If you’re professionally working with colour, it pays off to invest in a colorimeter or spectrophotometer. The only problem is that these can be quite expensive and bulky, and if your need is to compare colours, find colour harmonies and the RGB, Lab, CMYK and other colour space value of colours, this kind of equipment is overkill. It is where the $349 Nix Color Sensor Pro 2 tristimulus sensor is a boon to have.
Modestly priced usually means toy-like performance, but none of that with the Nix Color Sensor Pro 2. All Nix Color Sensors are calibrated in-house. The company claims the Nix parts will have no appreciable drift over five years with the sensor itself being immune to temperature and ageing because of its construction. Given my own experience with light meters and other colour sensors, including the i1Pro, I am inclined to trust that claim to be correct.
Drops might shift the optics and ruin the calibration, but then again, this is a precision instrument, so you should take care of not dropping it in the first place, regardless of how sturdy it may look. If you do care for your instrument, the LEDs will stay in calibration for thousands of hours as they only illuminate for less than two (2) seconds per scan.
More importantly, and stunningly I might add, the Nix Pro 2 has an average deltaE of less than 0.35, with a maximum deltaE of 0.75 at D50/2°. These claims have been verified and published in a Wiley publication on colour management and they’re very, very close to the values of the latest version of the X-Rite i1Pro.
Nix makes three models, the Nix Mini 2, the Nix Pro 2 and the Nix QC (Quality Control). The latter is a complete high-end system used to check and certify colours of things that range from pigment powder to whisky (using specialised powder and liquid test trays).
The Nix Color Sensor Pro 2 is aimed at colour consultants, printing press owners, photographers who print on large format printers, painting artists, architects, and layout and graphic designers. It outputs its measurements to match paint and vinyl (interior), as well as to values in the colour spaces sRGB, CIELAB, CMYK, HEX, LCH(ab), XYZ, ACES (Academy Color Encoding System), ACEScg, and Linear sRGB.
The device’s native illuminant is D50/2° with an expansion into A, C, D55, D65 and D75 as calculated illuminants. It’s controlled by two apps (Android or iOS — I used iPadOS) of which the “Digital” version offers automated colour harmonies. The other one, the Nix Pro Color Sensor app, lets you import custom libraries, offers deltaE equations (DE2000, DE76) and allows you to export scan data as well as customise scan settings (illuminant and angle).
When I received the Nix Color Sensor Pro 2, I was taken by the cute packaging. The Nix Pro is very small, which was the second surprise — much smaller than you’d guess from looking at the images on the website. It’s a quite sturdy octagon. Out of the box, the unit wasn’t charged, which took some five hours with the included USB cable. A full charge should allow you to get about 5000 scans out of it.
The Nix Pro is individually calibrated in the manufacturer’s lab with proprietary calibration methods, which are meant to give you reliable and accurate data without using a calibration chip. The Nix QC, however, does come with a ceramic calibration tile. Of course, your device is only as accurate as your calibration card/tile. In damp, dirty, or dusty environments, a traditional calibration tile will drift after a while, causing inaccurate readings.
Using the Nix Color Sensor Pro 2
The two apps that I downloaded, Nix Digital and Nix Pro Color Sensor, offer a simple UI and a no-frills user experience, with the Pro Color Sensor app delivering the most in terms of customising. Both apps are cleanly designed with a large depiction of the octagon at the top and the readouts at the bottom.
The comparison feature in the Nix Pro Color Sensor app is well done. It shows the colour chips next to each other after scanning each of them or loading saved swatches. Scanning can be done by simply tapping on the hexagon or on the tap bar at the bottom of the screen. The colour space readouts (Lab, RGB…) are listed below the chip and you can change the number of them to be displayed, the order in which they show up, etc.
Readouts are extremely accurate. My test unit reported all the grey, black and white, and colour patches on my X-Rite ColorChecker, SpyderCheckr colour charts and the Pantone Goe colour deck accurately.
The apps also have very useful features. The Colour Harmonies feature of the Nix Digital app, for example, is very interesting for artists (paint, drawing, graphic design). It is especially useful to quickly see which colours are complementary or tetradic, triadic, etc, when colours are dull or dark.
Use case scenarios
The Compare feature in the Nix Pro Color Sensor app lets you check if two colours are identical or different, which is a fantastic feature, for example if you want to see if two batches of products like inks or — let’s say Liquitex or Golden acrylic — paint, are identical.
Art painters and graphics designers can also create their own colour libraries by scanning self-made chips of their pure and mixed colours. As the app lets you add a description, you can write down the make-up of your mix, then, when you need that later on again — perhaps much later — you can start by looking up the colour in the database, creating the mix based on the description, scanning the newly mixed chip and adjusting the mixture if the measured values have a deltaE of more than 2 or 3. The RGB or Lab values will tell you which colours to add.
Another use case scenario is if you’re a photographer and have your large format photos printed by a professional printer. The Nix Color Sensor Pro 2 is a great device that you can take with you to check if the colours on the print are the same as the ones you had in Photoshop. Now I know the printer will be printing his Fogra or other control chips in the margin but they aren’t always helpful with, for example, skin colours that are off a bit. A quick scan with the Nix Sensor will tell you exactly what and how much of it is wrong.
Do you need one?
The Nix Color Sensor Pro 2 is available directly from Nix’s website or on Amazon and probably other online stores as well.