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Color (
American English American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by t ...
) or colour (
British English British English (BrE, en-GB, or BE) is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, " English as used in Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's five ...
) is the visual perceptual
property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property may have the right to consume, alter, share, ...
deriving from the spectrum of light interacting with the
photoreceptor cell A photoreceptor cell is a specialized type of neuroepithelial cell found in the retina that is capable of visual phototransduction Visual phototransduction is the sensory transduction process of the visual system by which light is detect ...
s of the eyes. Color categories and physical specifications of color are associated with objects or materials based on their physical properties such as light absorption, reflection, or emission spectra. By defining a
color space A color space is a specific organization of colors. In combination with color profiling supported by various physical devices, it supports reproducible representations of colorwhether such representation entails an analog or a digital represe ...
, colors can be identified numerically by their coordinates. Because perception of color stems from the varying spectral sensitivity of different types of cone cells in the
retina The retina (from la, rete "net") is the innermost, light-sensitive layer of tissue of the eye of most vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all animal Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom An ...
to different parts of the spectrum, colors may be defined and quantified by the degree to which they stimulate these cells. These physical or physiological quantifications of color, however, do not fully explain the psychophysical perception of color appearance. Color science includes the perception of color by the eye and brain, the origin of color in materials,
color theory In the visual arts The visual arts are art forms such as painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, photography, video, filmmaking, design, crafts and architecture. Many artistic disciplines such as performing arts, ...
in art, and the
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that department of knowledge which ...
of
electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that department of k ...
in the visible range (i.e. ''
light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of ...
'').


Physics of color

Electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that department of k ...
is characterized by its
wavelength In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that department of k ...
(or
frequency Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also occasionally referred to as ''temporal frequency'' for clarity, and is distinct from '' angular frequency''. Frequency is measured in hertz The hert ...
) and its intensity. When the wavelength is within the
visible spectrum The visible spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye The human eye is a sensory organ, part of the sensory nervous system, that reacts to visible light and allows humans to use visual inf ...
(the range of wavelengths humans can perceive, approximately from 390  nm to 700 nm), it is known as "visible
light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of ...
". Most light sources emit light at many different wavelengths; a source's ''spectrum'' is a distribution giving its intensity at each wavelength. Although the spectrum of light arriving at the eye from a given direction determines the color sensation in that direction, there are many more possible spectral combinations than color sensations. In fact, one may formally define a color as a class of spectra that give rise to the same color sensation, although such classes would vary widely among different species, and to a lesser extent among individuals within the same species. In each such class, the members are called '' metamers'' of the color in question. This effect can be visualized by comparing the light sources' spectral power distributions and the resulting colors.


Spectral colors

The familiar colors of the rainbow in the spectrum—named using the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through ...
word for ''appearance'' or ''apparition'' by
Isaac Newton Sir Isaac Newton (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, theologian, and author (described in his time as a " natural philosopher"), widely recognised as one of the ...
in 1671—include all those colors that can be produced by visible
light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of ...
of a single wavelength only, the ''pure spectral'' or ''monochromatic'' colors. The table at right shows approximate frequencies (in terahertz) and wavelengths (in nanometers) for spectral colors in the visible range. Spectral colors have 100% purity, and are fully saturated. A complex mixture of spectral colors can be used to describe any color, which is the definition of a light power spectrum. The color table should not be interpreted as a definitive list; the spectral colors form a continuous spectrum, and how it is divided into distinct colors linguistically is a matter of culture and historical contingency. Despite the ubiquitous ROYGBIV mnemonic used to remember the spectral colors in english, the inclusion or exclusion of colors in this table is contentious, with disagreement often focused on
indigo Indigo is a deep color close to the color wheel blue (a primary color in the RGB color space), as well as to some variants of ultramarine, based on the ancient dye of the same name. The word "indigo" comes from the Latin word ''indicum'', ...
and cyan. Even if the subset of color terms is agreed, their wavelength ranges and borders between them may not be. The ''intensity'' of a spectral color, relative to the context in which it is viewed, may alter its perception considerably according to the Bezold–Brücke shift; for example, a low-intensity orange-yellow is
brown Brown is a color. It can be considered a composite color, but it is mainly a darker shade of orange. In the CMYK color model The CMYK color model (also known as process color, or four color) is a subtractive color model, based on the C ...
, and a low-intensity yellow-green is olive green.


