This blog is a useful tool to give you valuable advice regarding colors, color matching for clothing, color trends, and color personality. Posts, pictures, videos, interviews and reviews in this blog will be supported by my expertise as a gemologist and image consultant. With this post I will explain what is color, how we see colors, and some important color attributes.
What Is Color
Pure white light, such as sunlight, is composed of the visible colors. Sir Isaac Newton discovered this in 1666 by passing a beam of light through a prism. The light separated into the same progression of colors found in the natural rainbow. Although he found an infinite number of colors in this spectrum, Newton wanted to show that there were just seven main colors. He identified red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Using a second prism, Newton showed that each color in the spectrum is monochromatic. This means that each color is composed of a single, unique wavelength, which can’t be further separated into other colors. The longest wavelength of light that we can see is red. The shortest is violet.
Newton’s experiments showed that light can be combined to form different colors. For example, combining blue and yellow light produces a green light. Using two prisms, Newton found that some color combinations produce pure white instead of colored light, because they complete each other when mixed. These pairs of colors are called complements. For instance, purple and yellow lights combine to form white.
How We See Colors
The human eye and brain together translate light into color. Light receptors within the eye transmit messages to the brain, which produces the familiar sensations of color. Newton observed that color is not inherent in objects. In effect, the surface of an object reflects some colors and absorbs all the others. We perceive only the reflected colors. For example, red is not “in” a ruby. The surface of the ruby is reflecting the wavelengths we see as red and absorbing all the rest. An object appears white when it reflects all wavelengths and black when it absorbs all of them.
Every color can be described in terms of having three main attributes: hue, saturation and brightness. Hue is identified as the color family or color name (such as red, blue, green). Saturation, also called “chroma”, is a measure of the purity of a color or how sharp or dull the color appears. Brightness, also called “luminance” or “value” is the shade (darkness) or tint (lightness) of a color.
Tints, shades and tones are variations of hues, or colors. A tint is a hue to which white has been added. For example, red + white = pink. A shade is a hue to which black has been added. For instance, red + black = burgundy. Finally, a tone is a color to which black and white (or gray) have been added. This darkens the original hue while making the color appear subtler and less intense.