Testing – colour communication & control

X-Rite’s Lucie Matuskova discusses colour cosmetics using modern instrumental methods, covering the key elements of determining colour: people and instruments; objects and samples; and light source

FM Hue: The Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Test is one of the most widely used tests in industries where colour decisions are critical


There are few things as hard to test as the colour of cosmetics – and probably fewer as personal to the end user. Lucie Matuskova explains how colour determination using modern instrumental methods is key to improving quality control and workflow in just about every step of the product life cycle

While components of a car or appliance all have to match seamlessly, women generally give cosmetics an even more critical eye when it comes to how well a nail varnish or lipstick matches their clothing and accessories. After all, one goal of cosmetics is to attract attention, so long as it is positive.

On top of that, women are exceptionally keen at discriminating between colours. Studies show that nearly one in every 12 males has some form of colour vision defect, but only one in every 255 females has deficient colour vision.

Cosmetic manufacturers face additional challenges, in addition to serving demanding customers. Many cosmetics now contain micronised minerals such as mica and titanium dioxide that are particularly hard to match with colour standards due to the way they disperse light. And many cosmetics in liquid or paste form are sophisticated recipes that must not directly touch the viewing ports of colour measuring devices or they will foul the sensitive instruments for the next reading.

But just as demands on manufacturers have grown, so have the number of tools they can use to ensure that their cosmetics are consistent from production batch to batch, as well as harmonising perfectly colour-wise with new lines of clothing and accessories.

Cosmetic manufacturers are employing new methods to improve quality and workflow in just about every step of the product life cycle, from inspiration to quality control of formulations.

Colours of cosmetics can be forecast months or years in advance thanks to new colour communication standards and systems used worldwide. For instance, Pantone LLC publishes its Pantone View Colour Planner based on the Pantone Fashion + Home Color System that predicts as far as two years in advance what colours will be popular for men’s and women’s apparel, cosmetics and beauty, and other industries.

Pantone started out as a manufacturer of cosmetic colour cards before it began to branch out as a colour matching system to other industries in 1962, and the company was purchased in 2007 by X-Rite Inc, the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of workflow solutions for measurement and communication of colour.

After designers have decided on the colour of a new cosmetic product, laboratory technicians and production personnel need to identify the colour and make sure it can be communicated properly throughout the supply chain.

To accomplish this, technicians and production personnel need three elements to determine colour: a person or instrument, an object or sample, and a source of light.

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