Color of objects

The color of an object as perceived by an observer is not an intrinsic quality of that object, but depends on several factors: # the physics of the object (which wavelengths of light are selectively absorbed, reflected, transmitted, or emitted) # the color of the light shining on the object ( color cast of the illuminant) # the angles between observer, object and illuminant (applicable to structural color) # the physics of light in its environment (how the atmosphere may affect the light through
Rayleigh scattering Rayleigh scattering ( ), named after the 19th-century British physicist Lord Rayleigh (John William Strutt), is the predominantly elastic scattering of light or other electromagnetic radiation by particles much smaller than the wavelength ...
or dispersion, for example) # relative velocity between object and observer ( red shift; mostly applicable to astronomy) # the characteristics of the perceiving eye (the number and spectral sensitivity of cone classes and dimensionality of color vision) # higher order processes in the brain that affect the color, such as color constancy Some generalizations of the physics can be drawn, neglecting perceptual effects for now: *Light arriving at an opaque surface is either reflected " specularly" (that is, in the manner of a mirror), scattered (that is, reflected with diffuse scattering), or absorbed—or some combination of these. *Opaque objects that do not reflect specularly (which tend to have rough surfaces) have their color determined by which wavelengths of light they scatter strongly (with the light that is not scattered being absorbed). If objects scatter all wavelengths with roughly equal strength, they appear white. If they absorb all wavelengths, they appear black. *Opaque objects that specularly reflect the light of different wavelengths with different efficiencies look like mirrors tinted with colors determined by those differences. An object that reflects some fraction of impinging light and absorbs the rest may look black but also be faintly reflective; examples are black objects coated with layers of enamel or lacquer. *Objects that transmit light are either ''translucent'' (scattering the transmitted light) or ''transparent'' (not scattering the transmitted light). If they also absorb (or reflect) light of various wavelengths differentially, they appear tinted with a color determined by the nature of that absorption (or that reflectance). *Objects may emit light that they generate from having excited electrons, rather than merely reflecting or transmitting light. The electrons may be excited due to elevated temperature ('' incandescence''), as a result of chemical reactions ('' chemiluminescence''), after absorbing light of other frequencies (" fluorescence" or " phosphorescence") or from electrical contacts as in
light-emitting diode A light-emitting diode (LED) is a semiconductor device that emits light when current flows through it. Electrons in the semiconductor recombine with electron holes, releasing energy in the form of photons. The color of the light ...
s, or other light sources. To summarize, the color of an object is a complex result of its surface properties, its transmission properties, and its emission properties, all of which contribute to the mix of wavelengths in the light leaving the surface of the object. The perceived color is then further conditioned by the nature of the ambient illumination, and by the color properties of other objects nearby, and via other characteristics of the perceiving eye and brain.


