A glossmeter measures specular reflection. The light intensity is registered over a small range of the reflection angle. The intensity is dependent on the material and the angle of illumination. In case of non-metals (coatings, plastics) the amount of reflected light increases with the increase of the illumination angle. The remaining illuminated light penetrates the material and is absorbed or diffusely scattered dependent on the color. Metals have a much higher reflection and are less angle dependent than non-metals.
The measurement results of a glossmeter are related to the amount of reflected light from a black glass standard with a defined refractive index, and not to the amount of incident light. The measurement value for this defined standard is equal to 100 gloss units (calibration). Materials with a higher refractive index can have a measurement value above 100 gloss units. In case of transparent materials the measurement value can be increased due to multiple reflection in the bulk of the material. Due to the high reflection capabilities of metals, values of up to 3500 gloss units can be reached. For these applications it is common to document the measurement results in percent reflection of the illuminated light
Glossmeters and their handling procedures had to be internationally specified to allow comparison of measurement values. The angle of illumination is of high influence. In order to obtain a clear differentiation over the complete measurement range from high gloss to matte, 3 different geometries, i.e. different ranges, three different measurement angles are defined.
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