Color Perception


1. Males tend to have more problems with color, like color blindness.

2. 8% of men and .5% of females have some kind of color deficiency.

3.  Every human has three types of cones in their eyes, this is why we are able to see color. (S-Cone, L-Cone, M-Cone)

4. S-Cones are connected with the color blue, L-Cones are connect with red, and M-Cones are connected with the color green.

5. Cones are more active during the day or an bright place, and at night since cones aren’t very functional in the dark are taken over by rods.

Presentation Notes

Color Biology

  • Seeing color: the basics
    • Black cloth feels warmer bc black absorbs and white reflects
    • When mix all colored lights = white
      • When paint mixed together it creates black
      • 3 types of cones in our eyes
        • long red, medium, green, short blue
        • don’t use cones in dim lights; use rods
        • 3 types of color blindness
          • monochromatic – lack all cones
            • rare
            • dichromatic – lack r-g or b-y
            • anomalous – trichromatic – color weakness
            • a lot of animals are not color blind
              • dogs can see red blue and violets
              • rats are color blind
              • birds fish and many mammals perceive the entire spectrum
              • bees can see ultraviolet colors
              • eyes can see over 10 million colors
              • mirrors reflect green light
                • specular reflection
                • diffuse reflection
                • why green light?
                  • Mirrors light in the 510 nanometer range which is the range in which we see green
                  • Yellow cannot be shown on a screen,  so it is a combination of colors next to each other that make you perceive yellow


Color Theory History

  • 1660 Isaac newton
    • modern theory of light and color
    • Prism experiment helped newton build a concept of what is known as the color wheel
    • 1758  tobias Mayer
      • did a color triangle diagram and began with 3 main pure colors: red blue and yellow
      • 1769 jacob Christian schaffer
        • when you combine blue red and yellow, they create multiple shades in between. His color system shows color combinations within a color group
        • 1800s  Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe
          • focused more peoples emotions and feelings
            • disagreed with newton’s scientific base
            • 1807 Otto Runge
              • made a color wheel model taking the primary colors and adding black and white to demonstrate other colors
              • created a 3d model color sphere
              • 1839 Michel Eugene Chevreul
                • took Runge’s idea and arranged 72 colors into a hemisphere
                • 1915 Albert Munsell
                  • cylindrical system model showing hue (around the model), value (vertical), and chroma (horizontal)
                  • described color in a scientific manner
                  • helped launch other color wheels
                  • 1979 Ewald Hering
                    • Natural Color System
                      • Six psychological primary colors: yellow blue red green white black



Color Psychology

  • Primary Colors
    • Red
      • Symbolic Meaning: Red captures attention rom people because it is the most visible color (ex: stop sign, fire truck).
  • Yellow
    • Symbolic Meaning: Yellow is generally accepted as being optimistic, enlightening, as well as happiness. It can also represent a good future when goldish. Universally, it represents caution since it is a very visible color (ex: yellow stop light)
  • Blue
    • Symbolic Meaning: It’s ranked high and overused. People tend to mix blue with other colors to be creative. Blue I also the most recognizable as well as most used color in design for corporations.
    • Secondary Colors
      • Orange
        • Symbolic Meaning: Brighter, warmer oranges represent energy and warmth. Orange is also used to set things apart from their surroundings for safety reasons. Orange can also represent gluttony in the Christian faith.
  • Green
    • Symbolic Meaning: Green is used to represent safety worldwide. It is also commonly associated with nature. However, it also is associated with something that is incredibly smelly or intense jealous (green with envy). Green is also associated with money.
  • Purple
    • Symbolic Meaning: Purple symbolizes nobility and luxury to most people. It also represents pride in Christianity.


Applied Color

  • Branding: the name, term, sign, symbol or design or a combination of them intended to identity a company’s products
    • Logo/color more important than words
    • People absorb color before anything else
      • 60% of people will decide if they are attracted or not based on color alone
      • Color = 80% increase in brand recognition
      • Color Trends:
        • Red 29%
        • Yellow/Gold 13%
        • Black/Grey 28%
        • Blue 33%
        • Brands use their colors throughout their websites (ex: accent colors, borders, images)
          • Other colors used on the website enhance the brands color
          • Muted color pallet
          • Need to consider contrast for readability
          • Book cover designers need to balance themes and entice readers


Printing Color

  • Offset Printing
    • Prints newspapers, magazines and books at high speed
    • Several step process
    • To print full color photos, the photo is separated into CMYK
    • Each color layer is printed separately and on top of each other
    • Screen Printing
      • Uses a stencil to apply ink
      • Used for t-shirts, posters, stickers, vinyl, wood, etc.
      • Laser Printers
        • Digital printing process that rapidly produces high quality text and graphics using a laser beam
        • Inkjet Printers
          • Use liquid ink sprayed through microscopic nozzles onto the paper
          • Uses small dots that align together to create the image


