Conduction welding offers an alternative to keyhole welding. Compared with keyhole welding, it is an intrinsically stable process because vaporization phenomena are minimal. However, as with keyhole welding, an on-line process-monitoring system is advantageous for quality assurance to maintain the required penetration depth, which in conduction welding is more sensitive to changes in heat sinking. The maximum penetration is obtained when the surface temperature is just below the boiling point, and so we normally wish to maintain the temperature at this level. We describe a two-color optical system that we have developed for real-time temperature profile measurement of the conduction weld pool. The key feature of the system is the use of a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor standard color camera leading to a simplified low-cost optical setup. We present and discuss the real-time temperature measurement and control performance of the system when a defocused beam from a high power Nd:YAG laser is used on 5 mm thick stainless steel workpieces. © 2005 Optical Society of America.