The Macbeth Color Checker

Click to enlarge
A few years ago I finally got a genuine GretagMacbeth® ColorChecker® for my birthday!  This chart is an important tool for serious photographers and film developers.  It provides a set of known reference colors which can be used as a setup and adjustment standard in film and video production.

This is a fairly good HTML approximation of a Macbeth Color Checker.  After comparing it to the real thing, I found the hues were fairly accurate but my computer monitor has a little too much chroma intensity.  The same HTML page looks very different when displayed on any number of dissimilar monitors.  (Try it yourself.)

 New!   Here are the RGB values for the Macbeth Color Checker.

Macbeth Color Checker Analysis and Predictions  by Joan Moh, Hon Mun Low, and Greg Wientjes at Stanford U.

On the scanner


The gray scale on the bottom row indicates clearly when a photo is under- or over-exposed.  In this picture the first three squares on the bottom row appear a little too similar.  The bottom row of the chart has four very different shades of gray between a white square and a black one.  So this picture, taken with a "surprisingly affordable" digital camera, appears to be a little overexposed.  The chart is sitting on my scanner, and is about to be scanned!


My lovely assistant


Here my lovely assistant demonstrates the proper use of the chart, standing in the middle of our vast suburban acreage.  Really, the only place I've ever seen the Macbeth chart in use is an occasional single frame in the leader of a 16-mm film, in which a lady is shown holding the chart for an additional example of realistic skin tones.

Here is another web page of people holding Macbeth Colorcheckers.


ScannedThis is the scanned chart.  Conversion to JPG format didn't help the image much, but this is another test for which this chart is well suited.  The Macbeth chart is supposed to be kept in its package, in a plastic wrapper which is inside a cardboard sleeve, in order to keep it clean and keep it in the dark!  Long term exposure to light would bleach the colors, apparently.



The Macbeth Color Checker is available through a number of internet outlets. I got mine through the mail from Edmund Industrial Optics.  You might try Amazon.  But of course the internet has numerous other sources including this one, this one and this one.

Also, just as interesting, the ColorChecker Three-step Gray Scale Card and the ColorChecker White Balance.

You'd better buy a ColorChecker while you still can.
More GretagMacbeth layoffs.  The dismantling of GretagMacbeth's facility in New Windsor continued yesterday [10/27/2006].  More of the color-management company's 60 employees were laid off, as the office prepares to close down.

GretagMacbeth ColorChecker®:  The GretagMacbeth ColorChecker® has been around since 1976 when it was called the Macbeth ColorChecker®.  Originally proposed by C. S. McCamy, H. Marcus and J. G. Davidson in 1976 as a test for photography, television and printing, it is still being produced and used for a variety of color tests and color profiling.

ColorCharts Lab Report.

GretagMacbeth Color Checker Numeric Values.

Technical discussions of the Macbeth Color Checker, seen on other web sites:

The Gretag Macbeth Color Checker is an array of 24 printed color squares, which include spectral simulations of light and dark skin, foliage, etc.  The Color Checker is used for precise color balance when shooting color film.  9:13 proportions will fill a 35mm frame. Scientifically engineered to ensure true-to-life images, the ColorChecker cards are designed to help you recognize, evaluate and adjust colors quickly and efficiently. Uses include photography, graphic arts, electronic publishing and television. *

One of the most photographed images in the world, the ColorChecker is a unique test pattern scientifically designed to help determine the true color balance of any color rendition system.  It allows you to avoid costly mistakes by checking for potential problems.

ColorChecker DC is specifically designed to meet the needs of digital photography.  Users can check and compare the digital reproduction of a real scene or a test pattern, make a white balance with a digital camera, or use the chart with camera profiling software to create an ICC profile of your camera.

GretagMacbeth is an international leader in color management tools.  A related company, Gretag Imaging, is in the high-end of color digital printing equipment. *



Frame on loan from "I was Framed!"

The Macbeth chart seems somewhat reminiscent of "Farbe Kontrolleur",
the classic work by Sue E. Generis (1899-1963).


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Updated November 25, 2008.

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