.
Image Source: Flickr user sonictk

The “close enough” approach to color-matching

Color-matching plays an important role in many industries where color is often the first impression that influences consumer choice. When establishing a tolerable level of color variation in product appearance, it is often up to the customer to deem what is acceptable or not. When color expectations are not met, a product is often rejected, and both time and money is wasted. Knowing the exact tolerance and expectation standard a product must reach is essential for creating a color system that works. With spectrophotometric technology, these variations can be quantified and represented by a numerical value that states an acceptable range of color difference base on both the product and customer need. This data is then stored as part of a color system that can be reproduced effectively during the production phase, rather than making costly changes later on.

frost glass color system
Color-matching is an important part of product development. Various shades and hues of colors can vary slightly and individual perception often varies greatly, making the need for subjective color measurement an important part of a color monitoring system. Image Source: Flickr’ user Andrew Tarvin

Establishing an effective color system

Setting up an effective color system requires precise instrumentation that can be adapted to meet the specific needs of your industry. At HunterLab we offer unique color measurement tools that can be designed to meet the needs and challenges of color matching and provide the data needed to develop appropriate color tolerance levels. With expert help and unsurpassed customer support, HunterLab can make the process of developing a color system both stress-free and highly effective. Contact HunterLab today to learn more about how we can help you set the standards in color measurement.

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