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Colorimetry vs. Spectrophotometry: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 11, 2024
Colorimetry measures the intensity of colors in a substance, while spectrophotometry measures the amount of light absorbed by a solution across a spectrum of wavelengths.

Key Differences

Colorimetry involves the quantitative determination of color intensity or concentration of color-producing substances. Spectrophotometry, on the other hand, quantitatively measures the absorption or transmission of light by a solution across a range of wavelengths.
In colorimetry, specific wavelengths are used to measure the absorbance related to the color of a sample, often with the use of filters. Spectrophotometry measures the intensity of light across a broad spectrum, providing detailed information about the substance.
Colorimetry is simpler and less detailed, typically used for straightforward analysis of colored solutions. Spectrophotometry offers more detailed analysis, including information on molecular structure and concentration of the analyte.
The equipment used in colorimetry is generally simpler and less expensive than that used in spectrophotometry. Spectrophotometers, with their ability to scan across wavelengths, are more complex and versatile in various scientific applications.
Colorimetry is often used in water testing, food quality control, and blood analysis. Spectrophotometry has broader applications, including chemical analysis, biochemistry, and pharmaceuticals.

Comparison Chart

Measurement Focus

Color intensity of substances.
Light absorption across a spectrum.


Less complex, often uses filters.
More complex, measures a range of wavelengths.

Information Provided

Basic concentration or color intensity.
Detailed molecular information.

Equipment Cost

Generally less expensive.
More expensive due to advanced technology.


Water testing, food quality, blood tests.
Biochemistry, pharmaceuticals, chemical analysis.

Colorimetry and Spectrophotometry Definitions


Analyzing the concentration of colored compounds.
Food dye concentration in drinks was measured using colorimetry.


Measures light absorption at various wavelengths.
Spectrophotometry helped identify the unknown compound's spectral signature.


Involves comparison of a sample's color to standard colors.
The colorimetry test matched the sample's color to known standards.


Analyzes substances based on light spectrum interaction.
Protein concentrations were measured using spectrophotometry.


Uses selective absorption of light by colored substances.
The purity of wastewater was assessed with colorimetry.


Involves quantitative analysis of molecular components.
Pharmaceutical ingredients were quantified through spectrophotometry.


Measurement of color intensity in solutions.
Colorimetry was used to determine the chlorine levels in the pool water.


Provides insight into chemical structure and concentration.
The researcher used spectrophotometry to study reaction kinetics.


Any of various instruments used to determine or specify colors, as by comparison with spectroscopic or visual standards.


Utilizes full spectrum of light for detailed analysis.
The spectrophotometry results showed different absorbance peaks.


An instrument that measures the concentration of a known constituent of a solution by comparison with colors of standard solutions of that constituent.


An instrument used to determine the relative intensity of various wavelengths in a spectrum of light.


The science of measuring colours and assigning them numeric values.


The quantitative analysis of electromagnetic spectra by use of a spectrophotometer; especially in order to determine the structure or quantity of a substance


(analytical chemistry) Analysis involving the quantitative measurement of colour.


The art of comparing, photometrically, the brightness of two spectra, wave length by wave length; the use of the spectrophotometer.


The quantitative determination of the depth of color of a substance.


The art or process of measuring the degree of absorption of light at different wavelengths by a chemical substance, by means of a spectrometer or spectrophotometer. It is a technique for chemical analysis.


A method of quantitative chemical analysis based upon the comparison of the depth of color of a solution with that of a standard liquid.


Quantitative chemical analysis by color using a colorimeter


A method to quantify color using visible light.
Blood samples were analyzed for hemoglobin levels through colorimetry.


Are colorimetry instruments expensive?

They are generally less expensive than spectrophotometers.

Can colorimetry identify chemical structures?

No, it primarily measures color intensity.

What does colorimetry measure?

The intensity of colors in a substance.

What type of light does spectrophotometry use?

It uses a broad range of the light spectrum.

What is spectrophotometry used for?

Measuring light absorption across different wavelengths.

Can colorimetry measure non-colored substances?

No, it is limited to colored compounds.

Is spectrophotometry suitable for complex mixtures?

Yes, it can analyze complex mixtures in detail.

Is spectrophotometry more detailed than colorimetry?

Yes, it provides more comprehensive molecular information.

Does colorimetry require specialized training?

It requires basic training, less than spectrophotometry.

What is a common application of colorimetry?

Water quality testing and food color analysis.

Can spectrophotometry identify unknown substances?

Yes, through their absorption spectra.

Is colorimetry limited by the color range?

Yes, it only analyzes visible colors.

Can spectrophotometry measure concentration?

Yes, it can measure the concentration of substances.

What industries use spectrophotometry?

Biochemistry, pharmaceuticals, and chemical industries.

Is colorimetry a qualitative method?

It can be both qualitative and quantitative.

How accurate is colorimetry?

It is accurate for color intensity measurements.

Does spectrophotometry require a clear solution?

Clear solutions are preferred for accurate measurements.

What samples can be tested with colorimetry?

Any sample with color, like liquids and dissolved solids.

Is spectrophotometry useful in medical diagnostics?

Yes, particularly in biochemical analysis.

Can spectrophotometry detect impurities?

Yes, it can detect and quantify impurities.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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