1. - WHAT IS COLOR?
Color is the aspect of things that is caused by differing qualities of light being reflected or emitted by them, as received by the human eye and processed by the human brain. It is a function of light and biology, not an exact science, no two people can see it exactly the same.
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. Rather, the surface of an object reflects some colors and absorbs all the others. We perceive only the reflected colors. Thus, red is not "in" an apple. The surface of the apple 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 them all.
"Colors are the deeds of light, its deeds and sufferings."
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Red, green and blue are the additive primary colors of the color spectrum. Combining balanced amounts of red, green and blue lights also produces pure white. By varying the amount of red, green and blue light, a wide range of the colors in the visible spectrum can be produced.
The human eye can perceive more variations in warmer colors than cooler ones. About 8% of men and 1% of women have some form of color impairment. Most people with color deficiencies aren't aware that the colors they perceive as identical appear different to other people. Most still perceive color, but certain colors are transmitted to the brain differently.
"Color is a powerful physical, biological, and psychological force. When less color and less intense color is present, trace amounts and subtle differences become highly significant and are strongly felt. "
(John Paul Caponigro)
2. - HOW DOES COLOR AFFECT US?
Color is light and light is energy. Scientists have found out that actual physiological changes take place in human beings when they are exposed to certain colors. Colors can stimulate, excite, depress, tranquilize, increase appetite and create a feeling of warmth or coolness. This is known as chromodynamics.
Experiencing color is both objective and subjective - our personal and cultural associations affect this experience. Colors are seen as warm or cool mainly because of long-held (and often universal) associations. Yellow, orange and red are associated with the heat of sun and fire; blue, green and violet with the coolness of leaves, sea and the sky. Warm colors seem closer to the viewer than cool colors, but vivid cool colors can overwhelm light and subtle warm colors. Using warm colors for foreground and cool colors for background enhances the perception of depth.
"It is the eye of ignorance that assigns a fixed and unchangeable color to every object; beware of this stumbling block."
Although red, yellow and orange are in general considered high-arousal colors
and blue, green and most violets are low-arousal hues
, the brilliance, darkness and lightness of a color can alter the psychological message. While a light blue-green appears to be tranquil, wet and cool, a brilliant turquoise, often associated with a lush tropical ocean setting, will be more exciting to the eye. The psychological association of a color is often more meaningful than the visual experience.
"Red is a color I've felt very strongly about. Maybe red is a very Indian color, maybe it's one of those things that I grew up with and recognize at some other level."
Colors act upon the body as well as the mind. Red has been shown to stimulate the senses, raise the blood pressure, increase the appetite and is also associated with danger and anger. Blue, on the other hand, calls to mind feelings of calmness or serenity. It is often described as peaceful, tranquil, secure and orderly, but it can create feelings of sadness or aloofness. Blue lowers the pulse rate and body temperature. Green is a cool color that symbolizes nature, represents health, good luck, inspiration but also jealousy. It is thought to relieve stress and helps heal. Yellow is a bright color, often described as cheery and warm, but quite fatiguing to the eye. While it's stimulating and represents energy, it can create feelings of frustration or anger. Purple represents nobility, royalty, wealth, wisdom and spirituality. Purple does not often occur in nature, it can sometimes appear exotic or artificial. This color, especially shades of violet, will definitely make a statement.
"What a horrible thing yellow is."
is a natural color that evokes a sense of strength and reliability, bringing to mind feelings of warmth, comfort and security. Brown is considered a neutral color. Orange
is an energetic color, bringing out excitement and enthusiasm. It is often used to draw attention, it's easier on the eyes as yellow but not as bold as red. Pink
is essentially a light red, it's often associated with love and romance. It is thought to have a calming effect.
"With all their damned talk of modern painting, I've been forty years discovering that the queen of all colours is black!"
Black and White are not colors from the physical point of view, the first one absorbing all light in the color spectrum, the other reflecting all. Black
is often used as a symbol of menace and evil, but it is also popular as an indicator of power. In many cultures, it associates with death and mourning; in ancient Egypt, it represented life and rebirth. In fashion, black is used for its slimming quality and associates with elegance. White
represents purity and innocence, also hope. It is described as cold, bland and sterile. White helps reduce any nagging feelings of disappointment or drudge.
"White is poison to a picture: use it only in highlights."
(Peter Paul Rubens)
3. - COLOR HARMONY
In art as well as music, harmony comes from a pleasing arrangement of the parts. The science of color harmony categorizes colors and determines harmonious groupings, but where science becomes art is in knowing how to use these colors, in what proportions and in what order.
In color and music, contrasts intensify each other
. Complementary colors bring out the attributes of each other. White becomes brighter on a black background, blue enhances the warmth of orange; opposite hues are especially attention-getting. This hue contrast can cause tension in the image, if you are using fully saturated colors. Complementary colors can be brought into harmony by reducing the saturation or by mixing a little of each color with the other.
"Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? No."
This tension is at its strongest when large areas of complementary colors touch, this effect is known as simultaneous contrast. For the most part, it's visually disturbing and should be avoided. Separating large areas of complementary colors with a thin line of neutral white, gray or black will diminish the effect.
Varying the saturation or brightness of a color can cause light and dark contrasts. By simply working with complementary and analogous colors, a harmonious color scheme can easily be created. Pay attention to the saturation and brightness of the colors to prevent unexpected contrasts or to create intentional ones. If two colors are equal in saturation and proportions, the dominant color will be the one whose brightness is furthest from the background's. Similarly, if two colors have identical brightness, the dominant color will be the one whose saturation deviates more from that of the background.
"In order to change a color it is enough to change the color of its background.."
(Michel Eugene Chevreul)
How does color impact you, personally? What makes you choose one color over another? What's your favorite color combination?
Share your thoughts in the comments below
"Color possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter."