# Convert spectral distribution to RGB color

Presume that I have a spectrum as a function of wavelength (an example being the blackbody spectrum):

I want to convert that to a single RGB color to display on-screen, i.e. the "color" of that object as it would appear to the eye. From searching, I can see that there are ways to do this with a matrix transformation for a single wavelength, but I was hoping someone already had a solution coded up in Mathematica for an arbitrary input spectrum.

• What makes you think that you can input an arbitrary continuous wavelength spectrum and create with a (highly monitor specific) mixture of 3 other wavelength spectra (namely red, green and blue) light which gives your brain the same impression as it would have seen the original spectrum? – halirutan Aug 15 '14 at 0:40
• @halirutan Within the gamut limitation of the display that is a standard assumption. It is far from simple however. Guillochon, even a basic introduction to color theory shows that this is not a simple subject. I am inclined to close this as "requires the services of a professional consultant." Without an algorithm to implement the vast majority of work on this doesn't specifically relate to Mathematica. I dabbled in this stuff in the past but I never knew enough to derive an algorithm and I've forgotten much. – Mr.Wizard Aug 15 '14 at 0:48
• @mr.wizard. The question isnt really that complicated. If there aren't any answers by tonight I'll give it a try. Shouldn't take more than 15 minutes. – Sjoerd C. de Vries Aug 15 '14 at 6:32
• @halirutan From reading about it online I agree that it doesn't seem too simple, however it doesn't need to be the perfect solution. Mathematica already has some color transformation functions available, so I thought there might be some easy way to relate the matrix transformations to built-in Mathematica functions. – Guillochon Aug 15 '14 at 12:10
• @Sjoerd I look forward to your answer. I don't imagine that the computation itself is that involved but the derivation is. Individuals see color differently, and perceived color depends greatly on contrast, illumination (both spectrum and intensity, e.g. Kruithof curve), field of view, adaptation, etc. I suppose though these effects are to be ignored and a "standard observer" used however. Since commenting I learned that version 10 now includes LABColor and XYZColor which if correctly implemented should simplify conversion to monitor RGB. – Mr.Wizard Aug 15 '14 at 14:37

I got my CIE color matching functions from here. These are the CIE 1931 2-deg, XYZ CMFs modified by Judd (1951) and Vos (1978).

{λ, x, y, z} =
Import["http://www.cvrl.org/database/data/cmfs/ciexyzjv.csv"]\[Transpose];

ListLinePlot[{{λ, x}\[Transpose], {λ,y}\[Transpose], {λ, z}\[Transpose]},
PlotLegends -> {"X", "Y", "Z"}]


Conversion of color temperature to XYZ tristimulus values is done using Planck's radiation law. Note that I make use of vectorization to calculate the integration of the product of black body radiation and the color sensitivity curves over wavelength. I also scale the output to make Y (more or less the luminance) equal to 1.

λ = λ 10^-9; (* wavelength is given in nm *)

XYZ[t_] :=
Module[{h = 6.62607*10^-34,c = 2.998*10^8, k = 1.38065*10^-23},
{x, y, z}.((2 h c^2)/((-1 + E^((h c/k)/(t λ))) λ^5)) // #/#[[2]] &
]


With V10 there are two convenient functions that perform the rest of the transformation for us: XYZColor and ColorConvert (updated):

ColorConvert[XYZColor @@ XYZ[temp], "RGB"]


Example:

Graphics[
Table[
{
ColorConvert[XYZColor @@ XYZ[i], "RGB"],
Rectangle[{i, 0}, {i + 50, 5000}]
},
{i, 100, 10000, 50}
],
Frame -> True, FrameTicks -> {Automatic, None, None, None},
FrameLabel -> {"Black body temperature (K)", "", "", ""}
]


Note that some clipping can take place in the conversion from XYZ to RGB (sRGB has a rather restricted gamut):

