Pantone CAPSURE: Match the Color of Anything

If you’re a designer, you’ve been confounded at least once by the following scenario. Your client upends a full totebag on your desk and announces: “I found the perfect colors for our brochure, right here!” Out tumbles a bright tuft of orange carpet, a square of blue cellophane, a tangle of lemon-yellow yarn and a snippet of silvery-gray fabric. How on earth are you going to get accurate color-matches on all that?

With a shiny new Pantone CAPSURE, that’s how. This new hand-held device solves the previously perplexing matter of color-matching everyday objects for design projects.

Here’s how it works: you place your CAPSURE on top of the item to be sampled – say, that orange carpet mentioned above. Using its own internal light source, the device takes a digital reading of the color using a proprietary tri-directional image capture technology. The device captures up to 4 dominant colors from the sample object and lets you pick exactly which one you’re aiming for, on-the-fly. It also captures those subtle distinctions in shade that can be torture to match with nubbly or uneven color samples. The device’s internal light source means your color-reading won’t be distorted by the bad-fluorescents of the room in which you’re sampling. (The CAPSURE can theoretically take a decent color-sample in total darkness.)

Once you select a color, you can annotate each color with your notes — “living room drapes,” “accent color for throw pillows.” Your client’s inspiration-color is then instantly matched against Pantone’s combined library of up to 8,000 colors for the most precise match. (If you don’t own the Pantone collection including that color, you can limit CAPSURE’s universe to the Pantone products you do own for the next-closest match.)

The device suggests harmonizing colors, so you can bounce instantly generated  color-palettes off your client for a fresh reaction. Take the device back to the office, download colors to your computer via mini-USB, and blammo! Your most finicky client’s color demands are practically assured of a great match.

CAPSURE improves on a plain old digital camera for color-sampling in several ways. Its rugged construction makes it more portable than your usual digital camera. (With a battery life of 100 hours, its own finely calibrated light source, and on-device storage of up to 100 color-samples including annotations, it’s well-suited to its job.) Unlike a digital camera or your iPhone, the device is specifically designed to correct for faulty color-matches due to the room’s ambient light. Also unlike a digital camera, its color matches aren’t foiled by objects that are texture-heavy, furry, lacquered, or iridescent. You can be a positively lousy photographer and still do your job well.

Although an admirable piece of work, the CAPSURE does have drawbacks. Its launch version only works with PCs, not Macs — a major disconnect for designers in the United States who, to a (wo)man, overwhelmingly prefer Macs. Its pricetag — $649 — may give freelancers and smaller shops pause, although larger shops and agencies may consider it a bargain when compared to the less-accurate digital cameras they’re using now. It doesn’t yet include wireless functionality, so you’ll have to trundle your device back to a mini-USB-enabled, wireless PC to email those images you just captured back to your client. It’s also dependent on that wired old dinosaur-PC to maintain its charge; the device’s only power source is the mini-USB port.

However, if their track record is any indication, Pantone will iron out these wrinkles in short order. CAPSURE’s biggest strength will then fully shine through: a device that enables highly accurate color-capture and -matching from virtually any object, under any light source under (and including) the sun. That client who’s forever mailing you brilliant, previously un-matchable trinkets will finally be blissfully happy, on the very first try. That’s money in the bank right there.

More Resources:

From the Pantone Color Wheel to Pantone Bridge Guides

Color & Design, Imprint: Print Magazine's Design Blog, Jude Stewart

About Jude Stewart

Jude Stewart is a PRINT contributing editor. She has written on design and culture for Slate, Fast Company, The Believer, I.D., Metropolis, and Design Observer, among many others. She has authored two books, both published by Bloomsbury: ROY G. BIV: An Exceedingly Surprising Book About Color (2013) and Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage and Other Graphic Patterns (2015). Follow her tweets on color at

6 thoughts on “Pantone CAPSURE: Match the Color of Anything

  1. gwg

    Another color accurate option for about the same price is the ArgyllPRO ColorMeter application plus a ColorMunki spectrometer. Being more general purpose, you can use them for other color measurement tasks too. .

  2. Jude Stewart

    Good points gentlemen. Capsure is definitely designed for more fine-tuned usage (and prices appropriately). We’ll have to see what the next rev of integrated mobile cams from Apple and Android do to close the gap between these two.

  3. Jimmy

    Yep, James, but you  cant use that accurately on textured surfaces or under different lighting conditions. your phone’ camera is RGB, 3 channel, while this Capsure is 28 channel speficic spectral color measuring device .

    1. gwg

      > your phone’ camera is RGB, 3 channel, while this Capsure is 28 channel specific
      > spectral > color measuring device .
      The X-Rite specifications indicates that it is 9 band, not 28.

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