At the only university in the nation offering this program of study, you will be exposed to the rich, dynamic field of color science through theory and practical application.
The study of color is a fundamental field of science that is dedicated to understanding the creation of colored stimuli, sources of illumination, and ultimately the human perception of color.
RIT’s color science degree provides a graduate-level study in both scientific theory and practical application. The program provides you with a broad exposure to the field of color science and affords them the unique opportunity of specializing in an area appropriate for their background and interest. This objective is accomplished through the program’s core courses, selection of electives, and completion of a thesis or graduate project.
RIT’s Color Science Degree
The color science degree is designed for students from a wide range of undergraduate degrees. If you completed a program in physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, engineering, neuroscience, experimental psychology, imaging, or any applied discipline pertaining to the quantitative description of color, this program could be a good fit for you
Color science is used everyday: in the design and control of most man-made colored materials including textiles, coatings, and polymers; to specify such diverse materials as soil and wine; and, in digital photography, desktop and projection display, and printing.
Where other programs may address just optics or just materials, just lighting or just perception; here you’ll learn the full range of color science. This includes the fundamental concepts of color science and its applications, as well as how to do research in the field and present it successfully.
RIT Color Science students work on projects including:
Color Perception in Assisted Reality/Virtual Reality
Color in Agriculture
Color Imaging (Cameras and Displays, e.g. smartphones)
The color science degree is a combination of required courses in color science, elective courses appropriate for the candidate’s background, and either a research thesis or graduate project.
For full-time students, the program requires three to four semesters of study. Part-time students generally require two to four years of study.
The color science program is designed for students with an undergraduate degree in a scientific or another technical discipline. Those with adequate undergraduate work in related sciences start the program as matriculated graduate students.
Students without adequate undergraduate work in related sciences must take foundation courses prior to matriculation into the graduate program. A written agreement between the candidate and the program coordinator will identify the required foundation courses.
Color Science Careers
Alumni of our programs are in high demand and uniquely qualified to address the full breadth of color science in multidisciplinary teams. Color science degree graduates have accepted positions in electronic imaging, color instrumentation, colorant formulation, and basic and applied research. A sample of companies that have hired our graduates include Apple, Dolby Laboratories, Google, Benjamin Moore, Canon Corp., Hallmark, Hewlett Packard Corp., Microsoft Corp., Pantone, Qualcomm Inc., Ricoh Innovations Inc., LG Electronics, and Samsung.
What makes an RIT science and math education exceptional? It’s the ability to complete science and math co-ops and gain real-world experience that sets you apart. Co-ops in the College of Science include cooperative education and internship experiences in industry and health care settings, as well as research in an academic, industry, or national lab. These are not only possible at RIT, but are passionately encouraged.
At the graduate level, and paired with an advanced degree, cooperative education and internships give you the unparalleled credentials that truly set you apart. Learn more about graduate co-op and how it provides you with the career experience employers look for in their next top hires.
National Labs Career Events and Recruiting
The Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education offers National Labs and federally-funded Research Centers from all research areas and sponsoring agencies a variety of options to connect with and recruit students. Students connect with employer partners to gather information on their laboratories and explore co-op, internship, research, and full-time opportunities. These national labs focus on scientific discovery, clean energy development, national security, technology advancements, and more. Recruiting events include our university-wide Fall Career Fair, on-campus and virtual interviews, information sessions, 1:1 networking with lab representatives, and a National Labs Resume Book available to all labs.
Will Wine Taste Different If You Drink It Outside?
Mark Fairchild, director of the RIT Color Science/Munsell Color Science Laboratory discusses his research, The Colors of Wine. It’s more complex than you think.
