DIY Color Checker




Introduction: DIY Color Checker

About: Business Consultant, DIYer, Photographer, Hobbyist, builder, etc. etc. etc. AND THEN SOME!

Anyone involved in photography recognizes the ColorChecker (Originally Gretag-Macbeth, now X-Rite/Pantone). That 24 solid sqaures of color target photographed millions of times to verify color rendition, and adjust software and monitors to show colors as seen originally by the photographer (or camera!)  Read more here.

It is an important tool in any camera bag, and a requirement in studio photography for accuracy. A Color Checker varies in price from about $65-$120 (depending on country, store, etc.)

I already own a Gretag-Macbeth Color Checker (A4) size, but unless going on a serious shoot, I avoid taking with me, because of size, and you really don't want it to get dirty. So I figured I'd get a small (wallet sized) one (X-Rite or Passport)  to carry in my camera case.
Whaaaaaa.... it costs as much (or more with calibration software) as the full sized one.

I am cheap. Plus I own a full sized one. Plus I have a Pantone Color Specifier book (Used in pre-press and graphics work). And I am cheap.

So I set out to make my own!! DIY and all ........

NOTE: A color checker is an array of 24 scientifically prepared natural, chromatic, primary and gray scale colored squares in a wide range of colors. Many of the squares represent natural objects, such as human skin, foliage and blue sky. Since they exemplify the color of their counterparts and reflect light the same way in all parts of the visible spectrum, the squares will match the colors of representative sample natural objects under any illumination, and with any color reproduction process. ColorChecker Classic can also be used to create a white balance with your digital camera to guarantee precise, uniform, neutral white under any lighting condition. (Quoted from X-Rite)
Disclaimer: This 'ible is no way intended to replace or substitute the real thing, nor is it colorimetrically (is that even a word?) correct or scientifically made! I matched the colors from the Pantone book by eye, and put it together as a quick pocket reference. In a bind, it helps, but even I use the real thing when doing a shoot.

Having said that, let's go make one!

Step 1: Gather Your Parts!

Now, I already mentioned I own a ColorChecker, as well as the Pantone Color Specifier Book.

You don't!

So find a friend (or friend of a friend) who works in publishing, or printing, or graphics (prepress) and be nice to him/her so that they can get you the needed color swatches.
Failing that, go to a print shop and ask nicely for the 23 sample swatches. Most places will give them to you. After all, that is the purpose of these samples - to match colors to your printing needs. (the RED square was colored in with a red marker and it matched better, so don't ask!)
If your social skills are not good enough, then I can't help you. Sorry.

You will also need some black cardboard,
Some any other stiff card (black would be nice but anything works),
a cutting mat and a VERY sharp cutter,
A steel ruler,
paper glue of your choice (stick/bottle/tube)

You can use the reference in the next pictures to get the swatches or you cam match your own! Now this is where the "23" comes in. For the white piece, find the WHITEST paper you can get and cut a piece from there. Now you have 24!

Next step please --->

Step 2: Trim the Swatches

Cut them into even squares. Need I say more?

I have lined them to the pattern on the color checker. Have not put the white square in yet.

Moving on...........

Step 3: Mark Your Black Cardboard

I measured 15mm per square and 3mm spacing between each two swatches. You can make it a little smaller if want, but not TOO small that it becomes useless.

Draw the lines in pencil (it shows very nicely on the black card).

Have a stiff drink. Or two. (not coffee, makes you jittery)

Start cutting out the squares. Go slow and careful because you do not want to cut or shorten the strips between the colors.
The more careful you are at this stage, the better your end result will be!

If you are still calm and mellow (not drunk!) then you will have something like ....

Next step ------>

Step 4: Check Your Work and Match Size.

If you were patient, and cut carefully, you now have something that looks a lot like the pictures.

Match up the squares to see if you did a good job!

Step 5: Stick Down the Color Squares

Arrange the squares on a piece of hard cardboard, and start gluing the pieces in order.

