Yesterday Pantone announced the immediate availability of CAPSURE, a handheld device that lets designers and creative professionals measure and match color on almost any material. A similar product has been available in Europe since spring 2010, released by X-Rite for the commercial paint market, but this is the first time it has been marketed to the United States–with PANTONE Color Libraries included–and to the creative market in general.
“CAPSURE’s advanced image capture technology sets a new standard for accuracy and versatility in a portable device,” said Giovanni Marra, director of corporate marketing at Pantone. “The real power of CAPSURE is its ability to measure the color of any surface, including small, patterned and multi-colored textures and textiles, which can confound other instruments because of their textural complexity, and quickly match them to more than 8,000 PANTONE Colors.”
CAPSURE ships with the most important PANTONE Color libraries pre-loaded. Fashion designers and home decorators will appreciate the FASHION + HOME and PAINT + INTERIORS Library, but graphic designers will be most familiar with the PLUS SERIES, which is the next generation of the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM, and the PANTONE Goe library. These constitute almost all important colors for reproduction on paper or on screen, and more can be added through the included CAPSURE Sync software.
I’ve been testing the CAPSURE for a couple weeks now and have been paying close attention to the design of the device itself. It ships with a wrist cord and a carrying case that makes it easy to handle and it sports a nice design with a built-in calibration swatch that can be slid away from the sensor when in use and back to cover it when in storage.
One minor complaint is it seems I have to press and hold the power button when turning it on—a regular button press is not registered. I also think the CAPSURE is too large and bulky, which might concern designers who want the slimmest and most stylish devices in their pockets and bags. The device’s size is comparable to an old cell phone from the early 2000s. It’s perfectly at home on a paint salesman’s or press operator’s belt but it can look clunky next to an iPhone.
The device is easy to use. The sensor captures 27 images in under two seconds and triangulates the best color match it can. Note that the camera doesn’t work with light-creating samples such as those on monitors. CAPSURE can store up to 100 colors and it will also show multiple colors in a multi-color sample. It can also build color schemes or select related colors to help you create a larger palette. The screen is a bit small but the user interface works really well and everything is readable and navigable on screen.
You can also record text or voice tags with your color samples, which is really helpful if you’re using CAPSURE to catalog inspiring colors in the field. These tags can be retrieved with the CAPSURE Palette Application software, which also will bring color palettes into Adobe Creative Suite and QuarkXPress. Note that the Palette Application software is available only as a download after completing the product registration; CAPSURE Sync only updates the device’s color libraries.
Will it match?
I tested CAPSURE by scanning known and unknown color samples in a variety of materials including wallpaper, fabric, color laser printing and offset lithography. One set of samples came from a new Pantone swatchbook I unwrapped specifically to test this device. I didn’t know what to expect but I know how hard it is to exactly reproduce color, so I thought CAPSURE might come close to matching colors. I ended up being right.
The device measured a known sample of PAN 287 (blue) printed with a color laser printer and judged it to be PAN 7686. It also measured PAN 143 (yellow) as PAN 142 and PAN 179 (red) as PLUS 58-8. These are all close measurements and I was impressed the yellow measurement was one digit off. These results were duplicated by my scanning of a PANTONE Fashion Color Report produced earlier this year. CAPSURE matched one color exactly and on most of the rest it was only a digit or two off.
The most matches came from the Pantone swatchbook. CAPSURE did particularly well matching magentas, greens and blues exactly but had few exact matches with yellows, oranges, grays and browns. Even when the device could not match the color exactly it was usually only one number away. This might not be good enough when testing a print run for a difficult client who demands their logo reproduce exactly, but it will be satisfactory for all other situations.
CAPSURE effectively scanned odd materials and returned good matches of the colors. I recommend holding the capture button halfway when working with textures: the display will show a magnified view of the sample and you can move the device to capture the best section. One thing I noticed is the display shifts color depending on the angle you view it. Be sure to use the display only as a guide and use swatchbooks for confirmation.
Pricing and availability
CAPSURE ships now and the price is US$649. The device and software are compatible for both Mac and PC. (The Palette Application Software will be Mac-compatible in January 2011.) I don’t think I will keep the device in my bag of books and digital devices but it will stay on my desk and I think I could make it a regular part of my camera bag to capture color as well as photography when I’m traveling.