Palette Cube Portable Color digitizer

Palette, a smal Australian company of enthusiasts, develops the Cube Portable Color Digitizer, a small, white cube-shaped scanner that stores up to 20 colours in its internal memory and helps designers and artists find matching colours. A smartphone/tablet app and/or macOS/Windows desktop app complete the offering.

The Cube fits in your hand, has a deltaE of 1 (an error that is indiscernible to humans) and matches colours with a huge number of colour and paint libraries. Its iOS app shows you two raw colour values in RGB, L*ab, CMYK, HEX and LRV simultaneously. It also simultaneously shows you two library values ranging from Copic markers and Holbein water colours to Dulux paint codes. Its main use is to inspire its owner colour-wise and make it easier to find the matching colour in any of the supported colour libraries.

The device is said to scan any colour from almost any surface. I tested that claim with stone, leather, glass, wood, metal, colour patches and blobs of fountain pen ink. With transparent surfaces, you’re supposed to make them opaque using a white sheet of fabric or paper pressed against them.

I found that the Cube itself is very accurate — it scanned most surfaces of which I know the L*ab and/or RGB values correctly. However, with some materials, the readings can be off. That’s also stated on Palette’s website. For example, a dark green leather document portfolio scanned as an RGB grey with a slightly higher green value, while it looks much greener to me. More to the point were my scans of Datacolor SpyderCheckr and X-Rite ColorChecker patches. These scanned well within a deltaE 1 range, at least the ones I could scan.

The Cube’s bottom with the aperture of about half a centimetre.

That didn’t go well with all of the ColorChecker patches, because the Cube does require a spot of about half a centimetre where you can press the rubberised bottom against the surface in order to block out stray light. The SpyderCheckr having much larger colour spots, it worked well and accuracy was great across the board.

The app

Accuracy is one thing, but the Cube is to inspire you and let you use scanned colours inside apps like Adobe Photoshop and Affinity Photo. To make that happen, you can share or export each colour individually with the iOS app, but there is no option to send an entire list of scanned colours at once to your Mac or share that list with others. In addition, the app lacks the ability to instantly create and share colours as a palette. If you want to do that, you’ll have to use the Cube Link app for macOS (or Windows).

I tried using the desktop app with my mid-2011 iMac, but that resulted in total failure. The app expects a Bluetooth 4 chip inside your machine. Mine has a version 2 chip, so unless I was willing to install a Bluetooth dongle, I couldn’t use the Cube Link’s ability to add colours to Photoshop’s foreground colour, import it into its active swatch or show me the closest PANTONE match.

I did find a workaround, but that involved copying each colour from the shared email message to xScope and then output to a Photoshop palette. A minor flaw is that you’re stuck with Adobe swatch support only. To get your colours to work with Affinity Photo or Designer, you’ll need Color Palette Importer, a cheap palette converter app for the Mac.

Conclusion

The Cube itself is accurate and works on most surfaces. Although its associated apps could in my opinion do with a feature update, the complete offering is a must-have for graphics designers and digital artists in general. The Cube costs €139.

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