The Difference Between Colorimeter and Spectrophotometer

difference between colorimeter and spectrophotometer

In just about any industry where color accuracy is important, you’ll find that color measurement is an essential part of the production process. With the introduction of color measurement instruments such as colorimeters and spectrophotometers, we are able to quantify colors much more easily. These highly technically advanced instruments are able to assign numerical values to help quantify, control, and define colors. The difference between a colorimeter and a spectrophotometer is often a point of confusion for many color scientists.

Colorimeters and Spectrophotometers are similar in that they both employ a solution and a beam of light to determine the absorption level of light. However, there are notable distinctions between the two. So, let’s go through these distinctions. Both of these items are crucial in the field of industrial tools. Colorimeters and spectrophotometers are available from a variety of Suppliers and Companies, as well as from a variety of manufacturers and distributors, and there are many colorimeters and spectrophotometers for sale on Linquip.

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A full list of colorimeters and spectrophotometer services is available on the Linquip website, which covers all OEM fleets. Linquip vendors can assist you with this. Please contact Linquip’s Colorimeters and Spectrophotometers Experts to learn more about how to connect with a diverse group of service providers who consistently deliver high-quality products.

This blog in Linquip will help explain the difference between these two color measurement instruments.

What Is a Colorimeter?

A colorimeter is a device that measures how much of a specific colour of light is absorbed by a solution. A colorimeter comes either with a set of coloured filters or with LED bulbs that emit specific colours of light. To use a colorimeter, first, the appropriate colour has to be selected. Then, a cuvette containing the solution is placed inside the colorimeter.

difference between colorimeter and spectrophotometer

The colorimeter will then give the absorbance for the particular colour selected. It is important to remember that a solution of a given colour actually absorbs its own colour the least. For instance, a green solution containing chlorophyll will absorb green colour the least.

What Is Spectrophotometer?

Spectrophotometers measure the transmittance and reflectance of light as a function of the wavelength of light. That is, it measures transmittance and reflectance for all colours of light, and shows how the transmittance/reflectance varies as the colour of the light is changed. Unlike with a colorimeter, the range of wavelengths that can be measured with a spectrophotometer extends beyond the visible range into infrared and ultraviolet regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. 

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difference between colorimeter and spectrophotometer

The Difference Between Colorimeter and Spectrophotometer

Colorimeters and spectrophotometers operate in somewhat similar ways as both the instruments make use of solution and beam of light to check for the absorbance level of light however, various differences exist between the two. So, let us explain these differences.

Main Function

A colorimeter is an instrument that measures the number of transmitted rays of light absorbed by a specific solution. However, a spectrophotometer measures the intensity of light as a function of colour or wavelength of light by the transmittance level.


Colorimeter results in psychophysical analysis, offering colour measurement physically like the human eye and brain perception to visualize things. While spectrophotometer results in physical analysis through which colorimetric information can be gathered indirectly.


Colorimeters are considered to be less sensitive instruments in comparison to spectrophotometers.

difference between colorimeter and spectrophotometer


Spectrophotometers are more expensive than colorimeters.


The design of the colorimeter is less complex, is light in weight, and is rugged in general thus suffering less wear and tear during operation this is not the case with a spectrophotometer as it is comparatively heavy thereby exhibiting more complexity.


Colorimetric data directly read and provide tristimulus values such as XYZ, G, b, d, etc. While spectrophotometers can indirectly calculate psychophysical information.  


Colorimeters are composed of a sensor and a simple data processor. It has only a set illuminant and observer combination. Spectrophotometers are composed of sensor, and data processor and sometimes includes computer software.  It has also many available illuminant or observer combinations.

Besides, colorimeters have stationary parts while the parts of spectrophotometers are non-stationary.


Spectrophotometers are comparatively heavier than colorimeters.


Colorimeter works with only light in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. However, a spectrophotometer works with infrared and ultraviolet light as well as visible light.


Colorimeter quantifies color by measuring the three primary color components of light. While a spectrophotometer measures the actual color within the human visible light wavelength.  


The colorimeter uses a tristimulus absorption filter to isolate a broad band of wavelengths. In contrast, a spectrophotometer uses an interference filter or a grating and prism to isolate a narrow band of wavelengths.

Data Display

In colorimeters, data is displayed on a digital or analog output. While in spectrophotometers, data is produced and recorded via computer software.


The colorimeter is the optimal choice for quality inspection. It works well in terms of adjusting small color differences under constant conditions and regularly compares similar colors. Besides quality inspection, the spectrometer is also the optical choice for research and development. It works well in terms of measuring metamerism and observer conditions or variable illuminant and color formulation.


Colorimeters can be used to determine the concentration of an individual compound based on the amount of absorbance. Whereas, spectrophotometers can be used in the identification and quantification studies of inorganic and organic biochemical molecules.  

difference between colorimeter and spectrophotometer

What Are the Various Similarities Between a Colorimeter and Spectrophotometer?

The fact that both a colorimeter and a spectrophotometer assess sample absorbance to estimate analyte concentrations is one of their many similarities. Any test substance that is colored or may be reacted to generate a color is measured by a colorimeter or spectrophotometer.

The most significant distinction is in capabilities and application. Spectrophotometers are far more powerful than colorimeters and may provide more in-depth measurements, such as spectrum data. This is why they are generally utilized in research and development or laboratory settings for exact measurements.


From this discussion, deciding the right color measurement device for you depends on your desired application, price range, and instrument complexity. While a colorimeter may be more economical, it only measures the absorbance of specific colors and cannot identify metamerism. It may be ideal for those seeking basic color measurement or control without complex color analysis.

In contrast, a spectrophotometer may offer much more precision and advanced features, but it tends to be a more expensive option. For color management professionals seeking highly accurate color data, digital color communication, and tight color consistency throughout production, this may be the more useful instrument. Be sure to take your industry into consideration when deciding which instrument best supports your color workflow.


So, now you know everything about the difference between a colorimeter and a spectrophotometer. If you enjoy this article in Linquip, let us know what you think by leaving a reply in the comment section. We will be more than glad to have your viewpoint on the article. Is there any question we can help you through? Feel free to sign up on our website where our experts are prepared to provide you with the most professional advice.


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