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Natural Palettes: Finding beautiful fall colors on the Bruce Trail in Hamilton, Ontario

Posted by Elaina Principato in Color Inspiration | 1 comments


The Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest footpath, and stretches the entire length (450 miles) of the Niagara Escarpment (a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve). It is one of the most beautiful places to be in Canada during the autumn months.

We went out with the Nix Pro Color Sensor to source colors for some fall palettes using hues taken straight from nature. Since the Nix Pro is small and lightweight, it fits easily in your pocket and is a welcome companion on any hike. By linking with an app on your smartphone, it measures the exact color of a surface and saves it for later in a matter of seconds, and can even provide best matches in paint brands like Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams without having to bring items to the paint store. It’s like a tape measure for color.

Want to look at all the colors we found on our hike? Click here to see them.


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Matthew Sheridan Named Finalist in Ontario Business Achievement Awards

Posted by Elaina Principato in Company Updates | 0 comments


HAMILTON, ON – October 8, 2015 – Matthew Sheridan, inventor of the Nix Color Sensor and President and CEO of Nix Sensor Ltd., has been named as a finalist for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, to be presented on the evening of November 25 at the 2015 Ontario Business Achievement Awards. The Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, is awarded to a young Ontario entrepreneur who has successfully built a unique and game-changing venture.

“It’s very exciting to be named as a finalist for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award,” said Mr. Sheridan. “I’m proud to be able to represent Hamilton at this year’s awards gala, as our success could not be possible without the most passionate employees, the best mentors, and most of all, Hamilton, the most startup friendly city in Canada.”

Nix Sensor Ltd. designs and manufactures high-precision color-sensing technology. Their flagship device, the Nix Color Sensor, is a handheld device that can measure the color of any surface and provide that information to the user’s smartphone. Unlike current solutions, like color fan decks and smartphone apps, the Nix Color Sensor’s patented design blocks out all ambient light and provides a calibrated light source to provide an industry-leading level of accuracy.

The Nix Color Sensor was launched as one of the first official Canadian Kickstarter projects, where it raised $70,000 – double its original goal. Since then, Nix has quickly found traction as a low-cost, high-quality color measurement solution provider in the Paint, Food & Agriculture, Printing, and Textiles sectors.

On October 2, 2015, Mr. Sheridan was presented with the Ernest C. Manning Award of Distinction and a $25,000 prize for his work in developing and commercializing his proprietary color-sensing technology, which recognized him as one of Canada’s top innovators.

“Entrepreneurs are the backbone of Ontario’s economic future and because of Nix Sensor’s game changing technology, jobs have been created in Hamilton and design professionals now have access to a cutting edge tool that allows them to succeed in their respective workplaces,” said Allan O’Dette, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “For all of these reasons and more, we’re proud to have Nix Sensor as a 2015 OBAA finalist.”

Nix Sensor Ltd. is based in Hamilton’s McMaster Innovation Park, and is a member of several Regional Innovation Centres and industry networks, including Innovation Factory (Hamilton) and the Ontario Centres of Excellence. All of Nix’s sensors are assembled and calibrated at their facilities in Hamilton.

“Nix has built a global reputation among color experts as an industry leader and problem solver. The early successes Matt and his team have achieved are helping to inspire the many young, ambitious professionals that symbolize the “New” Hamilton,” said Keanin Loomis, President and CEO of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. “One of the main drivers of our economy remains advanced manufacturing and we’re extremely proud to be able to say that every Nix Color Sensor is made here in Hamilton!”

In February 2015, Nix released the second version of their hardware, the Nix Pro, which features completely redesigned hardware and software. In addition to their success in developing custom solutions for professionals such as interior designers, paint contractors, and paint retailers, Nix has made consumer versions of the Nix Pro available for order at


Zachary Strong
Director of Business Development, Nix Sensor Ltd.
P: 905-581-6363

What is HSL Color?

Posted by Elaina Principato in Color Science | 0 comments


The NIX Pro Color Sensor is able to convert between any physical or digital color system in the world. Here’s a look at the HSL color system, which is used in image editing software.

Introduction to the HSL Color System

One of the most common ways to communicate color is through visual systems like charts, where each color has its own unique set of co-ordinates. For example, the RGB color system can be arranged as a cube with 255 discrete points per side:


Although a cube may seem simple, it is actually fairly challenging to visualize the differences between colors. In addition, identifying complementary colors is neither easy nor intuitive. The Hue, Saturation, Lightness system was developed decades ago as a way to evolve the RGB color system by making it easier to visualize.