Perception


Development of theories of color vision

Although
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Peripatetic school of ...
and other ancient scientists had already written on the nature of light and
color vision Color vision, a feature of visual perception, is an ability to perceive differences between light composed of different wavelengths (i.e., different spectral power distributions) independently of light intensity. Color perception is a part of ...
, it was not until Newton that light was identified as the source of the color sensation. In 1810, Goethe published his comprehensive '' Theory of Colors'' in which he provided a rational description of colour experience, which 'tells us how it originates, not what it is'. (Schopenhauer) In 1801 Thomas Young proposed his trichromatic theory, based on the observation that any color could be matched with a combination of three lights. This theory was later refined by James Clerk Maxwell and
Hermann von Helmholtz Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (31 August 1821 – 8 September 1894) was a German physicist and physician who made significant contributions in several scientific fields, particularly hydrodynamic stability. The Helmholtz Associat ...
. As Helmholtz puts it, "the principles of Newton's law of mixture were experimentally confirmed by Maxwell in 1856. Young's theory of color sensations, like so much else that this marvelous investigator achieved in advance of his time, remained unnoticed until Maxwell directed attention to it." At the same time as Helmholtz, Ewald Hering developed the opponent process theory of color, noting that
color blindness Color blindness or color vision deficiency (CVD) is the decreased ability to see color or differences in color. It can impair tasks such as selecting ripe fruit, choosing clothing, and reading traffic lights. Color blindness may make some ac ...
and afterimages typically come in opponent pairs (red-green, blue-orange, yellow-violet, and black-white). Ultimately these two theories were synthesized in 1957 by Hurvich and Jameson, who showed that retinal processing corresponds to the trichromatic theory, while processing at the level of the lateral geniculate nucleus corresponds to the opponent theory. In 1931, an international group of experts known as the ''Commission internationale de l'éclairage'' ( CIE) developed a mathematical color model, which mapped out the space of observable colors and assigned a set of three numbers to each.


Color in the eye

The ability of the
human eye The human eye is a sensory organ, part of the sensory nervous system, that reacts to visible light and allows humans to use visual information for various purposes including seeing things, keeping balance, and maintaining circadian rhythm. ...
to distinguish colors is based upon the varying sensitivity of different cells in the
retina The retina (from la, rete "net") is the innermost, light-sensitive layer of tissue of the eye of most vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all animal Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom An ...
to light of different
wavelength In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that department of k ...
s. Humans are trichromatic—the retina contains three types of color receptor cells, or cones. One type, relatively distinct from the other two, is most responsive to light that is perceived as blue or blue-violet, with wavelengths around 450 nm; cones of this type are sometimes called ''short-wavelength cones'' or ''S cones'' (or misleadingly, ''blue cones''). The other two types are closely related genetically and chemically: ''middle-wavelength cones'', ''M cones'', or ''green cones'' are most sensitive to light perceived as green, with wavelengths around 540 nm, while the ''long-wavelength cones'', ''L cones'', or ''red cones'', are most sensitive to light that is perceived as greenish yellow, with wavelengths around 570 nm. Light, no matter how complex its composition of wavelengths, is reduced to three color components by the eye. Each cone type adheres to the principle of univariance, which is that each cone's output is determined by the amount of light that falls on it over all wavelengths. For each location in the visual field, the three types of cones yield three signals based on the extent to which each is stimulated. These amounts of stimulation are sometimes called ''tristimulus values''. The response curve as a function of wavelength varies for each type of cone. Because the curves overlap, some tristimulus values do not occur for any incoming light combination. For example, it is not possible to stimulate ''only'' the mid-wavelength (so-called "green") cones; the other cones will inevitably be stimulated to some degree at the same time. The set of all possible tristimulus values determines the human ''color space''. It has been estimated that humans can distinguish roughly 10 million different colors. The other type of light-sensitive cell in the eye, the rod, has a different response curve. In normal situations, when light is bright enough to strongly stimulate the cones, rods play virtually no role in vision at all. On the other hand, in dim light, the cones are understimulated leaving only the signal from the rods, resulting in a colorless response. (Furthermore, the rods are barely sensitive to light in the "red" range.) In certain conditions of intermediate illumination, the rod response and a weak cone response can together result in color discriminations not accounted for by cone responses alone. These effects, combined, are summarized also in the Kruithof curve, which describes the change of color perception and pleasingness of light as a function of temperature and intensity.


