There is no such thing as colour, just light waves of different wavelengths. We as humans can distinguish variations in these wavelengths and so we see colour. Rays vibrate in a range of short and long wavelengths and our eye can process a narrow range of these wavelengths, which gives us the spectrum of colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
Reds have the longest wavelengths and violets have the shortest. Just outside of our range are infrareds and ultraviolets. We also perceive black and white. White contains all the colours of the spectrum and is often called achromatic. Black is the absence of colour where no visible light reaches the eye. Also, a combination of multiple pigments can give off so little light that our eye perceives black.
With light comes colour, the more light we have the more colour we see. Our eyes have colour receptors or cones that recognise red, green and blue. All colours we see are made of a mixture of these 3 colours. We cannot see all colours but approximately 10,000,000 shades – the human colour space.
Primary colours come in two types – additive and subtractive. Additive = red, green and blue (RGB). Subtractive = cyan, magenta and yellow (CMY).
Colour properties come in two types – subjective and objective. Subjective = hue, saturation and brightness. Objective measures the dominant wavelength = purity and luminance.
Hue refers to the colour position in our visible spectrum.
Saturation refers to richness, intensity, strength, purity or chroma (absence of black)
Brightness refers to the amount of tint (light) or shade (dark)
10 Rules of Colour
- Convey Information
- Create Colour Harmony
- Attract and Hold Attention
- Context Is Everything
- Experimentation is Key
- Know That People See Colour Differently
- Assist in Mnemonic Value
- Think about Composition
- Use Colour Systems
- Understand Limitations