Just what is a color’s digital reflectance curve anyway?

Objectively communicating a color like red to someone without some type of standard is difficult. When you have a standard and would like to compare it to a sample (with accuracy), you will experience similar difficulties.

The solution is a measuring instrument (such as a Spectrophotometer) that identifies the color. That is an instrument that differentiates a color from all others and assigns it a numeric value.

The measuring instrument perceives the color’s reflected light wavelengths as numeric values. The values are called spectral data, which is represented as a spectral curve that shows the reflectance of light from a surface (such as a fabric).

This curve is the color’s fingerprint.

Spectral reflectance curves are used to determine properties that significantly affect the quality of the fabric.

The key to streamlining the color development time is to replace physical color standards and sample with digital color standards and samples that is electronically sent between computers in the supply chain. This means that more than just a color image or swatch is sent, numerical color data is sent instead (or also).

The above left reflectance data from 400nm to 700nm represent the official color standard of a color, whereas the color standard swatch only give a close idea of the color. This particular reflectance data comes from a commercial color standard supplier.

It is noted by our experts that if you buy this color standard you and your dye house will have issues to match this color on various materials. This means that a re-engineering of the curve is needed. The re-engineered curve (that is possible to achieve in production on various materials) will look like the green curve above to the right.

Different terms with similar meaning
You might have heard different terms related to digital color communication and a colors numeric values, such as:
Spectral data
Spectral curve
Spectral reflectance curve
Digital reflectance curves
Reflectance curve
Digital standard curve
Digital fingerprint
A color’s fingerprint
Digital color communication
A color’s numbers
A color's numerical value
Numerical color data
Digital sample

4 important things you should know about:
1) When buying a commercial standard (such as from Pantone, Archroma, NCS, or Scotdic), you must specify that you would like to purchase the physical swatch and/or the numerical color data (comes as a QTX-file). Your dye house will not have the numerical color data if you don’t send it to them or ask them to buy it.

2) It’s is essential to have correct and reliable color standards. Not all commercial color standards that you buy can be matched on your requested materials by the dye house (this is true for physical standards and numerical data/digital samples).
(Click here to learn what most people don’t know about color standards)

3) We highly recommend you to go digital because this is most reliable and consistent. A reflectance curve that is feasible in production and optimized for different materials creates better color harmony and offers tremendous savings in time and dollars for the total supply chain.
(You might want to read this about the most common misconceptions about digital color communication and reflectance curves)

4) Many dye houses already use digital tools to approve colors. This means that you can capitalize on investments already made in your supply chain.
(Go to this article for a deeper understanding and useful background information about digital color communication)

Would you like to get started with digital color communication? Contact natific's support team at natific@support.com



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