Color in the brain

While the mechanisms of
color vision Color vision, a feature of visual perception, is an ability to perceive differences between light composed of different wavelengths (i.e., different spectral power distributions) independently of light intensity. Color perception is a part of ...
at the level of the
retina The retina (from la, rete "net") is the innermost, light-sensitive layer of tissue of the eye of most vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all animal Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom An ...
are well-described in terms of tristimulus values, color processing after that point is organized differently. A dominant theory of color vision proposes that color information is transmitted out of the eye by three opponent processes, or opponent channels, each constructed from the raw output of the cones: a red–green channel, a blue–yellow channel, and a black–white "luminance" channel. This theory has been supported by neurobiology, and accounts for the structure of our subjective color experience. Specifically, it explains why humans cannot perceive a "reddish green" or "yellowish blue", and it predicts the color wheel: it is the collection of colors for which at least one of the two color channels measures a value at one of its extremes. The exact nature of color perception beyond the processing already described, and indeed the status of color as a feature of the perceived world or rather as a feature of our ''perception'' of the world—a type of
qualia In philosophy of mind, qualia ( or ; singular form: quale) are defined as individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. The term ''qualia'' derives from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Itali ...
—is a matter of complex and continuing philosophical dispute.


Nonstandard color perception


Color vision deficiency

A color vision deficiency causes an individual to perceive a smaller gamut of colors than the standard observer with normal color vision. The effect can be mild, having lower "color resolution" (i.e. anomalous trichromacy), moderate, lacking an entire dimension or channel of color (e.g. dichromacy), or complete, lacking all color perception (i.e.
monochromacy Monochromacy (from Greek ''mono'', meaning "one" and ''chromo'', meaning "color") is the ability of organisms or machines to perceive only light intensity, without respect to spectral composition (color). Organisms with monochromacy are called ...
). Most forms of color blindness derive from one or many of the three classes of cone cells either being missing, having a shifted spectral sensitivity or having lower responsiveness to incoming light. In addition, cerebral achromatopsia is caused by neural anomalies in those parts of the brain where visual processing takes place. Some colors that appear distinct to an individual with normal color vision will appear metameric to the color blind. The most common form of color blindness is congenital red-green color blindness, affecting ~8% of males. Individuals with the strongest form of this condition ( dichromacy) will experience blue and purple, green and yellow, teal and gray as colors of confusion, i.e. metamers.


Tetrachromacy

Outside of humans, which are mostly ''trichromatic'' (having three types of cones), most mammals are dichromatic, possessing only two cones. However, outside of mammals, most vertebrate are '' tetrachromatic'', having four types of cones, and includes most,
bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all animal Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, ...
s,
reptile Reptiles, as most commonly defined are the animals in the class Reptilia ( ), a paraphyletic grouping comprising all sauropsids except birds. Living reptiles comprise turtle Turtles are an order of reptiles known as Testudines, ch ...
s,
amphibian Amphibians are four-limbed and ectothermic vertebrate Vertebrates () comprise all animal Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic ma ...
s and bony fish. An extra dimension of color vision means these vertebrates can see two distinct colors that a normal human would view as metamers. Some invertebrates, such as the mantis shrimp, have an even higher number of cones (12) that could lead to a richer color gamut than even imaginable by humans. The existence of human tetrachromats is a contentious notion. As many as half of all human females have 4 distinct cone classes, which could enable tetrachromacy. However, a distinction must be made between ''retinal (or weak) tetrachromats'', which express four cone classes in the retina, and ''functional (or strong) tetrachromats'', which are able to make the enhanced color discriminations expected of tetrachromats. In fact, there is only one peer-reviewed report of a functional tetrachromat. It is estimated that while the average person is able to see one million colors, someone with functional tetrachromacy could see a hundred million colors.


Synesthesia

In certain forms of synesthesia, perceiving letters and numbers ( grapheme–color synesthesia) or hearing sounds ( chromesthesia) will evoke a perception of color. Behavioral and functional neuroimaging experiments have demonstrated that these color experiences lead to changes in behavioral tasks and lead to increased activation of brain regions involved in color perception, thus demonstrating their reality, and similarity to real color percepts, albeit evoked through a non-standard route. Synesthesia can occur genetically, with 4% of the population having variants associated with the condition. Synesthesia has also been known to occur with brain damage, drugs, and sensory deprivation. The philosopher Pythagoras experienced synesthesia and provided one of the first written accounts of the condition in approximately 550 BCE. He created mathematical equations for musical notes that could form part of a scale, such as an octave.