This course covers the principles of color science including theory, application, and hands-on experience incorporated into the lectures. Topics include color appearance (hue, lightness, brightness, chroma, saturation, colorfulness), colorimetry (spectral, XYZ, xyY, L*a*b*, L*C*abhab, ΔE*ab, ΔE00), the use of linear algebra in color science and color imaging, metamerism, chromatic adaptation, color inconstancy, color rendering, color appearance models (CIECAM02), and image appearance models (S-CIELAB, iCAM). (Prerequisites: Graduate standing in CLRS-MS, IMGS-MS, CLRS-PHD or IMGS-PHD.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Color Physics and Applications
This course explores the relationship between a material’s color and its constituent raw materials such as colorants, binding media, substrates, and overcoats. These can be determined using a variety of physical models based on absorption, scattering, luminescence, and interference phenomena. These models enable the production of paints, plastics, colored paper, printing, and others to have specific colors. Accompanying laboratories will implement and optimize these models using filters, artist opaque and translucent paints and varnishes including metallic and pearlescent colorants, and inkjet printing. Statistical techniques include principal component analysis and linear and nonlinear optimization. (Prerequisites: CLRS-601 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Computational Vision Science
Computational Vision Science This course provides an introduction to modern computer-based methods for the measurement and modeling of human vision. Lectures will introduce the experimental techniques of visual psychophysics including threshold measurement, psychometric functions, signal detection theory, and indirect, direct, and multidimensional scaling. Lectures will also introduce the MATLAB technical computing environment and will teach how to use MATLAB to run computer-based psychophysical experiments and to analyze experimental data and visualize results. Laboratory exercises will provide practical experience in using computer-based tools to conduct psychophysical experiments and to develop computational models of the results. Prior experience in vision science and/or scientific computing will be helpful but is not required. (Prerequisites: Graduate standing in CLRS-MS, IMGS-MS, CLRS-PHD or IMGS-PHD.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Historical Research Perspectives
Historical Research Perspectives is a weekly forum in which students will learn about historical and classic topics in color science. The course focuses on journal club discussions of papers selected by the students and faculty. It also includes oral presentations from students, laboratory staff, and faculty as well as visiting speakers from within and external to RIT. Students will prepare their own oral presentations and written assignments based on the course readings and independent research. Students will develop professional skills required for formal scientific presentations and writing. (Prerequisites: Graduate standing in CLRS-MS or CLRS-PHD.) Seminar 1 (Fall).
Research and Publication Methods
Color Science Seminar II is a weekly forum in which students will learn about current research topics in color science. The course focuses on journal club discussions of papers selected by the students and faculty. It also includes oral presentations from students, laboratory staff, and faculty as well as visiting speakers from within and external to RIT. Students will prepare their own oral presentations and written assignments based on the course readings and independent research. Students will further develop professional skills required for formal scientific presentations and writing. A draft thesis or dissertation proposal will also be prepared. (Prerequisites: CLRS-750 or equivalent course.) Seminar 2 (Spring).
Modeling Visual Perception
This course presents the transition from the measurement of color matches and differences to the description and measurement of color appearance in complex visual stimuli. This seminar course is based mainly on review and student-led discussion of primary references. Topics include: appearance terminology, appearance phenomena, viewing conditions, chromatic adaptation, color appearance modeling, image appearance, image quality, and material appearance. (Prerequisites: CRLS-601 and CLRS-720 or equivalent courses.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Research & Thesis
Masters-level research by the candidate on an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the research advisor. (Enrollment in this course requires permission from the department offering the course.) Thesis (Fall, Spring, Summer).
Total Semester Credit Hours
Admissions and Financial Aid
This program is available on-campus only.
January 15 priority deadline, rolling thereafter
Full-time study is 9+ semester credit hours.
Part-time study is 1‑8 semester credit hours.
International students requiring a visa to study at the RIT Rochester campus must study full‑time.
To be considered for admission to the Color Science MS program, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:
International applicants whose native language is not English must submit one of the following official English language test scores. Some international applicants may be considered for an English test requirement waiver.
International students below the minimum requirement may be considered for conditional admission. Each program requires balanced sub-scores when determining an applicant’s need for additional English language courses.
Research conducted in the color science master's degree program revolves around the activities of the Munsell Color Science Laboratory, which is the pre-eminent academic laboratory in the country devoted to color science. Research is currently exploring:
color appearance modeling
spectral-based image capture
reproduction of artwork
The Munsell Laboratory has many industrial relationships that can provide you with summer and full-time job opportunities across the United States and abroad.
RIT’s color science program is partnering with counterparts from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to provide faculty and students new foreign exchange learning opportunities. The Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills awarded a 3 million Norwegian Krone (roughly $300,000) UTFORSK grant to fund travel opportunities for graduate students and faculty involved with both programs.
Eleven RIT alumni have been awarded Distinguished Alumni Awards for the 2022-2023 year. It is the highest award an RIT college can bestow upon its alumni and recognizes alumni who have performed at the highest levels of their profession or who have contributed to the advancement and leadership of civic, philanthropic, or service organizations. The 2022-2023 recipients will be honored during presentations throughout the academic year.