The gloss meter is the instrument for measuring the intensity of light reflectance from a surface.

The Gloss Meter guide: from matte to gloss

The gloss of a surface tells us much more than just how smooth it is. Surface characteristics reveal problems such as a curing failure, issues with surface preparation, or inconsistencies with film build. Furthermore, the gloss level of a surface is almost as important as color when it comes to consumer choices – inconsistency across products will be attributed to poor quality or defects, neither of which will lead them to a purchase. In fact, a glossy product adds to the impression of value, and quality control measures like the gloss meter are vital for monitoring and maintaining the high performance of a coating or surface. There are quantitative gloss requirements in many industries and applications, ensuring a standard is set.

In this article we look at the gloss meter, how it is used, and where to buy these measurement instruments in the United States.

Detecting reflection – what the Gloss Meter measures

The term “gloss” refers to the impression of the shininess of a surface – the more light a surface reflects, the higher gloss it is. Highly polished, smooth surfaces directly reflect incident light, so the reflected image appears very clear; think of a mirror or the reflection on a spoon. Both are high gloss surfaces but the angles of the spoon change the angle of reflection, which distorts the image without it losing definition. Matte or semi-gloss surfaces diffuse light, scattering it in all directions from the uneven surface. The surface therefore seems dull and flat, with reflections blurred and unclear.

A gloss meter measures the intensity of reflected light bounced back from a surface. In order for this measurement to make sense across industries and machines, there are several standards used. The light source is standardized, and the reflective surface which it is calibrated against is a highly polished, plane black glass  This standard is given the value of 100 gloss units (GU) across angles. The intensity is dependent on both the material and the angle of illumination. Non-metals reflect more light with higher illumination angles, while metals are reflective at any angle and can produce measurements of up to 2000GU.

How the Gloss Meter works – what the measurements mean

Taking a meaningful measurement means understanding the processes involved in producing the final number. Taking a measurement from the wrong angle could lead to erroneous and unhelpful results. Firstly you need to identify whether the surface you are testing is gloss, semi gloss, or matte, and what type of material it is. The angle of incident light is chosen based on the expected gloss level of the surface – high gloss uses the 20°, semi gloss uses 60°, and matte uses 85°.

A gloss meter measures the amount of reflected light at 3 different angles - 20, 60, and 85 degrees.

A gloss meter takes measurements of reflected light at three angles – 20, 60, and 85 degrees.

  • The 20° range: The measurement range for the 20° geometry is from 0 to 2000GU. It is the widest range because it is used to measure high gloss surfaces. This angle is sensitive to effects like haze.
  • The 60° range: All gloss levels can be measured with the 60° geometry, and it is used as a reference angle. Its values go from 0 to 1000GU, and the reason to opt for the higher or lower angles is because they provide more accurate results for the high gloss and matte surfaces – a reading of 70GU at 60° means a more accurate reading might be taken from the 20°, while a result of 10GU or below would lead to using the 85° measurements. 60° is particularly good for semi gloss.
  • The 85° range: This is the range for the most accurate readings of matte and low gloss surfaces. It gives a larger measurement area which evens out the differences provided by surface texture.

There are also units for 45° and 75° which are used in the ceramics/films and paper/vinyl industries, respectively. The gloss unit value returned by the measurement is commonly translated into a percentage. For example, a 1000GU rating from 20° is 50% of its 0-2000GU range, but would be 100% of the 60° range. The higher the percentage, the shinier the surface.

Gloss meter calibration standards – for the instrument and industry

A gloss meter measures the gloss of a surface through multiple angles.

The BYK micro-gloss. Image source: BYK-Gardner

Each gloss meter is calibrated by the manufacturer against a set of master calibration tiles. In order to maintain the accuracy and performance of the gloss meter there are standard tiles with assigned gloss units for each angle of measurement. These tile are known as the calibration standard or calibration tile, and they keep the instrument performing to standard.

In the US, ASTM D523 is the main specular gloss standard. For paint and varnishes the international standard is ISO 2813, for determination of specular gloss of non-metallic paint films at 20°, 60° and 85°. The color of a coating can also affect its gloss reading.

Below is a table of the standards and the gloss measurements to which they relate. The 20°, 60°, and 85° measurements relate to coatings, plastics, and related materials.

Relevant Standard20° – High Gloss60° – Semi Gloss85° – Low Gloss45° – Semi Gloss Ceramics75° – Low Gloss Paper
ASTM C346
ASTM C584
ASTM D523
ASTM D2457
BS3900 D5
DIN 67530
DIN EN ISO 2813
EN ISO 7668
JI Z 8741
TAPPI T480

Where to find Gloss Meter suppliers and companies in the US

There are many gloss meter suppliers and companies operating in the US. These companies provide the range of gloss meter instrumentation for all applications. Gloss meters are available as single angle units (for 20°, 45°, 60°, 75°, or 85°), dual angle instruments (combined 20° and 60° geometry units for medium to high gloss surfaces), and triple angle instruments with three geometries (20°, 60°, and 85° for matte surfaces or 20°, 60°, 75° for paper). Below is a list of the instruments available on the American market from a range of gloss meter suppliers including BYK, Elcometer, PCE Instruments, and Rhopoint Instruments.

Some companies have full ranges of gloss meters (like BYK’s micro-gloss range where there is a micro-gloss unit for each geometry) while others focus on all in one units. The gloss meter is just one in a whole suite of coating appearance measurement instruments, including those for measuring haze and the Reflected Image Quality (a surface structure measure).

If you need a gloss meter for your project or business, we are here to help. Get in touch through the “Request a Quote” form by clicking the button beneath this article and tell us about the requirements you have for the instrument. We will collaborate with our coating partners to determine the right gloss meter for the job.

Gloss meter companyProduct nameGeometries includedDescription
BYK-GardnerMicro-TRI-glossStandard geometries of 20°, 60° and 85° measure at the same location simultaneouslyThe micro-TRI-gloss can be used to determine the gloss level of paint coatings, plastics, ceramics and metal surfaces. It has statistics, Pass/Fail and memory. Micro-gloss conforms to the standards ISO 2813, 7668, ASTM D 523 and D 2457, DIN 67530, and JIS Z8741
ElcometerElcometer 480Geometry of 60°This unit has a range of 10-100GU, with a standard, auto-repeat and scan mode, storage of up to 40,000 readings, and up to 40 limits for the master standards storage.
Erichsen GmbH & Co. KGGloss Meter Spektromaster 565-DGeometry of 60°Long life time (8000 measurements), a gloss unit measurement range of 0-100 GU (gloss unit), and the ability to measure color and gloss simultaneously.
PCE InstrumentsGloss Meter PCE-GM 60PlusA handheld 60° gloss meterThe PCE-GM 60Plus has a measuring range of 0-200GU. The rechargeable gloss meter or gloss tester uses reflected light for gloss measurement per ISO 2813, GB/T 9754, ASTM D523 and ASTM D2457 standards.
Rhopoint insturments Novo Gloss Trigloss Gloss Meter 20/60/85˚ Geometries of 20°, 60°, 85°Small, lightweight and durable the gloss meter can be used in production and laboratory environments. Conforms to standards ISO 2813, ISO 7668, ASTM D523, ASTM D2457, DIN 67530, JIS 8741, and JIS K 5600-4-7
Zehntner GmbHGloss Meter ZGM 1023Gloss measurement geometries of 20°, 60°, 75°A portable, battery-powered instrument for measurements of all gloss ranges from matte to high gloss surfaces. The test equipment calibration is traceable to BAM (Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, Germany). According to ASTM, DIN, ISO, TAPPI, BE standards

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