Afterimages

After exposure to strong light in their sensitivity range, photoreceptors of a given type become desensitized. For a few seconds after the light ceases, they will continue to signal less strongly than they otherwise would. Colors observed during that period will appear to lack the color component detected by the desensitized photoreceptors. This effect is responsible for the phenomenon of afterimages, in which the eye may continue to see a bright figure after looking away from it, but in a complementary color. Afterimage effects have also been used by artists, including Vincent van Gogh.


Color constancy

When an artist uses a limited color palette, the
human eye The human eye is a sensory organ, part of the sensory nervous system, that reacts to visible light and allows humans to use visual information for various purposes including seeing things, keeping balance, and maintaining circadian rhythm. ...
tends to compensate by seeing any gray or neutral color as the color which is missing from the color wheel. For example, in a limited palette consisting of red, yellow, black, and white, a mixture of yellow and black will appear as a variety of green, a mixture of red and black will appear as a variety of purple, and pure gray will appear bluish. The trichromatic theory is strictly true when the visual system is in a fixed state of adaptation. In reality, the visual system is constantly adapting to changes in the environment and compares the various colors in a scene to reduce the effects of the illumination. If a scene is illuminated with one light, and then with another, as long as the difference between the light sources stays within a reasonable range, the colors in the scene appear relatively constant to us. This was studied by Edwin H. Land in the 1970s and led to his retinex theory of color constancy. Both phenomena are readily explained and mathematically modeled with modern theories of chromatic adaptation and color appearance (e.g. CIECAM02, iCAM).M.D. Fairchild
Color Appearance Models
, 2nd Ed., Wiley, Chichester (2005).
There is no need to dismiss the trichromatic theory of vision, but rather it can be enhanced with an understanding of how the visual system adapts to changes in the viewing environment.


Color naming

Colors vary in several different ways, including hue (shades of red, orange,
yellow Yellow is the color between green and orange on the spectrum of light. It is evoked by light with a dominant wavelength of roughly 575585 nm. It is a primary color in subtractive color systems, used in painting or color printing. In ...
,
green Green is the color between cyan Cyan () is the color between green and blue on the visible spectrum of light. It is evoked by light with a predominant wavelength between 490 and 520 nm, between the wavelengths of green and blue. ...
, blue, and violet), saturation, brightness, and gloss. Some color words are derived from the name of an object of that color, such as " orange" or " salmon", while others are abstract, like "red". In the 1969 study '' Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution'', Brent Berlin and Paul Kay describe a pattern in naming "basic" colors (like "red" but not "red-orange" or "dark red" or "blood red", which are "shades" of red). All languages that have two "basic" color names distinguish dark/cool colors from bright/warm colors. The next colors to be distinguished are usually red and then yellow or green. All languages with six "basic" colors include black, white, red, green, blue, and yellow. The pattern holds up to a set of twelve: black, gray, white, pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, and azure (distinct from blue in Russian and Italian, but not English).


In culture

Colors, their meanings and associations can play a major role in works of art, including literature.


Associations

Individual colors have a variety of cultural associations such as national colors (in general described in individual color articles and color symbolism). The field of color psychology attempts to identify the effects of color on human emotion and activity. Chromotherapy is a form of
alternative medicine Alternative medicine is any practice that aims to achieve the healing effects of medicine Medicine is the science Science is a systematic endeavor that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and pr ...
attributed to various Eastern traditions. Colors have different associations in different countries and cultures. Different colors have been demonstrated to have effects on cognition. For example, researchers at the University of Linz in Austria demonstrated that the color red significantly decreases cognitive functioning in men. The combination of the colors red and yellow together can induce hunger, which has been capitalized on by a number of chain restaurants. Color plays a role in memory development too. A photograph that is in black and white is slightly less memorable than one in color. Studies also show that wearing bright colors makes you more memorable to people you meet.