How does HSL Color Work?


In HSL, the Hue determines what color of the rainbow something is. It’s represented in 360 degrees, like a traditional color wheel. One of the main advantages of HSL over RGB color is that complementary colors are located across from one another, which makes the whole system very intuitive.

Source: StackOverflow


The distance from the middle of the color wheel is called the ‘Saturation’, or how much of a given hue is present. Looking closely at the color wheel above, it is apparent that the color becomes brighter and more vivid as one travels from the center of the circle to the edge.


The Lightness value of an HSL color is in a third dimension, which actually makes the HSL system a cylinder:


As shown in the above diagram, the ‘Lightness’ of a color is a gradient between black and white, where the ‘bottom’ of the cylinder is a total black, and the ‘top’ of the cylinder is totally white.

Using HSL Color

People familiar with image editing programs might be more familiar with HSL than they realize. The main advantage of HSL is that it makes it easy to select a color quickly – otherwise, users would have to painstakingly adjust and tweak RGB sliders until they get the color just right.

Disadvantages of the HSL Color System

Although the HSL system is convenient to use, it isn’t particularly representative of how the human eye actually views color – this means it doesn’t translate well into other systems that have more of a scientific basis.

Charles Poynton, a digital video expert, explained the problems quite well:

HSB and HLS were developed to specify numerical Hue, Saturation and Brightness (or Hue, Lightness and Saturation) in an age when users had to specify colors numerically. The usual formulations of HSB and HLS are flawed with respect to the properties of color vision. Now that users can choose colors visually, or choose colors related to other media … or use perceptually-based systems like L*u*v* and L*a*b*, HSB and HLS should be abandoned.

Nix Pro Color Sensor App available for iOS & Android

Posted by Elaina Principato in Company Updates | 0 comments

The companion app to the breakthrough Nix Pro Color Sensor device lets users scan, save, share, and compare color using any color system in the world.

Traditional methods of color measurement, such as paint chips and fan decks, are inaccurate and unreliable due to varying light conditions and human error. The Nix Pro is a revolutionary device that blocks out all ambient light and uses a calibrated light source to obtain accurate color information, which is then sent to the user’s smartphone via Bluetooth Low Energy technology.

The companion app to the Nix Pro was released in April 2015 for iOS and Android devices, and can convert between any color system in the world. It can also save colors in an intuitive library system, share colors through social media or email, and test color quality by comparing scanned samples to known color values.


“Every viable color measurement solution in the consumer market today is difficult to transport, inaccurate, or prohibitively expensive,” said Matthew Sheridan, Founder and CEO of Nix Sensor Ltd. “The Nix Pro is the first color sensor that is accurate, portable, and affordable – it’s the Photoshop eyedropper in real life.”

The Nix Pro Color Sensor device is available for $349 USD, and the app is available for free. Upcoming features include the ability to match scanned colors to interior paints, as well as a color conversion tool. Users will also be able to upload their own database to the app and export scanned values in .csv format.


What is CMYK Color?

Posted by Elaina Principato in Color Science | 0 comments


The NIX Pro Color Sensor is able to convert between any physical or digital color system in the world. Here’s a look at the CMYK color system, which is used in printers worldwide.

Introduction to CMYK Color

The CMYK color model, also known as process color, was first popularized at the turn of the 20th century. After extensive experimentation in the 1800’s, it was found that cyan, magenta, and yellow inks provided the largest possible set of unique colors in printed media. Black ink, (the k stands for key) was added to the mix because it could not be accurately reproduced using the other three inks.

How does CMYK Color Work?

The CMYK color model is based off of the fact that surfaces appear to be certain colors because of the wavelengths of light they absorb and reflect. For example, things that appear to be red will only reflect red light. Objects that appear to be white will reflect all wavelengths of light, and objects that appear black absorb all wavelengths (which is why you should avoid wearing black in the summer to stay cool).


Image Source:

As a subtractive color system, CMYK color takes advantage of this phenomenon by depositing inks on a surface in order to selectively absorb certain colors of light. The light that isn’t absorbed by the inks is reflected into an observer’s eye, which results in them seeing the intended color.


