Review of the main colour vision clinical assessment tests

Arch Soc Esp Oftalmol (Engl Ed). 2019 Jan;94(1):25-32. doi: 10.1016/j.oftal.2018.08.006. Epub 2018 Oct 22.
[Article in English, Spanish]


Introduction: Congenital colour vision deficiencies affect 8% of the male and 0.5% of the female population. The study of colour vision is a complex process due to several factors: the psychophysics of vision itself, the difficulty to establish mathematical models for its analysis, the vague correlation of results between different tests, and the influence of external factors such as lighting, the tests condition, or the experience of the examiner and the patient. In the present document, a simplified review was carried out on the main colour vision tests available in clinical practice.

Material and methods: Once a filtered preliminary review was made of the bibliography related to the study of colour vision using the PubMed search tool, the most used tests in clinical practice were selected according to their frequency of use and the purpose for which they were applied. A bibliographic study was then carried out on each particular test according to the design of the shown stimuli, its target population, and its sensitivity and specificity.

Results: From the 95 publications found using the PubMed search tool, in 41 of them, colour tests were used by researchers in their methodology. From the 64 colour tests used, 19 of them were different (with 4 of them being different tests adapted by research groups, and 2 of them carried out online). The most used tests were the following: Ishihara test (10.88%), Farnsworth-Munsell (7.04%), Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue (6.4%), Cambridge Colour Test (3.84%), Hardy-Rand-Rittler (3.2%), tests developed by the groups (2.56%), the Anomaloscope (1.28%), the online tests (1.28%) and, finally, Colour Assessment and Diagnosis (0.64%), Pflüger Trident Colour Plates (0.64%), Toothguide Training Box (0.64%), Lanthony Desaturated D-15 (0.64%), City University Test (0.64%), Universal Colour Discrimination Test (0.64%), and Rabin Cone Contrast Test (0.64%).

Conclusions: The Anomaloscope is the "gold standard" in terms of colour vision testing, despite its incompatibility with daily clinical practice. It is fairly complex to use, difficult to understand for children, and its practice requires having the time available. Nevertheless, it is possible to reach an accurate approximation through the combination of some of the tests listed in this article. The above mentioned tests are a good alternative to determine the presence of dyschromatopsia in settings closer to daily clinical practice or in less controlled settings than a clinical study. The major drawback among the wide range of tests available for the study of colour vision is the difficulty to compare results between tests, since units of the reported data are usually different, and experience is required for its correct interpretation. Currently, there is no consensus on which colour test is the most complete. It is, therefore, advisable to use at least 2 tests in order to ensure diagnoses, and have more extensive information about the visual perception of patients.

Keywords: Bibliographic review; Clinical tests; Colour vision; Discromatopsia; Dyschromatopsia; Revisión bibliográfica; Test clínicos; Visión del color.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Color Perception Tests* / classification
  • Color Perception Tests* / methods
  • Color Perception Tests* / standards
  • Color Perception Tests* / statistics & numerical data
  • Color Vision Defects / congenital
  • Color Vision Defects / diagnosis*
  • Color Vision*
  • Humans
  • Reference Standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity