Color Matching Challenges in Textiles: Detecting Illuminant Metamerism


Posted on February 6, 2018

If you work in the textile industry, you understand the complexities inherent to creating the perfect hues. From raw materials to processing methods, the final appearance of your textiles depends on a plethora of variables that must be closely monitored in order to produce the colors you want. As such, color quality control is a core component of the product development and manufacturing process, helping you ensure that your products live up to your vision.

However, the textile industry faces unique challenges when it comes to implementing robust color quality control systems. One of the most significant challenges is identifying illuminant metamerism, which can be a serious barrier to color matching. Without the ability to control for this phenomenon, your ability to achieve your desired result is compromised, potentially leading to unnecessary waste and reduced efficiency. As such, investing in technologies that can alert you to illuminant metamerism is essential to producing just the right hues.

What is Illuminant Metamerism?

Color is often thought of as a static fact—something either is a particular color or is not. However, the colors we perceive depend on three primary factors:

  • The observer
  • The object
  • The light source

Changes in any of these three factors can produce vastly different perceptions of color.1 Think, for example, of the paint color on your walls; chances are it appears to transform throughout the day as the light changes, despite the fact that both you (the viewer) and the painted walls (the object) remain constant.

Illuminant metamerism occurs when two colors look the same under one lighting condition but not another. This can create great difficulties for color matching; while samples may appear identical under artificial lights in the factory, they may exhibit significant chromatic differences when viewed in daylight. Suddenly, what you believed to be a perfect match is revealed to be an inconsistent pairing. Unfortunately for industries that rely on color matching to create appealing, high-quality products, illuminant metamerism is not uncommon.2

This type of metamerism is made possible by the fact that each object produces a spectral reflectance curve determined by its color. If two objects produce the same curve, they are an identical color match, and that match will be apparent in all lighting conditions. If two objects produce different spectral curves but those curves intersect at a minimum of three points, they may be metameric. When it comes to textiles, metamerism is more often observed when two textile samples are produced using different dyes or pigments than when simply using different dye strengths or concentrations. However, the causes of metamerism can involve a variety of factors, particularly if your textile sample is being matched to a different material.

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