Preschool Colors Fast Facts

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Color Perception

There is an interesting phenomenon which occurs when an artist uses a limited color palette: the eye tends to compensate by seeing any grey or neutral color as the color which is missing from the color wheel. E.g.: 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 grey will appear bluish.

When the eye shifts attention after viewing a color for some time, then the complementary of that color (the color opposite to it in the color wheel) is perceived by the eye for some time wherever it moves. This effect of color perception was utilised by Vincent van Gogh, a Post-Impressionist painter.

Effect of luminosity

Note that the color experience of a given light mixture may vary with absolute luminosity, due to the fact that both rods and cones are active at once in the eye, with each having different color curves, and rods taking over gradually from cones as the brightness of the scene is reduced. This effect leads to a change in color rendition with absolute illumination levels that can be summarised in the "Kruithof curve".

Cultural influences

Different cultures have different terms for colors, and may also assign some color names to slightly different parts of the spectrum, or have a different color ontology: for instance, the Japanese color aoi can be interpreted as meaning something between the Western color terms of "blue" and "green": green is regarded as a shade of aoi.

Some argue that color terms develop evolutionarily. There are a limited number of universal "basic color terms" which begin to be used by individual cultures in a relatively fixed order. For example, a culture would start with only two terms, equivalent to black and white or dark and light, before adding subsequent colors closely in the order of red; green and yellow; blue; brown; and orange, pink, purple, and brown. Older arguments for this theory also stipulated that the acquisition and use of basic color terms further along the evolutionary order indicated a more complex culture with more highly developed technology.

A somewhat recent example of a universal color categories theory is Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution (1969) by Brent Berlin and Paul Kay. A example of a linguistic determinism theory is Is color categorisation universal? New evidence from a stone-age culture (1999) by Jules Davidoff et al. Language, Thought, and Reality by (1956) Benjamin Lee Whorf. The idea of linguisticly determined color categories is often used as evidence for the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Color constancy

The trichromatric theory discussed above is strictly true only if the whole scene seen by the eye is of one and the same color, which of course is unrealistic. In reality, the brain compares the various colors in a scene, in order to eliminate the effects of the illumination. If a scene is illuminated with one light, and then with another, its colors will nevertheless appear constant to us. This was discovered by Edwin Land in the 1970s and lead to his retinex theory of color constancy.

Color Perception

These fast facts were based off of a Wikipedia Document on Colors.

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