Phytoplankton absorption spectra and High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) pigment observations from the Eastern U.S. and global observations from NASA's SeaBASS archive are used in a linear inverse calculation to extract pigment-specific absorption spectra. Using these pigment-specific absorption spectra to reconstruct the phytoplankton absorption spectra results in high correlations at all visible wavelengths (r2 from 0.83 to 0.98), and linear regressions (slopes ranging from 0.8 to 1.1). Higher correlations (r2 from 0.75 to 1.00) are obtained in the visible portion of the spectra when the total phytoplankton absorption spectra are ‘unpackaged’ by multiplying the entire spectra by a factor that sets the total absorption at 675 nm to that expected from absorption spectra reconstruction using measured pigment concentrations and laboratory-derived pigment-specific absorption spectra. The derived pigment-specific absorption spectra were further used with the total phytoplankton absorption spectra in a second linear inverse calculation to estimate the various phytoplankton HPLC pigments. A comparison between the estimated and measured pigment concentrations for the 18 pigment fields showed good correlations (r2 > 0.5) for 7 pigments and very good correlations (r2 > 0.7) for chlorophyll a and fucoxanthin. Higher correlations result when the analysis is carried out at more local geographic scales. The ability to estimate phytoplankton pigments using pigment-specific absorption spectra is critical for using hyperspectral inverse models to retrieve phytoplankton pigment concentrations and other Inherent Optical Properties (IOPs) from passive remote sensing observations.