Coming soon: Print your own makeup

A Harvard Business School student has invented a printer that uses inkjet technology to mix colours and print makeup at home.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
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Like many things, buying makeup is often restricted to what's "in" for the season, and if you want a specific colour that isn't in, you're often, well, out of luck. And if it is in, good makeup isn't exactly cheap.

"The makeup industry makes a whole lot of money...by charging a huge premium on one thing that technology provides for free. That one thing is colour" said Harvard Business School student Grace Choi, speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt.

To help combat this, Choi has created what she is calling Mink: a printer that works just like an inkjet to mix colours to the user's specification to print custom makeup. All you need is the printer, colour picker software to copy the hexcode of a colour, and print software.

The print materials used are FDA-compliant substrate and ink, both of which come from the same source as those used by trusted makeup brands, Choi said.

The colours themselves can come from pretty much any digital image: a photo snapped by the user on their smartphone, a colour found on the web, a YouTube video. These are then sent to the Mink and printed as either a pressed powder or cream makeup in the chosen colour.

"The inkjet handles the pigment, and the same raw material substrates can create any type of makeup, from powders to cream to lipstick," Choi said. "Implementing this ability on the Mink is not hard to do."

The Mink and print materials will be available later this year. Choi hopes to retail the printer for around US$300, with pricing for the materials yet to be confirmed, although Choi said it will be "competitive".

Watch Choi demonstrate the Mink in the video below, and visit the Mink website to sign up news about the printer's availability.