Color Management

  • The procedure of controlling color characteristics between devices
  • By viewing color accurately, it allows you to make correct decisions on color scheming
  • Keeping things consistent ensures the message is properly communicated
  • Logos are consistently recognizable
  • Pantone Color System
    • Widely used; standardized
    • Can produce color that can’t be mixed with CMYK
    • Uses a system of numbers and suffix
      • Number = color; Suffix = paper being printed on
      • Suffixes:
        • CV – Computer Video
        • C – Coated
        • U – Uncoated
        • M – Matte
  • Color Space
    • Range of colors from different devices
    • Larger color spaces hold both brighter, saturated and extra colors


Color and Monitors/Screens

  • Additive Color
    • When primary additive color lights are mixed they form a white light
    • Hexadecimal – a system to add or subtract value to color
      • Ranges from 00 (no value or color) to FF (highest saturation)
      • Made up of six digits
        • First two represent the red; Second two represent the green; Last two represent blue
        • RGBA
          • A refers to the ALPHA channel
          • Adds transparency
          • LCD screen – liquid crystal display
          • Formats you can save  (.gif, .jpeg, .png) are based on RGB information
          • HSVA – creates and outputs a new color space by converting the hue, saturation, value and alpha components taken from the input
          • Number of pixels on a screen affects the way colors look

Presentation Notes

Color Biology:

–       L cone red, M cone Green, S cone blue

–       In dim light you use rods, Rods don’t distinguish different color wavelengths

–       Some animals can see a wider range of colors

–       Mirrors reflect greenish light

–       Red and green light make yellow on a screen


Color Theory History:

–       Newton was the first to beginning to understand color theory. Breaking light w/ prism -> formed color wheel.

–       Tobias Mayer, Color Triangle w/3 primary colors (RBY)

–       Jacob Schaffer, formed color combinations with RBY with groups.

–       Johann Geothe, studied the psychological side of color.

–       Runge & Chevreul used white and black to create more colors

–       Munsell- cylindrical model to show hue, value, chroma

–       Hering more design focused color model, Primary RBYGBW, incorporates psychological side of color. Most used now


Color Psychology:

–       Red> Light: Warm+, Quiet-, Bright: Sensual+, Danger-, Dark: Rich+, Serious-

–       There are positive and negative reactions to colors

–       Majority of people prefer blue.


Modern Color Theory:

–       Munsell: created a system to numerically organize colors based off people’s response to color.

–       Itten: Studied Contrasts, light dark (white vs black), warm cool (Red orange vs Blue Green), extension, saturation, hue, complementary, simultaneous

–       Albers, Color interactions.

–       Color Mixing: Additive (light RGB) and Subtractive (print CMYK, paint RYB)

–       Complementary, Analogous, Triadic, Square


Applied Color:

–       60% of people decide on products based on their attraction to the logo which includes color

–       Color symbolism play a large role in determining colors for companies/products. Relating the color’s symbolism to the company/product’s function

–       Brand extension: repeating color usage throughout the brand

–       Color Navigation: blue links, etc

–       Contrast: black on white or white on black are generally better


Printing Color:

–       Offset printer- Like a stamp. Print in large quanitities. Large upfront cost.

–       Silkscreen printing

–       Laser printer

–       Inkjet


Color Computer and Screen Monitors

–       LCD vs AMOLED screens

–       More brightness and saturation in AMOLED screen

–       Computer software, hardware, browser, can all affect the display of color

–       HSV (hue, saturation, value)


Presentation Notes

Color Biology

  • Black absorbs light making it warm where as white reflects the light and continue to stay neutral.
  • 3 types of cones in our eyes, L-cone,(red) M-cone(green), S-cone(blue) focused on our retinas which determine the color
  • You don’t use your cones in dim light instead you use the rods in your eye-which leads to why we see a blueish-gray at night.
  • Dichromatic-R-G or B-Y cones

Color Theory History

  • Isaac Newton was the first person to explore the idea of color theory.
  • The prism experiment helped newton build a concept of what is known as the color wheel.
  • In 1758 Tobias Mayer did a color triangle diagram and he began with 3 main pure colors, red, blue and yellow.
  • Schaffer explained when blue, red, yellow are combined they create multiple shades in between. His color system shows color combinations within a color group. 

Color Psychology


  • Symbolic meaning: Yellow is generally accepted as being optimistic, enlightening, as well as happiness. It can also represent a good future when goldish. Universally, it represents caution though; since it’s a very visible color. Ex: Yellow stop light


  • Symbolic meaning: it’s ranked high and overused. People tend to mix blue with other colors to be creative. Blue is also the most recognizable as most used color in designs and corporations
  • Effects: It calms the mind of a person. It also has a cooling effect.


  • Symbolic meaning: red captures attention from people; since it’s the most visible color Ex: stop sign, fire truck, stop light.

