I know that there are "gray cards" sold that help with exposure/color correction, but as I'm on a tight budget I'd like to make my own. Is this possible?

Also, are there other objects (paint sample cards for instance) that can be used for color correction?


Gray cards are super cheap (e.g., $2.49) - I wouldn't bother. :)

  • Sure! If you think this is the best answer, please do mark it as "accepted". – Reid Jul 16 '10 at 15:48
  • I've also seen grey-keyrings available quite cheaply, and you'll always tend to have them on you - they're more suited for calibrating white balance, however. – Rowland Shaw Jul 16 '10 at 16:04
  • With shipping price included, this costs me $60. – Aquarius_Girl Mar 22 '12 at 12:33

Spot-meter the palm of your hand (be sure it's lit appropriately, however).


It, or a Caucasian face, will meter about 1 stop brighter than you need, which means it's easy to compensate for.


As far as I know, you need a gray card for exposure measurement and white balance correction. If you are only interested in custom white balance, you may use a white piece of paper that is lit under the same condition as your subject. Sometimes, you may even use a thin piece of paper (white toilet paper) you put on your lens and take a picture you will later use for your in-camera or for RAW post-processing custom white balance.

I do not know how a white piece of paper may help you in exposing properly, but I guess you may step up and get the same results.

Here you may find more info on this subject, including the stepping up the exposure and using the white card instead of a gray one: http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=58677

  • You can use a sheet of white paper for color balance, but you have to make sure it's pure white, and not "bright white", which means they've probably added a touch of blue to it. Black paper will also work, along with any neutral tone from pure white to pure black. Grays work best but the others will do. As far as using white for exposure, you can do it, but the camera will try to make white into a neutral 18% gray so you have to open up two stops if I remember right. – Greg Feb 25 '11 at 2:42

You can use the color sample cards from paint companies. Just walk to the paint isle in local hardware store, paint store, Home Depot and such, and pick some of the sample cards, including some whites, grays, reds, greens, yellows, oranges, and blues. Experiment with them, and write down notes on the back of the cards for future use. You will be amazed, how you can create special effects, color corrections, compensations, etc.using those cards. Follow your camera user manual to create closeups of the cards for future use. Use custome white balance option in the camera. You can create different light effects, e.g. a moon lit landscape in broad daylight, or sunrises/sunsets with pleasing colors, or snow scapes with beautiful blues or purples. Just remember, the color you will see in the photograph as a result will be complementary to the color of the card you used. For example, if you used blue card, the result will have a colorcast of orange of the same intensity, if you used red card, you will have a green colorcast in the photo, if you used a purple card, you will have a yellow color cast, or vice versa, and so on.


I made a gray card because I needed one quickly. I think this is the best one can do. You probably bought one by now - but just in case...


Be aware that there are gray cards that are only designed for exposure and not for white balance. These, along with the fore-mentioned paint color strips and other DIY solutions, are not guaranteed to be color-neutral.

Drop a couple bucks and get one designed for white balance if the accuracy is important to you.

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