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Define: Spectrophotometer

If you are starting to investigate color management and the tools available, you might have come across a device called a spectrophotometer. Besides being a fun word to say, what exactly is a spectrophotometer?

A spectrophotometer is a device that measures color. That may be all you need to know, and if you aren’t interested in more detail on that, go ahead and skip this paragraph. Nerds stay with me. The spectrophotometer is a combination of a spectrometer, which produces and measures light, and a photometer, which detects and measures the lights’ intensity. Spectrophotometers operate by using a light source directed at the object to be measured. The light passes through a monochromator and then the correct wavelength is selected. The spectrophotometer measures the intensity of the light after it passes through a sample solution and delivers a digital reading of calculated numerical color values.

Depending on the type of spectrophotometer, it will measure the color in different ways. Your selection of devices depends on your needs and intended applications. Do you need the device to be portable? Will you need it for smooth or matte surfaces? Having answers to these types of questions will guide you in the selection process. Of the UV-visible spectrophotometers, there are three main kinds to be aware of:

0º/45º (or 45º/0º) Spectrophotometers are the most common type and are often used for smooth or matte surfaces. The fixed angle that this spectrophotometer uses is typically a 45º angle and it is the device that can replicate the human eye’s experience of color the closest.

Sphere Spectrophotometers are not limited by any specific angle range. These instruments are lined with a white matte and highly reflective surface that is designed to reflect and scatter the light into all directions. The user can choose to include or not include the glossiness of the object being measured. Sphere spectrophotometers are often used for textiles, plastics and shiny and reflective surfaces.

Multi-Angle Spectrophotometers view the sample from multiple angles to ensure it captures the way the surface or coating varies depending on how the light hits it. So, these spectrophotometers are often used for automotive coatings, nail polish, metallic and pearlescent coatings.

If your business depends on brand colors and color-consistency for prints and products, this is an essential tool for you. To view our selection of spectrophotometers, click here. If you would like to talk to our color experts to learn more or see if your business could benefit from color management tools, give us a call at (800) 771-9665.

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