Fibre-optic reflectance spectroscopy is widely used as a tool for the analysis of coloured materials such as pigments and paints. We describe a new design for a FORS probe which is held some 5cm away from the sample surface and interrogates a spot of 2mm diameter, offering a significant advantage over existing methods. The spectrometer employs an illuminance of 1250lux, equivalent to 0.5mWcm−2 averaged across the visible spectrum. The spectral measurements take less than a second ensuring that the risk of sample photodegradation is minimal. Under these conditions there is no detectable temperature rise of the illuminated area. Increasing the illuminance above 25mWcm−2, a light level significantly higher than that required for our measurements, gave rise to significant localised temperature rises in model manuscripts. This demonstrates the need for caution when using this technique for the analysis of precious heritage items.