Modern Color Theory

  • Albert Munsell was an American painter and art teacher from Boston. In 1917, he founded the Munsell Color Company.
  • Hue- Measured around horizontal circles
    • Chroma/intensity- measures radically outwards from the neutral (grey) vertical axis. It represents purity w/ a lower Chroma being less pure.
    • Value- measured by degrees around the horizontal circles.
    • Cold-warm- achieved with the colors orange-red and blue-green

Applied Color

  • Branding is the logo and print that a company picks to use as an identity for there product or services
  • Most people choice items depending on the color rather than the item themselves.
  • People see color before they absorb anything else

Printing Color

  • Offset printing is one of the most common ways of producing printed material such as newspapers or magazines.
  • CMYK is the format used for printing photos in full color
  • Each color layer is printed separately on top of one another, internally inside the printer to create the image on the paper when it is finished.
  • Full-tone is the ink density of a printing image. 

Computer Color

  • When the primary additive colors are mixed, this is in the form of color lights, creates white light.
  • When mixed by 1/3rd the secondary colors are yellows, cyan and magenta.
  • Hexadecimal is a system to add or subtract value to color.
  • HSV a “cylindrical geometry” based on the RGB model.

Color Optical Illusions

This talks a lot about Partitive mixing.

Partitive mixing is different from actually mixing together pigments in order to create a new color. Partitive mixing is when you use two different shapes (dots or lines) and carefully put them next to each other, making it look like it formed a new color.  This kind of partitive mixing is called a Pseudoadditive; eye is mixing the light reflected off the pigments.

Michel Chevreul  also confirmed the effects that a color can have when put on top of a different colored background. An example of this is Red on white and black.

The Red on White seems to be more fuller since the white is already bright to the eye. However, the Red on black makes the red look brighter and “hotter” because black is already a dark color.  This is called iridescence.

Research Topics- Aidan

Color Biology:

-3 types of color blindness: monochromatic, dichromatic, anomalous

-3 types of cones in eyes: L-cones, M-cones, S-cones

– can see over 10,000 colors

-use rods in dim light, not cones. Rods don’t interpret wavelengths

Color History:

-Isaac Newton set the basis of the modern theory of light

-Schaffer invented his own color system

-Goethe studied psychological effects that color had on emotional feelings

-Runge took the color wheel and added black and white to the colors

Modern Color Theory:

-Albert Munsell founded Munsell color foundation

-hue is measured around a horizontal circle

-chroma is measured radially outward from the vertical axis

-Each primary hue is assigned the value 5

Applied Color:

-branding is the name, term, sign, etc. used to represent a product

-60% of time people choose product base on color

-people see color before they absorb anything else

-warm colors used for adventure and intimacy

Printing Colors:

-offset printing is the most common way of creating printed matter

-photos separated into four colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black

-inkjet printers use liquid ink sprayed through microscopic nozzles onto the paper

-laser printing is a digital printing process that produces high quality text and graphics using laser beams

Color Management:

-procedure of controlling characteristics between various mediums

– color consistency is important in how we communicate as designers to make sure the message is properly communicated

-pantone color system is a widely used standardized color system

-color space is the range of colors, from the eyes of the camera lens to the computer monitor

Color on Monitors and Screens:

-hexadecimal is a system to add or subtract value to color

-this ranges from from 00 to FF, 00 being no color and FF being all color

-the A added to the RGB color wheel is called the ALPHA channel

-LCD screen is liquid crystal display

Color Perception

  • About eight percent of all men have some sort of color deficiency, however women only have about half of a percent.
  • There are three cones within the eye called the following, the L-cone, M-cone and S-cone, all which acknowledge red wavelengths, green wavelengths and blue wavelengths.
  • Any color deficiencies occur in the L-cones or M-cones.
  • If there is low light, cones do not detect them. However this is when the rods in our eyes kick in and since they do not determine different wavelengths it creates a blue-gray vision that is called nighttime.
  • Color blindness affects more males than females.

Color Perceptions

Although everyone discriminates between colors differently, designers can make certain color choices to increase visual accessibility. Color contrasts must sometimes be exaggerated to ensure that even those with color deficiencies are able to distinguish between different hues and values.

Artists and designers choose colors carefully, sometimes altering the natural color of things to incite a specific reaction. Local color refers to the actual and expected hue, whereas occult color means a hue that is unexpected and abnormal for a specific object or scene.

The rods and cones in our eyes work differently under different light conditions. Cones do not function well at night so rods take over to help distinguish forms when our ability to separate between colors is lost.

Color perceptions vary between species. Some animals, like dogs, have a heightened nocturnal vision in order to compensate for their low color vision.

Color Contrasts and Optical Illusions

I found it interesting how many factors affect how we perceive color. Different contrasts, lighting, patterns, etc can all change how we see a color. It was intriguing to learn that our brains are better at keeping colors constant through different lighting than when colors are simply paired with certain other colors. Another aspect of color that I found compelling dealt with Seurat’s experimentation with pointilist painting. Although complementary colors next to each other create a vibrancy, when used as small dots to cover larger areas, their color instead visually mix together to create more grayish colors.

With regards to optical illusions, I was most surprised to learn that your eyes could be tricked into seeing color with only black and white via different patterns.