# Question about reflection densitometer & gray card

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by KenP, Jan 15, 2004.

1. ### KenPGuest

My question is this: what sort of reading should I expect from a
standard 18 percent grey card when measuring it with a reflection
densitometer that gives readings in visual density, cyan, magenta and
yellow? My readings don't make a whole lot of sense to me, I get:

V = 0.81D
C = 0.10D
M = 3.01D
Y = 0.37D

Does this make sense? Why aren't cyan (C), magenta (M) and yellow (Y)
all equal? And why does density read 0.81 instead of approx. 0.18?

Thanks for any help,

-KenP

KenP, Jan 15, 2004

2. ### The Black SheepGuest

The *reflectance*, R, of a grey card is 18% or 0.18

The Density of a grey card is log (1/R), or about 0.75

The V density reading you got of 0.81 is not far off, but the colour
densities are way off. A grey card is not perfectly neutral -
printing limitations aside, true neutral is not pleasing to the human
eye - but this is not acceptable.

When was the densitometer last calibrated? Was it in the right mode?

Stroebel et al., "Photographic Materials and Processes." Focal Press,
London, 1986. ISBN 0-240-51752-0

The Black Sheep, Jan 15, 2004

3. ### Stephen H. WestinGuest

Actually, to pick a nit, -log10(1/R). About 0.745 on my calculator.
Yeah; if you really printed something with those values, it would be
nowhere near gray.
Or is the densitometer designed to measure a single ink? Maybe it's
trying to take a monochrome measurement and deduce what that would be
if printed in each of the inks.

Stephen H. Westin, Jan 15, 2004
4. ### The Black SheepGuest

Uhm, no, the log of (1/0.18) is a positive number. Did you do log
(1/18)?

And 0.745 is *about* 0.75, particularly since most people use 2
significant digits for prints (and 3 for film) when measuring density.

{sticks tongue out at the nit-picker}
It would be green, actually. Instead of "not acceptable", I should
have said "ridiculous".
Or simply not zeroed? Or the lamp not allowed to warm up? Etc.

I have also used old densitomers that, when set to B&W mode, still
gave you CMY density values. Completely useless values.

Whatever the cause, this is clearly operator error (or some student
dropped the poor densitometer on the floor).

The Black Sheep, Jan 15, 2004
5. ### KenPGuest

I'm sure it's operator error, it's gotta be. The color densitometer
measures the individual CMYK cal targets approximately correct
(according to the printed density values on the cal chart). There's
"the mode I'm in."

And yes, I now understand that an 18% reflectance corresponds to a D
of about 0.75, since it is a log value (D is mathematically negative).
Googling around it appears that others also measure about 0.80 or 0.81
when measuring a gray card, so perhaps there's a small error due to
paper reflectance. I'm going to try and order that "enhanced" gray
card from Germany that includes grayed circles of 18% magenta, yellow
and cyan--it seems like I'm not quite understanding what the
densitometer is telling me (an X-Rite 408).

If I can figure out how to use this thing properly I'd like to make
some fade measurements on 3rd-party inks. That brings up another
question, however--usually fade is expressed as a percentage of the
original color. Is that to be interpreted as a percentage of the log
density value, or does the reading need to be converted back to linear
values?

KenP, Jan 15, 2004
6. ### The Black SheepGuest

Or some other factor, it certainly wouldn't look grey with thise
values.
IIRC we were taught that anything between 0.75 and 0.80 was good
enough. Keep in mind that there will be imperfections and batch
variations in grey cards, and it may fade with time, etc.

<Shudder> this is bringing back nightmares of shooting greycards under
dozens of different light conditions, and having to print the
resulting negs so the print was V=0.75 to 0.78 and perfectly neutral.
The numbers it reported simply do not make sense.
Good question. I would guess - and this is just a guess - that you
should convert density back to percentage reflection, and compare the
changes between the linear %R. I have no idea if this is the way

The Black Sheep, Jan 16, 2004
7. ### KenPGuest

Thanks for the reference, I'll look into it. Yes, it was my
fault--the densitometer unit was set to a memory mode that recalled
the last dominant color, and now everything seems OK. Only I'm
noticing that my "gray" cards seem to be skewed toward yellow or cyan
(and visually they appear so). What do you think "ideal" readings be
for an 18 percent perfect gray card for the CMY values?

