Uses of a Colorimeter

Updated March 23, 2017

Colour is a fundamental property of all materials. When viewed by human eyes, colour offers all objects a particular distinguishing quality. But colour varies depending on the way in which it is observed. Colorimeters allow specific, detailed measurement of colour in a wide variety of environments. They assist in the creation of colour and also allow the special properties of colour to be utilised in settings where human observation is not possible or too subjective.


Colour is the combination of wavelengths of varying strength to produce a sum light frequency. For example, the colour white is the equal presence of all wavelengths across the visible light spectrum. The basic function of a colorimeter is to determine what quality of colour is emitted from an object. This colour can result either from direct luminance by the object, or by reflection of other light hitting the object.

Beer's Law

A fundamental relationship in physics open many doors for the applications of colorimeters. Beer's Law describes the interaction between light absorbency and other factors, including the size of the light-affected sample and its density. In chemistry, the colorimeter may be used to measure the duration of time an object has been subjected to light, or the concentration of the substance. This principle exploits light as a tool in determining physical characteristics of many chemical solutions.


Colour is as much the presence of certain light waves as it is the absence of others. One common use of a colorimeter is to measure the colour of light reflected by an object and comparing this to the original source of the light. This indicates what kind of light frequency was absorbed by the object, thus helping determine the object's material and size.

Commercial Application

Colour is a critical component for most consumer products. It also plays a pivotal role in marketing. Because the perception of colour among people is subjective, colorimeters may be used to streamline the production process. By offering objective numerical values to all variables affected by colour, a colorimeter allows this characteristic to be treated like any other physical component. This benefits the creative process as well as quality control.


The use of colour and light measurement is limited only by creativity, as these properties are so fundamental as to be valid tools in a surprisingly diverse range of applications. The taste and appearance of coffee are affected by colour as it determines the degree to which the beans have been roasted. Thus colorimeters can be utilised to more easily and quickly process quality coffee. Often the colorimeters are first calibrated to an ideal standard based on subjective human response.

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About the Author

James Highland started writing professionally in 1998. He has written for the New York Institute of Finance and He has an extensive background in financial investing and has taught computer programming courses for two New York companies. He has a Bachelor of Arts in film production from Indiana University.