Color reproduction

Color reproduction is the science of creating colors for the human eye that faithfully represent the desired color. It focuses on how to construct a spectrum of wavelengths that will best evoke a certain color in an observer. Most colors are not spectral colors, meaning they are mixtures of various wavelengths of light. However, these non-spectral colors are often described by their dominant wavelength, which identifies the single wavelength of light that produces a sensation most similar to the non-spectral color. Dominant wavelength is roughly akin to hue. There are many color perceptions that by definition cannot be pure spectral colors due to desaturation or because they are
purple Purple is any of a variety of colors with hue between red and blue. In the RGB color model used in computer and television screens, purples are produced by mixing red and blue light. In the RYB color model historically used by painter ...
s (mixtures of red and violet light, from opposite ends of the spectrum). Some examples of necessarily non-spectral colors are the achromatic colors (black, gray, and white) and colors such as pink, tan, and magenta. Two different light spectra that have the same effect on the three color receptors in the
human eye The human eye is a sensory organ, part of the sensory nervous system, that reacts to visible light and allows humans to use visual information for various purposes including seeing things, keeping balance, and maintaining circadian rhythm. ...
will be perceived as the same color. They are metamers of that color. This is exemplified by the white light emitted by fluorescent lamps, which typically has a spectrum of a few narrow bands, while daylight has a continuous spectrum. The human eye cannot tell the difference between such light spectra just by looking into the light source, although the color rendering index of each light source may affect the color of objects illuminated by these metameric light sources. Similarly, most human color perceptions can be generated by a mixture of three colors called ''primaries''. This is used to reproduce color scenes in photography, printing, television, and other media. There are a number of methods or
color space A color space is a specific organization of colors. In combination with color profiling supported by various physical devices, it supports reproducible representations of colorwhether such representation entails an analog or a digital represe ...
s for specifying a color in terms of three particular primary colors. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the particular application. No mixture of colors, however, can produce a response truly identical to that of a spectral color, although one can get close, especially for the longer wavelengths, where the CIE 1931 color space chromaticity diagram has a nearly straight edge. For example, mixing green light (530 nm) and blue light (460 nm) produces cyan light that is slightly desaturated, because response of the red color receptor would be greater to the green and blue light in the mixture than it would be to a pure cyan light at 485 nm that has the same intensity as the mixture of blue and green. Because of this, and because the ''primaries'' in color printing systems generally are not pure themselves, the colors reproduced are never perfectly saturated spectral colors, and so spectral colors cannot be matched exactly. However, natural scenes rarely contain fully saturated colors, thus such scenes can usually be approximated well by these systems. The range of colors that can be reproduced with a given color reproduction system is called the gamut. The CIE chromaticity diagram can be used to describe the gamut. Another problem with color reproduction systems is connected with the initial measurement of color, or colorimetry. The characteristics of the color sensors in measurement devices (e.g. cameras, scanners) are often very far from the characteristics of the receptors in the human eye. A color reproduction system "tuned" to a human with normal color vision may give very inaccurate results for other observers, according to color vision deviations to the standard observer. The different color response of different devices can be problematic if not properly managed. For color information stored and transferred in digital form, color management techniques, such as those based on ICC profiles, can help to avoid distortions of the reproduced colors. Color management does not circumvent the gamut limitations of particular output devices, but can assist in finding good mapping of input colors into the gamut that can be reproduced.


Additive coloring

Additive color Additive color or additive mixing is a property of a color model that predicts the appearance of colors made by coincident component lights, i.e. the perceived color can be predicted by summing the numeric representations of the component co ...
is light created by mixing together
light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of ...
of two or more different colors. Red,
green Green is the color between cyan Cyan () is the color between green and blue on the visible spectrum of light. It is evoked by light with a predominant wavelength between 490 and 520 nm, between the wavelengths of green and blue. ...
, and blue are the additive primary colors normally used in additive color systems such as projectors and computer terminals.


Subtractive coloring

Subtractive color Subtractive color or subtractive color mixing predicts the spectral power distribution of light after it passes through successive layers of partially absorbing media. This idealized model is the essential principle of how dyes and inks are u ...
ing uses dyes, inks, pigments, or filters to absorb some wavelengths of light and not others. The color that a surface displays comes from the parts of the visible spectrum that are not absorbed and therefore remain visible. Without pigments or dye, fabric fibers, paint base and paper are usually made of particles that scatter white light (all colors) well in all directions. When a pigment or ink is added, wavelengths are absorbed or "subtracted" from white light, so light of another color reaches the eye. If the light is not a pure white source (the case of nearly all forms of artificial lighting), the resulting spectrum will appear a slightly different color. Red paint, viewed under blue light, may appear black. Red paint is red because it scatters only the red components of the spectrum. If red paint is illuminated by blue light, it will be absorbed by the red paint, creating the appearance of a black object.


