Here we present a protocol for analyzing cell cultures using a photonic lab-on-a-chip (PhLoC). By using a broadband light source and a spectrometer, the spectrum of a given cell culture with an arbitrary population is acquired. The PhLoC can work in three different regimes: light scattering (using label-free cells), light scattering plus absorption (using stained cells) and, by subtraction of the two former regimes, absorption (without the scattering band). The acquisition time of the PhLoC is 430 ms. Hence, it can be used for rapid cell counting, dead/live ratio estimation or multiparametric measurements through the use of different dyes. The PhLoC, including microlenses, micromirrors and microfluidics, is simply fabricated in a single-mask process (by soft lithographic methods) using low-cost materials. Because of its low cost it can easily be implemented for point-of-care applications. From raw substrates to final results, this protocol can be completed in 29 h. © 2011 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.