Costing Colour Quality

Our experience with customers who want to solve a problem, and for this article, mainly colour problems, is that they seldom have a clue what their problem is costing them. If asked for a budget, they normally just demand a quotation, and of course the less information we have, the less likely our quotation is going to be very helpful. On receipt of a quote, quite a few say that the price seems high. The obvious question from our side is, compared to what? So what are the bench marks?

Colour Measurement is a fairly complex issue, and the jump from a fan deck or hard copy colour guide to measuring colour accurately is quite large. Let’s look at some steps in the process.

How do we define initially, what the colour is? Usually a fairly worn suppliers fan deck is produced, and after a while, a colour is selected. These fan decks usually have less than 2000 different colours, while on the other hand our nifty Tablet screen sports an estimated 16 million options. Here is where the trouble starts.

A colour on a screen does not compare to a solid opaque colour, say in a fan deck or painted on a surface. There is no real way to compare one to the other. Price wise, the fan deck costs less that R 5000.00 while the Tablet may be up to R 20,000.00 and look much cooler!

The next problem is, how do we check if the colour we wanted is the colour we have applied to our paint, or extruded as a plastic part?

Visual checking is fraught with errors, and even here it is recommended that a Colour Assessment Cabinet is used for visuals. This alone can cost R 20 – 50k.

The next step is to use a colour measurement device to compare colours, as in say a standard to a production batch. Here, the question is not so much whether you use a Colorimeter or a Spectrophotometer, but are you working to an international known standard (CIE), or not.

A basic CIE Colorimeter can cost R 40k going up to three times that, and a CIE Spectrophotometer can be double those prices.


Added to these costs are typically software to manage records and results, implementation and training to ensure correct usage, and annual certification charges.

Should you wish to predict colours, say for a paint supply business, you can add another R 80 – 120k.

In short, you need to know the cost of your problem.

Failure for a paint supplier to match its colour chart is critical, while a few plastic bottle tops may be arbitrary.
Auto manufacturers work to very tight specifications, while refinishers (Panel beaters) do not.

So the price is relative to the cost that you may incur if you lose a critical customer, screw up a designer perfume launch or ship a whole batch of clothing with half matched parts. (These days that would be a new fashion!)

But none of it is cheap like say a camera, or a shaver. These appliances are NOT mass produced, they are complex, and they have to adhere to global CIE standards.

If you think you have a problem, do the sums first, it may save you some time.