ChromaticityPlot[
{
"sRGB",
Table[ColorConvert[XYZColor[XYZ[i]], "RGB"], {i, 100, 40000, 50}],
Table[XYZColor@XYZ[i], {i, 100, 40000, 50}]
}
]


Scaling the XYZ values down somewhat (here with a factor of 2) may provide a solution in some cases:

ChromaticityPlot[
{
"sRGB",
Table[ColorConvert[XYZColor[XYZ[i]/2], "RGB"], {i, 100, 40000, 50}],
Table[XYZColor@XYZ[i], {i, 100, 40000, 50}]
}
]


• Nice! I wasn't too far wrong then, just got the normalisation wrong (as I suspected). It seems that the built-in "BlackBodySpectrum" is not quite right. – Simon Woods Aug 15 '14 at 21:05
• @SimonWoods Color science borders on black magic. – Sjoerd C. de Vries Aug 15 '14 at 21:31
• @Sjoerd Please check the definition for XYZ: isn't there a misprint in your code? I cannot reproduce your plots under Win7 x64 with MMa 10.0.0. – Alexey Popkov Aug 16 '14 at 10:12
• @AlexeyPopkov I forgot to copy the line of code that gives the downloaded wavelengths the proper size (nm). Added now; thanks for pointing this out. – Sjoerd C. de Vries Aug 16 '14 at 12:07
• @Sjoerd Thanks, reproduced now. – Alexey Popkov Aug 16 '14 at 12:12

I thought I'd share my attempt at this, even though it doesn't seem to have worked properly.

The CIE color matching functions are tabulated in the ImageColorOperationsDump context which is used by ChromaticityPlot. The context can be loaded by calling ChromaticityPlot and then we can interpolate the data to obtain functions:

ChromaticityPlot["RGB"];

{x, y, z} = Interpolation[
Thread[{ImageColorOperationsDump$wavelengths, #}]] & /@ Transpose[ImageColorOperationsDumptris]; Plot[{x[λ], y[λ], z[λ]}, {λ, 385, 745}, PlotStyle -> {Red, Green, Blue}]  The X, Y and Z tristimulus values are obtained by integrating the functions over the spectrum, so define the spectrum and the integration: h = 6.63*^-34; c = 3.0*^8; k = 1.38*^-23; nm = 10^-9; spectrum[T_, λ_] := (λ nm)^-5/(Exp[h c/(λ nm k T)] - 1) xyzcolor[T_] := NIntegrate[Through[{x, y, z}[λ]] spectrum[T, λ], {λ, 385, 745}]/ NIntegrate[spectrum[T, λ], {λ, 385, 745}]  I've normalised the integral by the total power in the spectrum, but this may not be the correct approach. ColorConvert can be used to convert the XYZ color to RGB. Note that I had to multiply the XYZ color by an arbitrary constant to get the results not to be too dark (this is why I'm not sure about the normalisation). rgbcolor[T_] := ColorConvert[3 xyzcolor[T], "XYZ" -> "RGB"]  Here are the colors obtained for temperatures from 500K to 8000K (bottom row) with the results from the built-in "BlackBodySpectrum" above. Graphics[Table[{ rgbcolor[500 t], Disk[{t, 0}, 0.4], ColorData["BlackBodySpectrum"][500 t], Disk[{t, 1}, 0.4]}, {t, 16}], Background -> Black]  They are clearly rather different :-( • Yours might be closer to Wikipedia's than to Mma's. +1 for the spelunking at least. – Michael E2 Aug 15 '14 at 19:34 • I guess 500K should be somewhat dark. – Michael E2 Aug 15 '14 at 19:45 • @MichaelE2, I enjoy a bit of spelunking, but it does frustrate me sometimes that gems like CIE color matching functions are built in but not made easily available. – Simon Woods Aug 15 '14 at 21:14 • @SimonWoods Can you show me how to do it for a given spectrum ? mathematica.stackexchange.com/questions/170498/… – james Apr 5 '18 at 18:57 Here, finally, is the direct analog of newVisibleSpectrum from this answer, which can be used to replace ColorData["BlackBodySpectrum"]. ChromaticityPlot; (* pre-load internals *) newBlackBodySpectrum[t_?NumericQ] := With[{planck = 1/((Exp[1.43877696*^7/(# t)] - 1) #^5) &}, XYZColor @@ ({{1.0478112, 0.022886602, -0.050126976}, (* Bradford D65 -> D50 *) {0.029542398, 0.9904844, -0.017049096}, {-0.0092344897, 0.015043617, 0.75213163}} . Normalize[planck[ImageColorOperationsDump$wavelengths] .
ImageColorOperationsDumptris, #[[2]] &])]


