Professor Stephen Westland

Professor Stephen Westland


I joined the University of Leeds in 2003 to take up a Chair in Colour Science and Technology following academic posts at in a School of Neuroscience (Keele University) and a School of Engineering (Derby University). At Leeds I have been Head of School of Design (2006–2013) and Acting Dean of the Faculty (2012).

I have published about 200 peer-reviewed papers, book chapters and books in the areas of colour science, colour imaging and colour design. My research tends to use two specific experimental techniques: psychophysics and machine learning. Psychophysics is a process of quantifying human perceptual response (in my case often colour- or vision-reated) to physical stimuli. Machine learning is a computational technique that usually uses data to develop computer-based predictive models. I work in two main domains: colour technology and design.

I have been awarded several major research grants from government (e.g. EPSRC, MoD, EU2020) and industry (e.g. Colgate, Unilever, Xerox, Fuji Film Electronic Imaging, Avecia, AkzoNobel and Lenzing), have supervised 38 PhD students to completion and have been external examiner to around 50 PhD students at various universities in the UK (e.g. Manchester University, University of East Anglia, University of Central Lancashire) and overseas (e.g. Hong Kong Polytechnic University).

I hold several honorary positions at other universities. I am an Adjunct Senior Scientist at the Dental School of the University of Texas (USA), a member of the International Advisory Board at the Colour and Imaging Institute at Tsinghua University (China, since 2009). I am Visiting Professor at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (China, 2018–2021) and at School of Computing at University of East Anglia (UK, 2017–2022).

Since 1998 I have been a member of the International Editorial Board of the Journal of Coloration Technology and in 2006 helped to launch a new journal (as editor) Colour: Design and Creativity that was renamed in 2012 as the Journal of the International Colour Association. I am also a member of the editorial boards of Journal of Textile Science and Engineering (2011–) and the Slovene Journal for Textile Clothing Technology, Design and Marketing (2009–). I was an active partner in the European-funded project CREATE which was a training network for young researchers interested in colour from all disciplines.

I am the author of Computational Colour Science using MATLAB (published by Wiley in 2004; 2nd edition in 2012). I am passionate about colour education and regularly blog at wordpress. In 2008 I was awarded a Fellowship of the Society of Dyers and Colourists and the Royal Photographic Society's Davies Medal for my work on colour imaging. In 2018/19 I was President of the Society of Dyers and Colourists. I am currently involved in the Colour Literacy project that is jointly supported by ISCC and AIC.

Research interests

Colour Technology 

I have core expertise in colour management and colour measurement and work closely with a number of companies in these areas. I am particularly interested in measuring the colour of things that are traditionally considered as being difficult to measure. Currently I am very active in the measurement of tooth colour and how to assess perceptual whiteness. I am also interested generically in the concepts of both whiteness and blackness. 

Colour Design 

I am interested in colour design, colour theory and colour lighting. Light affects our circadian systems and can influence our alertness and performance in a way that is wavelength dependent. It is therefore no surprise that it can also affect us on an emotional level. Colour is an important factor in product design and marketing and I am interested in studying these effects and also exploring how they can be used in the design of products, websites and personal and commercial spaces.

My work often uses two techqnues that I have used extensively throughout my career. The first area is scaling. This is a sef of methods that can measure perceptual responses in participants and includes methods such as pair comparison and ranking. Recently I have become interested in word embedding which can be used to extract responses and attitudes from text data. The second area is machine learning. I am an experienced computational modeller and have worked with artificial neural networks (MLPS and Extreme Learning Machines) and Generative Adversarial Networks (GANS).

My weapon of choice is MATLAB. Though in the past I have used many other languages such as C and C++ and in the future it is likely that I will use others such as Python. 

I enjoy working with companies and actively seek collaborations because working with people who are solving real-world problems is extremely satisfying and I find I learn a great deal from my industrial colleagues and collaborators that enriches my wider academic studies. A list of publications is available below. However, to see my full list of publications (including many publications that can be downloaded as PDFs) please visit my personal page.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BSc Colour Chemistry (University of Leeds, 1983)
  • PhD Colour Science (University of Leeds, 1988)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching (University of Derby, 2001)

Professional memberships

  • Society of Dyers and Colourists
  • Colour Group (UK)

Student education

I teach several modules in the School of Design about colour on various programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. 

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>