The use of colorimetry within industry has grown extensively in the last few decades. Central to many of today's instruments is the CIE system, established in 1931. Many have questioned the validity of the assumptions made by Wright1 and Guild,2 some suggesting that the 1931 color-matching functions are not the best representation of the human visual system's cone responses. A computational analysis was performed using metameric data to evaluate the CIE 1931 color-matching functions as compared to with other responsivity functions. The underlying assumption was that an optimal set of responsivity functions would yield minimal color-difference error between pairs of visually matched metamers. The difference of average color differences found in the six chosen sets of responsivity functions was small. The CIE 1931 2° color-matching functions on average yielded the largest color difference, 4.56 E. The best performance came from the CIE 1964 10° color-matching functions, which yielded an average color difference of 4.02 E. An optimization was then performed to derive a new set of color-matching functions that were visually matched using metameric pairs of spectral data. If all pairs were to be optimized to globally minimize the average color difference, it is expected that this would produce an optimal set of responsivity functions. The optimum solution was to use a weighted combination of each set of responsivity functions. The optimized set, called the Shaw and Fairchild responsivity functions, was able to reduce the average color difference to 3.92 E. In the final part of this study a computer-based simulation of the color differences between the sets of responsivity functions was built. This simulation allowed a user to load a spectral radiance or a spectral reflectance data file and display the tristimulus match predicted by each of the seven sets of responsivity functions.

Publication Date



This is the peer reviewed version of the following article:

Shaw, M. and Fairchild, M. (2002), Evaluating the 1931 CIE color-matching functions. Color Res. Appl., 27: 316–329.

which has been published in final form at doi:10.1002/col.10077. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

Article may also be found at: http://www.cis.rit.edu/fairchild/pubs.html

Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)


RIT – Main Campus