18 August 2009

"Our Perception of Color" as seen in Decorati

Decorati, if you don't know, is a brilliant online design magazine and resource founded in San Francisco by the equally brilliant Shane Reilly. I met Shane through Twitter (@chiefdecorati) at the beginning of the summer. That I could meet and communicate with Shane Reilly is yet another reason I've become such an advocate of Twitter. I swear, through Twitter I get to interact directly with people I'd never meet under ordinary circumstances. Spend some time poking through Decorati, you will be glad you did. As if Decorati weren't enough, Shane also writes a personal blog and that's always worth a read too. Her blog is called Shane's Studio.

Anyhow, at the beginning of August, someone from Benjamin Moore posted a short piece on Decorati concerning color perception and I'm going to reprint it here.

Defining Color

The perception of color is a phenomenon of light - a form of energy with its own frequency and wavelength. Shine a light through a prism and you’ll see it divide into six color families: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. White light is the combination of all colors, while black is the absence of all colors. We perceive color due to the pigments in a given object. A blue pillow appears blue to our eyes because the pigment in the pillow is absorbing all the colors of the light except for the color blue reflecting back to us.

Color and Light

Have you ever tried to match a color swatch in a store only to find it looks like a completely different color when you bring it home? You’ve just experienced metamerism, the occurrence of colors seemingly changing when viewed under different light sources. Some colors are more prone to this phenomenon than others, including tans, taupes, grays, grayed-blues, mauves, lilacs, and grayed yellow-greens such as celadon. View color swatches in the actual space and lighting conditions in which they are being used.

Color and Space

Space affects how we perceive color, so keep proportion and scale in mind when making your color selections, along with whether you want the room to feel intimate or open. Consider elements such as ceiling height, visible wall space, furnishings, and large pieces of artwork, along with the number of windows and doorways in a room.

How Colors Affect Other Colors

Colors that surround a given color affect how we perceive that color. An off-white wall can appear pink when paired with a vibrant red carpet. Complementary colors, such as red and green, enhance each other’s color quality. Two squares of the identical shade of gray will appear to differ from one another when one is placed against a white background and the other against black.

That's great stuff and every word of it's true. It can be difficult to get accurate information about the science lurking behind the world of color but it's there. Thank you Benjamin Moore for so thorough an explanation and thank you Decorati for running it.

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