In the last year I have touched upon varied aspects of colour in our life.
Now we need to understand colour and the theory behind it.
Most of these aspects I have touched upon in my earlier writings.
- How does color affect our mood or behavior?
- Where is color found?
- What makes up color?
- Why do we have favorite colors?
- Why are products and product packages made in certain colors?
- Where does color theory originate?
Sir Isaac Newton, the father of modern science , was the first to study the origin of color. In the early 1700s, one sunny day, Newton was working on an experiment in his lab. Requiring total darkness, he drew his blinds, accidentally leaving one slat askew. One strong beam of light penetrated and refracted upon his water glass causing a rainbow effect on his wall. This experience resulted in Newton developing his theories of color and light.
Newton's discovery, that a pure white beam of light refracting off a prism (water glass) produces a spectrum (rainbow), led to a second discovery. This is that a white light could also be produced by combining three or more hues equidistant on the spectrum. This is the additive process of color theory, and is the basis of color TV in which spots of red, blue, and green is stimulated by electrons to form all other colors. The basic study of a simple prism and its use of light can enlighten us to the derivation of colour
The lineup of wavelengths creates tiny lines of color always found in exact order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, violet. The red wavelength is the widest and longest wave. It is the widest band in any rain bow, but is not necessarily seen from the farthest distance. The power of the wave lengths diminishes from red to the smallest band of violet, which is hardly visible.
Understanding the strength or weakness of these color waves gives credence to some very obvious concepts in our everyday lives. Because red is the widest wave, scientists at one time believed that the human eye could also see this hue from the farthest distance. This is why fire engines, stop and exit signs, etc., were traditionally red. Now scientists, with further study, have noted that the human ability to see colors from a distance has changed. Although red is wide, it is also dense and becomes absorbed in darkness and is hardly discernible from any other dark color. Yellow, especially yellow/ green, is now thought to be best detected in all environments-dawn, dusk, fog, night, and bright sunlight. This is why there is a growing trend to use white, yellow, and chartreuse colored fire engines. Street lamps in many metropolitan areas are being switched to yellow/ green beams. In the sun’s emissions, on either side of the visible spectrum, are ultraviolet, infra red, radio, x-ray, and cosmic rays which are invisible to the eye. These rays are useful but sometimes harmful to the health and well-being of all life on this earth.
In man's desire to reproduce color, the first pigments were obtained from natural sources (refer earlier writing). The Phoenicians obtained purple dyes from thousands of tiny snails. The chore of extracting the dye was so time-consuming that the hue was permitted to be worn only by the royal leaders.
Purple dyes from Snails:
The Egyptians allowed only their sun god, Ra, to wear the royal hue. The Mexicans produced red from the tiny insect cochineal, Europeans made ultra marine from pulverized lapis lazuli stone and green from malachite
Red dyes from cochineal:
Ultramarine from Lazuli stone:
Synthetic dye was first produced by William Perkins in 1858 during an experiment for quinine. From this, the chemistry of color began. And today many colors are produced from synthetic materials.
Contemporary color systems are based on the subtractive or pigment theory. In this theory, two or more colors mix together to produce a third color. To experience this concept, look at a small pattern containing two or more colors. As one moves further away from it, one observes how the colors visually blend together, creating one color, or so it seems.
Wilhelm Ostwald originated a pigment system identifying colors in terms of lightness and darkness, by adding degrees of white and black.
Albert H. Munsell carried this concept further by adding grey to those colors, showing yet another dimension to color
Earlier episodes of 'Colours with Kalyani':
Part 9: Colours of life
Part 8: Coral reefs and colours
Part 7: Colour changing animals
Part 5: Dyeing with Natural dyes: part 2
Part 4: Dyeing with Natural dyes: part 1
Part 3: Colours in Poetry & Literature
Part 2: Colours & birds
Part 1: Colours in nature