The Bradford chromatic adaptation matrix was needed here since Mathematica assumes a D50 whitepoint for XYZColor[] (see the docs for ColorConvert[]).

Now, 6500 K corresponds to white, as it is supposed to be for D65:

ColorConvert[newBlackBodySpectrum[6500], RGBColor]

Graphics[{newBlackBodySpectrum[6500], Disk[]}]


Compare:

GraphicsColumn[{DensityPlot[x, {x, 1000, 10000}, {y, 0, 1500},
AspectRatio -> Automatic, PlotPoints -> {200, 3},
ColorFunction -> "BlackBodySpectrum",
ColorFunctionScaling -> False,
PlotLabel -> "BlackBodySpectrum"],
DensityPlot[x, {x, 1000, 10000}, {y, 0, 1500},
AspectRatio -> Automatic, PlotPoints -> {200, 3},
ColorFunction -> newBlackBodySpectrum,
ColorFunctionScaling -> False,
PlotLabel -> "newBlackBodySpectrum"]}]


Borrowing the analytically-fitted color matching functions cieX, cieY, cieZ and sRGBGamma from this answer, here is a function for generating the colors of the black body spectrum. The conversion being done here assumes a luminance (Y in the XYZ system) of 1:

With[{planck = 1/((Exp[1.43877696*^7/(#1 #2)] - 1) #1^5) &,
tab = Through[{cieX, cieY, cieZ}[Range[380, 780]]]},

myBlackBodySpectrum[t_?NumericQ] := RGBColor @@ Clip[sRGBGamma[
{{3.2404542, -1.5371385, -0.49853141},
{-0.96926603, 1.8760108, 0.041556017},
{0.055643431, -0.20402591, 1.0572252}} .
Normalize[tab.planck[Range[380, 780], t], #[[2]] &]], {0, 1}]]


(For version 10, see my other answer).

Compare:

GraphicsColumn[{DensityPlot[x, {x, 1000, 10000}, {y, 0, 1500},
AspectRatio -> Automatic, PlotPoints -> {200, 3},
ColorFunction -> "BlackBodySpectrum",
ColorFunctionScaling -> False,
PlotLabel -> "BlackBodySpectrum"],
DensityPlot[x, {x, 1000, 10000}, {y, 0, 1500},
AspectRatio -> Automatic, PlotPoints -> {200, 3},
ColorFunction -> myBlackBodySpectrum,
ColorFunctionScaling -> False,
PlotLabel -> "myBlackBodySpectrum"]}]
`

• I note an issue with this effort: the white point is not as it should be. My display is calibrated for 6500K so that should look white, i.e. it should match the background of the page. Instead 5000K looks white. Would you be willing to take a look at that? (Edit: I guess my display is irrelevant; the point is that it is calibrated for sRGB which is 6500K, and I think this spectrum is also supposed to be rendered in sRGB, but it does not seem right.) – Mr.Wizard Aug 2 '15 at 22:00
• I finally figured it out; I should not have used the D50-adapted matrix (which explains why the white point was at 5000 K). I have made the necessary changes here (and in my other answer). – J. M. will be back soon May 24 '16 at 21:05