How is pigment different than light?
We see color when light bounces off a surface, reflecting the colors back to our eyes, with the surface absorbing all other colors we do not see. This ability for us to see a color is limited by the colors available in the light source. The colors we see can be measured in 'wavelengths.'
Under daylight, we can see the colors of the 'Visible Light Spectrum.' Under red light, only the red colors are reflected, all others appear gray, brown, or black. This is called 'color bias' in lighting terminology
When illuminating works of art, it is desirable to have a balanced source of light that will reflect all colors, as you would see them in natural daylight.
Special Effects with Color
Combine all colors in paint and you get black : Combine all colors in light and you get white.
The Primary Colors in paint are: Yellow, Blue, Red
The Secondary Colors in paint are: Green, Orange, Purple
Colors that are opposite on the color wheel are called 'Complimentary.'
Value is the term used to describe the range of dark to light, often shown as 'grey scale'.
Saturation is the intensity or purity of the color.
If you place opposite colors of full saturation, next to each other, you achieve 'vibrating boundaries' or the experience that the colors are vibrating where the colors meet. See Color Phenomena for more.
How can you predict how colors will look?
The appearance of pigments, paints, and dyes is dependant on the lighting.
In retail stores, it is not uncommon for customers to take merchandise to a window, "To see how it looks in natural light." You can't beat Mother Nature. And it is hard to replicate the sun.
Visit the Light section to learn more about color bias of various light sources and how you can achieve the best possible color rendering within your budget, code, and energy constraints.
Be clear on your assumptions and expectations.
Use Color as a Wayfinding & Branding Tool
National Geographic Magazine's yellow frame and binding immediately tell you what you need to know, you are looking at the original authentic brand.
Companies use color for brand recognition such as Target's red circle or Best Buy's blue font.
The Starbucks Coffee green circle is easily recognizable from a distance, because of the consistent use of color. The red Coca Cola script is known worldwide as their logo.
Hospitals and parking structures use paint color as a wayfinding tool.
Color for Decoration
Visit our page on Color Selection for your Home
Learn more about paint
We humans can see over 7 million colors!
Sherwin Williams has a series of paint and application educational programs available for free on their CEU (Continuing Education Units) website.