Review: X-Rite measures up with ColorShop 2.5 upgrade

Review: X-Rite measures up with ColorShop 2.5 upgrade – Product Announcement

Bruce Fraser

In ColorShop 2.5, we see the first fruits of X-Rite Inc.’s 1997 acquisition of Light Source Computer Images Inc., which pioneered low-cost desktop spectrophotometry with its Colortron device. The $149 ColorShop 2.5 software has several new features and now supports two excellent X-Rite instruments, the Monitor Optimizer and the Digital Swatchbook handheld spectrophotometer.

ColorShop has a powerful set of tools for gathering and manipulating spectral and colorimetric data. The spectral data captured by the Colortron or the Digital Swatchbook records the intensity of light in 32 distinct, 10-nanometer-wide wavelength bands that cover the visual spectrum. The basic ColorShop package, when used with one of the supported measuring devices, lets you measure colors and save them in a palette. If you don’t have a measuring instrument, you can still use the tools with existing libraries of spectral data.

Besides measuring and saving colors, ColorShop offers seven tools for working with colors. The Match tool is like an electronic Pantone swatchbook: It offers access to the Pantone Coated, Uncoated, Process and Imaging libraries, as well as to any color palettes you create. It lets you find the ink color that will provide the closest match to a measured color under a specified light source. It also reports, in delta-e units, how close the match is.

The Compare tool lets you compare two colors visually and numerically. You can adjust the color of the background on which they are displayed to check the influence of surrounding colors or colored paper.

The Color Tweener tool lets you create new colors by blending two existing ones, while the Lighting tool lets you preview your color under different light sources.

The Colorimeter tool lets you convert your color into a variety of tristimulus spaces. New to Version 2.5 is support for the CIE xyY color space, particularly useful because Adobe Photoshop uses the larger xyY space to define custom ink colors.

The Spectrum tool lets you view the raw spectral data in graphic form. It’s probably more for academic interest than practical use in most situations, but it’s helpful for understanding how lighting affects the perceived color of an object.

The Harmony tool, which is primarily of interest to designers, automatically selects as many as six complementary colors for a single selected color. It’s a handy tool for prototyping and refining color schemes.

With the Colortron or Monitor Optimizer, you can use the Monitor Calibration control panel to characterize and calibrate your monitor, and to create a ColorSync profile. We ran into a color-cast problem with the monitor profile created by the control panel, but a visit to X-Rite’s Web site turned up a beta 2.5.1 version that fixed it.

More stuff to buy

If we have a complaint about ColorShop 2.5, it’s that three useful tools – the Density, Dot Area and Profile Viewer tools – that were formerly included in the basic package are now split across two optional, $95 add-ons. You can still use the tools from ColorShop 2.2 with the Colortron.

The Profile Viewer Toolkit includes the Profile Viewer tool, which lets you preview CMYK values for any measured color through any ColorSync output profile, and the Gamut Viewer tool, which lets you compare a chromaticity plot of the gamuts of two device profiles. Profile Viewer is useful for anyone who wants to match CMYK colors in non-ColorSync-aware applications. Gamut Viewer provides a handy visualization tool for comparing devices’ gamuts, and it’s useful for anyone building profiles.

The Density Toolkit includes the Density and Dot Area tools. Density, which supports U.S. and European reflective standards, is useful for process control and for determining ink limits. Dot Area is good for figuring dot gain and for helping linearize halftone output devices.

Both add-on tool kits also include the new Spectral Compare tool, which lets you plot the difference between the spectra of two measured colors. This isn’t something the average person needs every day, but it’s a helpful learning tool when you’re trying to understand why two colors that look identical in one light source look different in another.


ColorShop 2.5 is obviously much more useful with a measuring instrument than without, but shops could easily share a single instrument while using the ColorShop software on all their stations. Most Colortron, Monitor Optimizer or Digital Swatchbook users who work with Photoshop will appreciate the CIE xyY support as well as long-awaited bug fixes. For those who don’t own an instrument, the new software makes the Colortron and the Digital Swatchbook considerably more attractive offerings than before.

X-Rite Inc. of Grandville, Mich., can be reached at (616) 534-7663; fax (616) 534-8960;

ColorShop 2.5 uuuu

X-Rite Inc. List price: $145*

Hits: Elegant; supports CIE xyY color space; supports X-Rite hardware.

Misses: Previously included Density Toolkit and Profile Viewer Toolkit are now optional add-ons.

*Upgrades, $75 to owners of the Colortron, Monitor Optimizer or Digital Swatchbook. Optional Density Toolkit and Profile Viewer Toolkit, $95 each.

ColorShop 2.5


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