ColorSay – Hear the world in color!

Hear the World in Color!
Now you can make the environment sound! By using the camera of your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, you can scan your surroundings and ColorSay will make the colors audible to you.

ColorSay calls the colors by name!
Set up one of five color sets for speech output, and ColorSay will announce the name of the closest known color. ColorSay identifies the color names in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Turkish, Russian, Chinese and Japanese.

ColorSay converts colors into tones!
Choose between different sound modes for sonochromatic reproduction of the color impressions. The dominant colors of an image will be interpreted as tones in real-time, which will enable you to identify the individual color families acoustically.

iOS Accessibility and VoiceOver
ColorSay is optimized to use the iOS accessibility features including VoiceOver, but does not rely on these in order to work without limitations.

ColorSay is a color scanner / color visor and suitable for blind users, people with color blindness, defective color vision, red-green blindness, blue-yellow blindness, color vision deficiency, achromatopsia, achromasia, dyschromatopsia, protanopia (red blindness), deuteranopia (green blindness), tritanopia (blue blindness), monochromaticity...

... and it’s for everyone who would like to rediscover the world of colors!


iPad - Area Mode

iPhone - Area Mode

iPad - Settings

iPhone - Settings

iPad - Point Mode

iPhone - Point Mode

iPad - Guide

iPhone - Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to improve the color recognition?
If it is too dark, try turning on your iPhone’s built-in torch light (provided there is one). You can do that by touching the upper right button within the App. Make sure it is bright enough and that you only see the color face inside the scanner window, which you would like to determine. Or you may try the Point Mode (see below).

How to aim properly?
In the center of the screen you will find a rectangle, which will be evaluated when determining the color. You should sight the face, which holds the color in question, inside the rectangle while not including any other distracting color faces at the same time (may falsify the result).

How does the rectangular rounded window in the center of the screen work after I launched the App?
The portion within the window will be used to determine the color in question. You may resize it with the circular shape located in the upper right by touching the arrow button with your finger, holding it down and sliding it diagonally across the screen.

What is the use of the cross hairs?
By tapping the button in the lower right corner, you may toggle between Point Mode and Area Mode. In Area Mode (resizable) you can scan a larger portion of the image. In Point Mode only the small spot in the center of the cross hairs will be exploited.

My favorite color “bluish radish red” is not available...
ColorSay mainly uses standardized color names. In future updates, there will be more color sets. Just send us the name of your favorite color and a matching color sample!

Sometimes my coffee mug is red, sometimes it’s purple and eventually it’s brown. Why is that?
The color interpretation strongly depends on the light conditions (brightness, day light, artificial light source) and the environment. ColorSay works best with proper illumination and white light (e.g. the iPhone torch light or regular day light).

Can ColorSay provide a compulsory color measurement according to industry standards (Colorimeter)?
No, unfortunately this is not possible due to the limitations of the utilized hardware. ColorSay may give a relatively decent color impression, but is not suitable for professional color measuring, e.g. in prepress.

The color names sometimes don’t match my personal estimation.
The color impression is mostly a “matter of taste” and differs individually. The colors in use are based on common definitions and due to the overall circumstances they are not to be understood as absolute measurements. Instead it is possibly just a good approximation, because it is always the nearest known color, which will be issued.

The colors look different on my iPad than on my iPhone or my aunt’s old iPod.
The various models and device types have deviating camera hardware (to some extend) or a different operating system. For technical reasons, the results might differ between models.

What’s the meaning of the Tone Modes?
Chromatic Scale
The tones will be generated using the well-known musical chromatic scale.

Chromatic Intensity
Same as “Chromatic Scale”, but additionally the color’s intensity will be expressed by loudness.

The sound is based on the wavelength of the light reflected by the current color.

The color components will be expressed by a triad.

The sound will be determined using a statistical technique based on the measured color values.

How does the setting “Exposure Control” work?
Once this optional function has been enabled from the App’s settings, the exposure time will be adjusted automatically for each camera image, if the environment seems too dark. Thus more light can be captured by the sensors and more information may be gathered, even if the lighting is not optimal. However, this might decrease the frame rate (for technical reasons) so that the camera preview looks a little less fluid or movement may blur the image temporarily.

All colors are only gray or black.
Please ensure that the environment is bright enough, or try turning on the torch light (if your device has one). Alternatively, the setting “Gray Tolerance” or “Exposure Control” might help to improve color recognition.

How does the setting “Gray Tolerance” work?
If the gray tolerance is higher, a surface with little chromaticity will rather be interpreted as a shade of gray. If it is lower, it will rather be detected as a shade of color. The setting can be adjusted individually depending on the situation to improve color recognition. If you find that colors are detected as gray, although they should still have a noticeable amount of color, try a lower setting for the gray tolerance.

How does the App’s behavior change if the iOS accessibility function “VoiceOver” is enabled on my device?
A detailed guide on how to use the App in VoiceOver mode for users with impaired vision can be found here.

The app crashed!
That shouldn’t happen! Please use the contact form on the homepage to report your problem. Please remember to state which device you have, which iOS version is installed and what you did last before the App was automatically terminated.

VoiceOver Mode Guide


If ColorSay recognizes that VoiceOver is enabled on your device, the App assumes that it is utilized by a user with impaired vision and thus it will run in “VoiceOver-Mode“. This guide is intended for users who would like to learn more about using the App in “VoiceOver-Mode”.

