Colour and pattern matching

Lots of work for a client recently in the area of colour matching, and moving on from there, the more challenging problem of matching patterns (i.e. groups of colours, arranged into shapes or regions of different sizes).

Although OpenCV provides the basic tools needed to work with colour (primarily, the ability to switch between colour spaces like RGB and HSV), matching colours is more challenging than it first seems.  In this instance, we were trying to match colours as the human eye would perceive them, which is different from the simple measure of how ‘close’ two colours are in a simple RGB cube.  From there, a further complication is that much of the matching was done from photographs taken in the ‘real world’, where lighting and shading varies widely – even something which is the ‘same colour’ across all its surface may appear very different at different points in the photo, or across several photos.  Deciding what is a difference in colour, as opposed to a difference in lighting, is tricky, but there are techniques that can be used to help.  In our case, we also had to decide which part of the image was the ‘object’, and which was the background to be ignored completely.

Moving on to matching patterns adds further complexity.  Is it more important to match colours as exactly as possible, regardless of size/shape of the pattern, or vice versa?  We created a test set containing around 20,000 images to experiment with the best ways of finding a pattern that most closely matches another pattern, and have found a good balance – but it’s not a simple problem.