The estimation of illuminant color is mandatory for many applications in the field of color image quantification. However, it is an unresolved problem if no additional heuristics or restrictive assumptions apply. Assuming uniformly colored and roundly shaped objects, Lee has presented a theory and a method for computing the scene-illuminant chromaticity from specular highlights [H. C. Lee, J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 3, 1694 (1986)]. However, Lee’s method, called image path search, is less robust to noise and is limited in the handling of microtextured surfaces. We introduce a novel approach to estimate the color of a single illuminant for noisy and microtextured images, which frequently occur in real-world scenes. Using dichromatic regions of different colored surfaces, our approach, named color line search, reverses Lee’s strategy of image path search. Reliable color lines are determined directly in the domain of the color diagrams by three steps. First, regions of interest are automatically detected around specular highlights, and local color diagrams are computed. Second, color lines are determined according to the dichromatic reflection model by Hough transform of the color diagrams. Third, a consistency check is applied by a corresponding path search in the image domain. Our method is evaluated on 40 natural images of fruit and vegetables. In comparison with those of Lee’s method, accuracy and stability are substantially improved. In addition, the color line search approach can easily be extended to scenes of objects with macrotextured surfaces.
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