Notes on camera and lighting

ColorSay makes use of the built-in camera on the back of your iPhone, iPod or iPad for capturing the environment. When holding the device upright, with the home button being positioned at the bottom of the device, the camera is located in the upper right corner on the backside of the housing.
The models iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 also feature a torch light, which is installed right next to the camera. It can be used for improving the illumination within the camera’s field of view.

Please make sure that the camera is not fully or partially covered when using the App, because otherwise proper color recognition cannot be guaranteed. The device also must not be wrapped in a case that does not have an opening for the camera. There should be a minimum distance of at least a hand-wide (about 10cm) towards the object being examined.

In order to allow the camera to capture the surrounding colors properly, it is important that the objects or surfaces to be scanned are sufficiently illuminated. The lighting situation may also be improved by enabling the built-in torch light (if your device has this feature). Please be aware of the fact that this light has a limited range and is mainly useful to brighten up the immediate environment.
If you find that ColorSay mostly detects black or shades of gray, it might be that the examined area is not lit well enough.

In rapid succession, the camera will record digital images of the environment that is included in its field of vision. The App then examines each image regarding the colors contained therein. This process repeats about 20 to 30 times per second. As soon as the App determines that an appropriate result has been found, the recognized color will be issued via speech output.

Notes on color interpretation

The camera captures images of the environment and assesses the central part of each recording regarding its regular color impression. ColorSay knows several hundred names for common colors and will say the name of the color that is the best match according to the perception of the recognized color value.

There is an infinite number of color shades in nature and humans can actually perceive only a small part of those. In daily use, the distinction of color names is usually limited to a number of about 20 to 30 notions (like red, yellow, green, blue, etc.), although their subjective perception often varies greatly. According to their personal taste, different persons may also refer to a color from the yellowish spectrum either as “ocher” or as “orange”. The reason for this is that these colors might look very similar under certain circumstances and color names are usually not unambiguously defined.

If you are merely interested in the general label of a color, as it would be used in everyday life, then you should give the color sets “Basic” and “Extended” a try, which can be adjusted via the settings menu. The larger color sets offer a finer differentiation, but the color names in these sets are often comparative and mostly refer to the usual coloring of a real phenomenon (e.g. firebrick, slate gray, cornflower blue, etc.).

Notes on the user interface

After launching the app, in each of the four corners of the screen (i.e. the part of the device’s surface that responds to touches) is a button to control the App’s functions. The use of these controls is described in the following paragraphs.

Settings and Options

The settings menu can be reached via the button in the upper left corner of the screen. You will find several options, which allow you to influence the App’s behavior while interpreting the colors.

For example, if you would rather have ColorSay use VoiceOver’s regular speaker instead of the App’s custom speech processor, just activate the switch “Use VoiceOver” in the section labeled “Color Names”.
By enabling the feature “Interrupt VoiceOver” you may allow ColorSay to announce color names even if VoiceOver is already reading other labels at the same instance.

There are even more options available in the settings menu. These will affect the App according to the label of its corresponding button.

Light Control

When tapping the button in the upper right corner, the built-in torch light can be turned on or off, but only if the device is equipped with such. The button’s label will be changed automatically to “turn light on” or “turn light off” according to the current state of the torch light.

Audio Muting

By activating the touch area in the lower left corner, the App’s entire sound output can be temporarily disabled, which means that there will be no speech or tone generation. This switch does not affect the VoiceOver functions provided by the iOS accessibility features.

Point Mode and Area Mode

The button in the lower right corner allows toggling between Point Mode and Area Mode.

Even if an object theoretically has been tinted with a uniform color, the perceived color is not necessarily consistent due to the light conditions. For example, if the surface has wrinkles or is only partially illuminated, shadows may appear, which means that certain locations on the surface seem darker or lighter. Depending on the part of the object that is examined with the camera, the result might be a slightly different color interpretation.

In Point Mode, the color value is measured at a small spot in the center of the visual field. The announced color may already vary as soon as the device is moved slightly.
This mode is usually suitable for objects that are not too far away (for example a pen on the table right in front of you) and / or if a general color impression is sufficient, i.e. that it is not absolutely relevant if it is a darker, brighter or medium green.

In Area Mode, the dominant color within a larger range in the center of the camera’s field of view is determined. Hereby it is possible to compensate color fluctuations that occur along a surface.
However, if there are multiple objects with different coloring in the camera’s sight, their colors will be blended as the scanned image is evaluated. For example, mixing the colors yellow and blue will result in a greenish color effect.

If the Area Mode is enabled, the scan area may be resized by tapping an additional button, which is available in the center of the screen. Settings between approximately 16% and 100% are possible. Every time the resize button is tapped, the scan area grows a little and VoiceOver will announce the percentage of the new size. Once the surface has reached 100%, it will return to the lowest setting if the resize button is tapped again. The more space the object of interest occupies within the visual field, the larger the scan area’s size can be chosen.
This mode is useful for objects which might be a little farther away and / or have a larger spatial extend (for example a colored piece of paper in front of you or a shirt at a distance of about one meter).

General Notes

Using a camera to analyze the environment certainly is not an easy task and most likely will need some practice at first. The quality of the color recognition depends on the technical capabilities of your iPhone or iPad, which is not to be understood as a device for compulsory color measurement that yields binding colors. When handled appropriately, ColorSay can report color tendencies of the objects in your environment and help you when dealing with colors in your everyday life.
Please mind the fact that using a camera is subject to the conditions as mentioned above. Light and color are physically interdependent, which means the color of a surface may only be recognized when it is reflecting enough light to be captured by the camera. Without light there is no color.

If you have any questions or suggestions for improving the functions of ColorSay, we would appreciate to hear from you!