Just some stuff…

What is colour? Isaac Newton described how the “inflexion” of light caused different colours to be produced in his Opticks work of 1704, describing 7 different colours in a circle. In reality, the human eye can detect approximately 100 different hues, hence the Munsell system is based on this number. The real magic of colour, though is that we all only see with our own eyes; we can never literally “see” through another’s eyes, so colour is by definition impossible to measure in the truest sense of the word.

“All colours will agree in the dark” Francis Bacon

Without light, there is no colour and by definition therefore, light is colour. This is important because it means that the light used to show a colour is intrinsically part of that colour. To measure a given colour it therefore means we must define the light first, which we do with various standards such as D50 and D65 for daylight.

“Colour is the place where our brain and the universe meet” Paul Klee

To define colour using systems like Munsell and NCS, mathematical logic is used to divide up colour space in ways that can be communicated between people and organisations. This also establishes¬†a logic that makes it possible to calculate how to¬†produce the same colours consistently and accurately in manufacturing processes. Today it is perfectly possible to communicate accurate and repeatable colour information across the world between designers, specifiers, manufacturers and QC people. This has huge commercial implications in the global economy and drives the colour industry. Let us not forget the magic though…

“Rainbows don’t hurt anyone, keep your happiness like a rainbow, fly and spread your colours to everyone”

visible spectrum

Did you know?

  • Lobsters have colourless blood that only turns blue when exposed to oxygen
  • A goldfish can see in infra-red and ultra-violet light wavelengths
  • Mars appears red because of rust on the surface caused by the existence of iron oxide
  • Crocodiles are actually colour blind
  • The human eye can detect more shades of green than any other colour
  • The army uses “low dye” paint on uniforms to avoid detection by infra-red cameras
  • The Lockheed SR71 Blackbird was painted with “iron ball” paint to avoid radar detection

More about colour…

The excellent Munsell Color Blog is a fascinating resource for people interested in colour, how it affects and influences our lives in surprising ways and how the measurement of colour has evolved.