Structural color

Structural colors are colors caused by interference effects rather than by pigments. Color effects are produced when a material is scored with fine parallel lines, formed of one or more parallel thin layers, or otherwise composed of microstructures on the scale of the color's
wavelength In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical science is that department of k ...
. If the microstructures are spaced randomly, light of shorter wavelengths will be scattered preferentially to produce Tyndall effect colors: the blue of the sky (Rayleigh scattering, caused by structures much smaller than the wavelength of light, in this case, air molecules), the luster of opals, and the blue of human irises. If the microstructures are aligned in arrays, for example, the array of pits in a CD, they behave as a diffraction grating: the grating reflects different wavelengths in different directions due to interference phenomena, separating mixed "white" light into light of different wavelengths. If the structure is one or more thin layers then it will reflect some wavelengths and transmit others, depending on the layers' thickness. Structural color is studied in the field of thin-film optics. The most ordered or the most changeable structural colors are iridescent. Structural color is responsible for the blues and greens of the feathers of many birds (the blue jay, for example), as well as certain butterfly wings and beetle shells. Variations in the pattern's spacing often give rise to an iridescent effect, as seen in peacock feathers, soap bubbles, films of oil, and mother of pearl, because the reflected color depends upon the viewing angle. Numerous scientists have carried out research in butterfly wings and beetle shells, including Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke. Since 1942, electron micrography has been used, advancing the development of products that exploit structural color, such as " photonic" cosmetics.


Additional terms

* Color wheel: an illustrative organization of color hues in a circle that shows relationships. * Colorfulness, chroma, purity, or saturation: how "intense" or "concentrated" a color is. Technical definitions distinguish between colorfulness, chroma, and saturation as distinct perceptual attributes and include purity as a physical quantity. These terms, and others related to light and color, are internationally agreed upon and published in the CIE Lighting Vocabulary. More readily available texts on colorimetry also define and explain these terms.R.S. Berns
Principles of Color Technology
, 3rd Ed., Wiley, New York (2001).
* Dichromatism: a phenomenon where the hue is dependent on the concentration and thickness of the absorbing substance. * Hue: the color's direction from white, for example in a color wheel or chromaticity diagram. * Shade: a color made darker by adding black. * Tint: a color made lighter by adding white. * Value, brightness, lightness, or luminosity: how light or dark a color is.


See also

*
Chromophore A chromophore is the part of a molecule A molecule is a group of two or more atom Every atom is composed of a nucleus and one or more electrons bound to the nucleus. The nucleus is made of one or more protons and a number of neu ...
* Color analysis (art) * Color in Chinese culture * Color mapping * Complementary color * Impossible color * International Color Consortium * International Commission on Illumination * Lists of colors (compact version) * Neutral color * Pearlescent coating including Metal effect pigments * Pseudocolor * Primary, secondary and tertiary colors


References


External links


ColorLab
MATLAB toolbox for color science computation and accurate color reproduction (by Jesus Malo and Maria Jose Luque, Universitat de Valencia). It includes CIE standard tristimulus colorimetry and transformations to a number of non-linear color appearance models (CIE Lab, CIE CAM, etc.).

Buenos Aires University * * * Robert Ridgway'
''A Nomenclature of Colors'' (1886)
an
''Color Standards and Color Nomenclature'' (1912)
text-searchable digital facsimiles at Linda Hall Library * Albert Henry Munsell'
''A Color Notation''
(1907) at Project Gutenberg
AIC
International Colour Association
The Effect of Color , OFF BOOK
Documentary produced by Off Book
Study of the history of colors
{{Authority control Image processing Qualia Vision