I used the cutout as a template and drew the squares on the card to make it easier to place.

Keep your fingers clean (from glue) and press securely each piece into place. Alignment is not too critical as it will be covered by the frame. Just ensure that you place close enough to not leave spaces.

Almost done ........

Step 6: Assemble the Whole Thing

Put a generous coat of glue on the one side of the frame. Again, ensure no glue overflows on the outside. It's impossible to remove and will mar your end result.

CAREFULLY place the frame on the glued squares, matching all the squares to ensure there are no spaces showing.

The white paper around the squares is of the same thickness as the colored squares and is intended to ensure a good bond without gaps.
I added another layer of black cardboard on the back. Makes the whole assembly sturdier and it all looks quite good in black!

Place the whole thing on a flat surface, and put a heavy book on top. Add some weight and leave overnight to completely dry. I found the drill handy and just set it there.

The book " Digital Photography MASTERCLASS by Tom Ang" is excellent reading fro novices and advanced photographers. Highly recommended.

Go to bed, we will finish tomorrow!

Step 7: Let's Clean Up

Using your steel ruler and a new fresh blade, cut the frame about 6-7 mm wide all around. Make sharp, determined cuts so you have clean lines.

Round off the corners, makes the ends sturdier and less likely to "dog ear" and destroy all your hard work.

Final step: Get a black permanent marker, and run it around the EDGE of the cardboard assembly to cover up any possible flaws.

ADMIRE your handiwork. Pat yourself on the back.

Go on to read conclusions ................

Step 8: Conclusion

This has been a fun project for me and I hope I have helped you with making your own.

It is important you understand the disclaimer at the beginning of this project. You will see that throughout, the pictures I took were somewhat inconsistent. Like I said: there is no science in my project, and I was using different cameras at different times of the day without controlling light or anything else. Some pictures were shot with sun coming through the window, others with artificial light at night, and some others with northern light. The brighter reflections are from my laptop USB keyboard lamp!

A handy little device to throw into the side of your camera bag for that odd day when you need it and don't have the proper one with.

Compare the shots with my trusty assistants and both color checkers. Pretty good Huh?????

All comments and questions welcome! As always, if you like anything here, please do not copy it, just link to it.
And if you realy enjoyed it, then rate it for me! Thanks.


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    5 years ago

    Here is a color checker chart with colors in "Pantone Solid
    Uncoated" so you can use the correct swatches to make the DIY
    color checker.


    6 years ago

    Muito Bom. Fantastico.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I just finished making this. It will help a lot. Thanks for the write up!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Is there anybody (from Germany) who knows of the correct HKS N clips?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Hi there! I've just had the same idea myself. I've got a small Color Passport checker that came with my ColorMunki. It's great but it's too damn small for some shoots.

    I was thinking of buying a Colour (I'm British) densitometer to get the correct RGB/CYMK values of my existing card, and then matching it to the relevant Pantone uncoated cards. Does that sound like the right way to go about it? I should get as close a match as I can that way, right?

    Pantone make their own tool and I might stump up the cash for that as well. Thanks. Great minds, eh ;o)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Chris, terribly sorry for the long delay in responding, been traveling, and not paying too much attention (grin).
    You can certainly go about it the way you suggest, but please always note the disclaimer, that any method will NOT give you a true color chart, just a tool to help along!
    I own genuine color charts, and can tell you that in all my experiments, the match is NOT 100% true. Damn close thought! and a lot easier to carry in your camera case, when you need it. For actual shoots, use a true color chart unless you want to be fiddling around in Photoshop later.



    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    No problem, check the photograph in the article, I kept all the Pantone clips with their codes on them for that reason! If you have trouble reading the data in the photo, please let me know, and I will be happy to post them (or send you the original photo with better detail)
    Just remember though, that this is NOT exact, but the closest match I could get, and I do have an original Gretag color chart to match it to!