HomeElectrical ComponentThe Ultimate Guide to The Difference Between Colorimeter and Spectrophotometer

The Ultimate Guide to The Difference Between Colorimeter and Spectrophotometer

- Advertisement -

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 colorimeter and spectrophotometer is often a point of confusion for many color scientists.

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

What Is Colorimeter?

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.

Read More on Linquip
Your Guide to Colorimeter Principle

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. 

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

Colorimeter is an instrument that measures the amount 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 suffers less wear and tear during operation while 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, 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 the 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 spectrophotometer measures the actual color within the human visible light wavelength.  


The colorimeter uses a tristimulus absorption filter to isolates 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 analogue 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 identification and quantification studies of inorganic and organic biochemical molecules.  

difference between colorimeter and spectrophotometer

Read More on Linquip
Want To Know Everything About Spectrometer vs Spectrophotometer? Now You Can!

Spectrophotometer VS Colorimeter: Which Do You Need?


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 colorimeter and 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.

- Advertisement -

Recent Articles

Linquip Content difference between colorimeter and spectrophotometer
Linquip Content Managment Team

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here