KenP, Jan 16, 2004
8. ### The Black SheepGuest

You're welcome. Very technical book, the kind that you can use to
scare away first-year college students ("But I just wanted to take
pretty pictures!") and beat off would-be muggers with.
I don't recall the ideal values, I will try to look that up for you
tomorrow. Digging into memory, however, I think a Kodak grey card is
a bit magenta.

The Black Sheep, Jan 16, 2004
9. ### The Black SheepGuest

I can't find a source for ideal values, but all 4 numbers should be
very close to each other, and all close to 0.75.

For example, my grey card is 0.75, 0.75, 0.77 according to my own
notation on the back.

Note that there can be some surface variation in a card, we used to
measure the 4 corners and the centre, and then tale an average.

The Black Sheep, Jan 16, 2004
10. ### Bart van der WolfGuest

SNIP
That entirely depends on the ink and paper stock used. Besides, you'd need
Black in addition to CMY, because the impure CMY pigments result in muddy
Brown.

As another besides, measurements are normally expressed as specified RGB
triplets, or as Lab / XYZ values. CMY is only (?) used in process printing.

Bart

Bart

Bart van der Wolf, Jan 16, 2004
11. ### KenPGuest

OK, what I see now from a grey card (Delta 1 brand) on its matte side
is: 0.79, 0.80, 0.77, 0.80 for CMYK respectively. "K" is actually
termed "V" by this densitometer, for "visual."

The card has a reverse side that is also of the same visual appearance
except for having a semiglossy surface, but no mention of using this
is included in the instructions. Corresponding measurements on this
side are: 0.88, 0.90, 0.87, 0.89.

Interestingly, measurement of a fluorescent red paper sample gave a
negative result, the first I've seen.

KenP, Jan 16, 2004
12. ### KenPGuest

I'd left off the black (visual) reading, but when measuring my grey
card I now get about 0.79 for C, M, Y and also K(v). Now I'm curious
as to how much effect on these values is do to paper surface quality,
especially a glossy surface vs. one that is completely matte.

KenP, Jan 16, 2004
13. ### The Black SheepGuest

It is NOT K, it is not a measure of how much black ink is used.

Your card has an overall density to light of 0.80, the V value.

Your card has a density to cyan light of 0.79, to magenta light of
0.80, and to yellow light of 0.77.

You can give the denity value of your card as either 0.80, or as 0.79,
0.80, 0.77

Do not confuse this with the amounts of inks used in a CMYK printing
system.
I would guess this the paper's reflectance was outside the range that
the device can measure.

The Black Sheep, Jan 16, 2004
14. ### Bart van der WolfGuest

SNIP
CMYK depends on the reflective color (!) and reflection of the paper stock
or substrate/support, because it's a subtractive color model. The CMYK is
only for adjusting the reflection from that base.

Bart

Bart van der Wolf, Jan 16, 2004
15. ### KenPGuest

Youch! \$65, well it's probably a must-have for those working in color
printing and repro.

Got another question (now that the densitometer and I are getting
along better): Where can I find a listing of measured color density
values for the Macbeth 24-color chart? It's not hard to find the RGB
values used to create the chart, but the reflected color density
values expected from a matte example of this chart is what I need
right now.

Thanks for any help...KenP

KenP, Jan 17, 2004
16. ### The Black SheepGuest

Yeah, its a beast by any measurement. It was a required text in my
college photography program.
Good question, do the Macbeth chart makers have a 1-800 number? You

The Black Sheep, Jan 17, 2004
17. ### Bart van der WolfGuest

Bart van der Wolf, Jan 17, 2004
18. ### PardGuest

Pard, Jan 18, 2004
19. ### KenPGuest

KenP, Jan 18, 2004
20. ### Bart van der WolfGuest

Using the "ColorChecker Calculator", you could take the Log10 of the
reciprocal of Y from the XYZ coordinate, D=Log10(1/Y) .

Bart

Bart van der Wolf, Jan 18, 2004