As shown in this example from LCI Paper, different colors of inks are printed onto a surface in dots and then layered in order to produce the desired color. This is called ‘half-toning’, and conserves ink while creating the appearance of a solid color provided the dots are small enough.


Image Source:

The size and spacing of dots can be altered to produce the overall visible color. The dots are also printed at angles to each other in order to avoid creating unintentional patterns which could be visible to the user (called Moiré patterns).

How Do You Use CMYK Color?

Unlike RGB color, which is used in screens and digital display technology, CMYK color was created for printed materials. Where RGB color has three channels for red, green, and blue, CMYK color has four channels for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). Each of these channels is measured from 0% to 100%, and will tell the printer the relative density of each ink that is required. Here’s an example from our Real Color gallery:

CMYK (Dark Green): 70 . 17 . 64 . 1
CMYK (Light Green): 27 . 19 . 100 .0

CMYK vs. RGB in Photoshop

Some programs (like Adobe Photoshop) will automatically display in RGB color spaces, and so it may be necessary to change the color profile of the image if you are intending on using it in print.

It is also important to be aware that the RGB color space contains more colors than the CMYK color space. This means that some special care will need to be taken when converting files from RGB to CMYK, as some of the colors can appear dulled.

K=100 Black vs. “True” Black

Although it might seem counter-intuitive, using 100% black ink in process color (CMYK: 0 . 0 . 0 . 100) is not the darkest black possible in the color space. So-called “Rich Black” or “Photoshop Black” (CMYK: 75 . 68 . 67 . 90) is a much deeper black because it absorbs more light.

The reason that “Photoshop Black” isn’t often used in print is that the sheer amount of ink can rip lower quality paper like newsprint. In addition, for details like text, using too much ink can create a muddy appearance, which will affect readability.


Image Source:

For large areas that will be colored black, small amounts of other inks can be added to K = 100% to create a rich black without oversaturating the paper with ink. Some examples include:

Cool Black: 60 . 0 . 0 . 100
Warm Black: 0 . 60 . 30 . 100
Designer Black: 70 . 50 . 30 . 100
Rich Black: 75 . 68 . 67 . 90

What is RGB Color?

Posted by Elaina Principato in Color Science | 0 comments


The NIX Pro Color Sensor is able to convert between any physical or digital color system in the world. Here’s a look at the RGB color system, which is used in electronics and display technologies around the world.

Introduction to RGB Color

The RGB color system is one of the most well-known color systems in the world, and perhaps the most ubiquitous. As an additive color system, it combines red, green, and blue light to create the colors we see on our TV screens, computer monitors, and smartphones.

Although used extensively in modern technology, RGB color has been in existence since the mid-1800’s, and was originally based on theories developed by physicists such as Thomas Young, Hermann Helmholtz, and James Maxwell.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Some early examples of RGB color in use were in vintage photographs (the above photo was taken in 1861) and cathode ray tubes. In modern technology, LCD displays, plasma displays, and Light Emitting Diodes are also configured to display RGB color.

How does RGB Color Work?

The parts of the human eye that are responsible for color perception are called cone cells or photoreceptors. RGB is called an additive color system because the combinations of red, green, and blue light create the colors that we perceive by stimulating the different types of cone cells simultaneously.

Image Source:

As shown above, the combinations of red, green, and blue light will cause us to perceive different colors. For example, a combination of red and green light will appear to be yellow, while blue and green light will appear to be cyan. Red and blue light will appear magenta, and a combination of all three will appear to be white.

How Do You Use RGB Color?

RGB color is best suited for on-screen applications, such as graphic design. Each color channel is expressed from 0 (least saturated) to 255 (most saturated). This means that 16,777,216 different colors can be represented in the RGB color space.

Advantages of RGB Color

Almost every well-known application is compatible with RGB, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, etc.), and other digital editors.

Drawbacks of RGB Color

One of the major limitations of the RGB color system is that it doesn’t translate well to print, which uses the CMYK system. This has led to a great deal of frustration when people print out documents from Microsoft Office, only to have them turn out to be the wrong color.

In addition, different devices often use different types of LEDS. This means that the same color co-ordinates do not display consistently across smartphones, TV screens, or even monitors. This can present some unique problems for professionals who work with precise digital color, from special effects to graphic or print design.

How Do You Measure Color Accuracy?

