Introducing the ColorHug open source colorimeter

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been working long nights on an open source colorimeter called the ColorHug. This is hardware that measures the colors shown on the screen and creates a color profile. Existing hardware is proprietary and 100% closed, and my hardware is open source. It has a GPL bootloader, GPL firmware image and GPL hardware schematics and PCBs. It’s faster than the proprietary hardware, and more importantly a lot cheaper.

Making hardware does cost money, and I can’t give the hardware away for free like I do my other software. I’m aiming to do an initial production run of 50 units, but I’m going to need some advanced orders just to make sure I don’t get stuck with a lot of stock and no buyers. I’m offering a 20% discount on each unit, on the assumption the first users will be testing the firmware and reporting problems. If you want to support a cool open source project, I’m asking £48 for each unit, plus postage and packaging. There’s a whole website if you want to know more about the project, and there’s even a newsletter if you don’t need hardware, but what to know how we’re getting on.

I would very much appreciate it if people could publicize this project, and help me get to my target of 50 pre-orders.



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Richard has over 10 years of experience developing open source software. He is the maintainer of GNOME Software, PackageKit, GNOME Packagekit, GNOME Power Manager, GNOME Color Manager, colord, and UPower and also contributes to many other projects and opensource standards. Richard has three main areas of interest on the free desktop, color management, package management, and power management. Richard graduated a few years ago from the University of Surrey with a Masters in Electronics Engineering. He now works for Red Hat in the desktop group, and also manages a company selling open source calibration equipment. Richard's outside interests include taking photos and eating good food.

51 thoughts on “Introducing the ColorHug open source colorimeter”

  1. Have you considered a kick starter campaign? This would fit in well over there.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

    1. I’m going to send Graeme one and hope he writes a driver. It should only take an hour or so as all the processing is done on the device, not the PC.

      1. It’d be nice to – optionally – be able to access the raw data from the device, too. I know it’s only a colorimeter not a full spectrophotometer so uses are limited, but uses are sure to turn up.

      1. Do you have to be a US resident to use kickstarter?

        I’d also second its use; I’ve backed a couple of things there so far and would love to see your colorimeter benefit from centralised publicity.

  2. Great, I think I’ll preorder one. Do you think they’ll ship to Germany till the end of 2011? I’m moving houses early in 2012 so that’s why I’m asking.

      1. Then consider it official :) How do I pay? Upfront or when the devices are ready? Both would be no problem for me!

  3. What if I want one but are not living in the UK or USA? Are you shipping to other countries as well?

    1. Can I pay for Graeme Gill’s? I don’t need one (I have an i1Pro, a full spectrophotometer) but I’d love to support your work. It’d be much more useful for Graeme to have one (or more) for Argyll. If he has more, that means he can give some away to people who’d put them to best development use re Argyll, and that’s just great.

      If there’s anyone else who you think would benefit from one instead, let me know. Contact me at:

      $ base64 -d <<__END__

      I'd dearly love to see an open hardware spectrophotometer – and not just as a F@#$@ you to X-Rite – but I realise they're orders of magnitude more difficult to make, require individual calibration, must be massively more accurate, and are generally not a simple starter project. I'm still smarting from X-Rite's attitude about the i1Pro and how they force you to buy their software to get their hardware even if you just want to use it with Argyll, so I'd be glad to get involved if you *do* ever decide to tackle something as scary as a spectro.

  4. While I have no plans to buy your device in the foreseeable future (sorry), I was curious enough to look at the code, and found a few typos in ch_client_command_to_string (which will need corresponding fixes elsewhere too):

    > str = “get-integral-time”;
    > break;
    > str = “set-integral-time”;
    > break;

    Here, the enum entries are misspelled.

    > str = “take-readin-raw”;
    > break;

    And here, the command string is misspelled.

  5. –target (you got a new client!)

    That’ pretty cool what you are doing here!

    How are we supposed to pay? Paypal? Bank transfer?

    Let us now (and count me in!)


  6. Hey, very interesting project!
    You may want to look into things like – there really are quite a few alternatives to kickstarter out there and I think it could your product a lot of good.

  7. Here’s one pre-order. It may be worth clarifying the post to state how you’re wanting to get orders (IRC, blog, email, something else).

    PS. I’ll happily round up the order value to the full amount if I can get one with Colour spelt correctly!

  8. You may want bit of black velvet on the bottom of the box with a hole in it for the detector. This will prevent multiple reflections off the screen and the copper board, and may be a bit softer on the screen. You may want to spray the inside of the box too. As tings are, you may be getting a colour shift because light reflects off the copper on the board. This will not be much of a problem for a LCD but CRTs can have very thick glass at the front.

    1. The final production units will have a white foam mounting on the bottom of the PCB, as you’re right, the reflections can bias things.

  9. That’s a coincidence. For the past several months I have been contemplating such a purchase. This is interesting. Are there plans to eventually support printer, self calibration and Ambient capture? Of those printer calibration has my interest.

  10. Nice work.

    You could also think about hosting on/pushing your repo to, which is kind of a gitorious for Open Source Hardware.

  11. Does this deal with wide gamut monitors correctly? I have a Huey and it is decent under Linux… except it seems not to do a great job on my Dell monitor that has a wide gamut.


    1. Yes and no. For real wide gamut monitors you need a photospectrometer, but that’ll set you back at least $800. I’ll publish some specs when I’ve got some pre-production samples and you can see if it’s suitable then.

      1. An I1 Display Pro does not cost $800. Its cost 240€ in France. And it’s supposed to work on a wide gamut display. And it works great with Argyll.

        How does ColorHug compare to such a device ?

  12. My household financial officer as approved me for a pre-order.

    I’m in.

    What do I need to do to officially pre-order to make sure I get one of these?

    -jef”And it better be buggy as promised. Cuz if its not buggy, I’m sending it back. This isn’t going to be any fun at all if I don’t get to file any bugs”spaleta

  13. Any idea about the hardware accuracy?
    I heard the relatively cheap “closed source” competitors have quite some variations across different devices of the same series.

  14. Hi,

    This sounds like fun. I would love to play with the device. Please consider me as one happy customer.


  15. Great project, congratulations and good luck! I will try to find some spare money and order one :-) If I can find an RSS feed with news, I will add it to the Qi Hardware planet at

  16. Why are you using Google+ for the announcements? Why not diaspora? Would be better suited for free software if you ask me.

  17. I live in southamerica and have a acer 4736z, so mainly 3 questions: will deliver a deb to install? (i rotate distros in the debian/ubuntu family),
    2.could you send one to this side of the world? and how much it will be with everything
    3. If you could send one, when the colorimeter will arrive?

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