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What Palette to Use?

The image palettes we have available to us are remarkable. They’ve come so far since I first got into this business in 1983. We can now also easily change the palette in the software. Wow!

The Fluke AMBER palette with red and blue saturation indicators is a nearly perfect palette to use, especially in the field while working. The blue saturation shows air leakage into the ceiling in the left section of the roof. The blue rectangles are cold windows and a cold metal chimney flue

Still, many people have questions about which palette to use. My recommendations are as follows:

• While working in the field I strongly recommend using a “monochromatic” palette. Fluke has really perfected the AMBER palette, which  incorporates red and blue saturation indicators. You can’t go wrong working in this palette day in and day out! My second choice is the GRAYSCALE but it is not as good as AMBER. RED-BLUE can work well in the field, but it tends to not print well in a report.

• For reports I often use the HIGH-CONTRAST palette because it looks so darned good in print! Be aware that sometimes it can be confusing to non-thermographers—even when they are  nodding their heads saying “yes, I see…”—so make sure the imagery is clear and simple. And watch out for the green tones as they are not very intuitive.

The HIGH-CONTRAST palette can work very well in reports as people find the images very persuasive. The performance of three different windows can be seen very clearly in this winter image. The top window is single-glazed, the bottom right is double-glazed and the bottom left is a high-performance, low-E double-glazed window.

• Don’t routinely use either of the inverted palettes (AMBER or GRAYSCALE) because they are not the norm. However, every once in a while I find them very useful, especially to show small hot spots. If you use an inverted palette, clearly indicate the same to minimize the chance of confusion.

I see many new thermographers continually switch through all the available palettes. This is a waste of time. Consider my recommendation, try them for yourself, and learn which ones work best and stick with them. If you ever do have a doubt, and some scenes are challenging to portray, simply drop the image into Smartview and change it though all the options. You’ll quickly see which one works best.

Thinking Thermally,

John Snell—The Snell Group, a Fluke Thermal Imaging Blog content partner

2 comments to What Palette to Use?

  • Ben Duffey

    John, thanks for your tips, they are very usefull and I learn a lot by reading them.
    Most of the time I use the high contrast palette and never thought about using any other in the field. I have used other palettes in reports when high contrast becomes confusing especially when the span is very small. I will definitely try the monochromatic palettes.

  • John Snell

    Thanks, Ben. One of the reasons I do not use high-contrast in the field is that it makes my brain work too hard! You might not imagine it, but processing the extra—and non-intuitive—colors is actually extra work. I find the simplicity and intuitiveness of the AMBER in particular to be much, much easier and more effective. I’ll be interested to hear what you find works best for you!

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