Posted by Elaina Principato in Color Science | 0 comments


The vast majority of the human population is extremely sensitive to differences and inconsistencies in color. Intuitively, we are able to sense when a color is ‘off’. However, when it comes to scientific equipment and color sensors like the NIX Pro, it becomes necessary to determine the accuracy in mathematical terms.

Color “Co-Ordinates”

Color can be precisely described in several different co-ordinate systems, such as XYZ, RGB, CYMK, or L*a*b*. In these systems, different values are assigned to variables like L*, a*, and b*.

The L*a*b* Color Space. Source:

In particular, the L*a*b* system can be plotted as a sphere that contains hundreds of thousands of different colors. Each color has its own unique point within the sphere.

The “Delta-E” Measurement

In order to calculate the difference between two colors within the L*a*b* system, all you need to do is calculate the distance between their respective points in the sphere. From a mathematical standpoint, this is essentially trigonometry (here’s the Wikipedia article for the nerds out there).

Measuring the distance between A and B. Source:

The distance between two colors is known as the Delta-E, and is an industry standard that is overseen by the International Commission on Illumination. From a practical perspective, the average human eye cannot detect any color differences with a Delta-E value of 3 or less, and an exceptionally trained and sensitive human eye will only be able to perceive color differences with a Delta-E of 1 or above.

What Does This Actually Look Like?

To give you an idea of how different Delta-E values actually appear in real-life, we created the following sets of color swatches. Note that the quality of your monitor or smartphone might affect your ability to perceive these colors properly.

Delta-E: 12.78


With a Delta-E this large, the two colors are clearly different from one another.

Delta-E: 5.65


Even with a relatively large Delta-E of 5.65, these two color swatches aren’t incredibly different from one another.

Delta-E: 3.31


Delta-E values of around 3 represent the limit of most people’s perception. It may take a second glance to realize that these are two different colors.

Delta-E: 1.06


To the average person, these two colors will appear to be the same. Only a few people reading this will be able to detect any difference.

Detecting Color with the Nix Pro

The Nix Pro Color Sensor is capable of comparing between color samples to determine the Delta-E difference of two colors. This can be used on production lines, print proofs, and industrial processes to ensure color accuracy quickly, cheaply, and effectively.


Supporting Hamilton’s Startup Community; McMaster Spectrum

Posted by Elaina Principato in Company Updates | 0 comments


On Wednesday, February 25th, Matthew Sheridan and Zachary Strong of Nix Sensor Ltd. shared some of their experiences as entrepreneurs in the hardware industry at McMaster’s Spectrum lecture series.

Spectrum is an extracurricular program encouraging, developing and supporting all McMaster entrepreneurs, including students at all levels of learning. Over 50 aspiring entrepreneurs learned about how to apply the scientific method to their business, as well as the importance of resources, market validation, and capitalizing on media awareness.

NIX Pro Now Available For Purchase

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Following a Kickstarter campaign that raised $70,000 for the commercialization of the original sensor, Nix Sensor Ltd. has been gathering feedback from Nix users in over 30 countries to determine how to improve upon the original design.

In late 2014, the NIX Pro was developed as a vast improvement over the original sensor. Both the hardware and software have been completely redesigned to improve accuracy, usability, and increase the range of features available to users. The NIX Pro boasts:

  • Redeveloped hardware, software, and hand-calibrated devices that yield improved accuracy over the original Nix sensor.
  • Ability to compare between two colors and receive a Delta-E value.
  • A more intuitive app interface, based on extensive user feedback.

The NIX Pro will retail for $349 retail, but is available for only $299 until the first unit is shipped in March 2015.

For more information, please email

Nix at the Interior Design Show 2015

Posted by Elaina Principato in Color Industry, Company Updates | 0 comments


Although we weren’t exhibiting (this year), we had an incredible time at the Interior Design Show held from January 22 – 25 in Toronto, ON.

The IDS is a truly international conference, and we met designers, architects, and businesses from several different countries who were all passionate about good design… and great color! One thing we especially enjoyed was the space set aside for smaller businesses, designers, and boutiques to showcase their work. Many of these exhibits turned out to be our favorites!

As always, we had a Nix in our pocket to capture the color inspiration we came across. From the use of oranges to spice up a kitchen display to geometric modular flooring, here’s some of the things we discovered. We can’t wait to be back next year!