What is Color Theory?

How do we see color? 

I used to work in a building that redecorated the bathrooms. They chose a beautiful and modern tile, and all of the fixtures were brand new, and the walls were painted green. Every time I would go in there, I would feel like I was sick. What made me feel sick? The combination of the wall color and the fluorescent light bulbs gave my skin a greenish look when I looked in the mirror and made my reflection look sick. Everyone hated the color, and it was so bad that after a few months they were forced to repaint the bathrooms because the effect was so intense. 

Our eyes and brains work together to translate how we see light and color. Light receptors in the eye transmit messages to our brain that then translates the signals into familiar sensations of color. So colors are not inherent in the objects that we see. Rather, the surface of the object reflects the wavelengths of a specific color and absorbs all of the others. Our eyes only see the reflected color. So a strawberry is reflecting the wavelengths of the color red and absorbing all of the others. Objects that reflect all of the colors read as white and those that absorb all of the colors read as black. 

The photoreceptors in our eyes pick up three types of light, red, green, and blue. 

We all know that ultraviolet light can give us sun damage and infrared lights are used to keep our fast food warm in restaurants, but what of the visible light spectrum? What do we know about them? 

Red light was used in the 1990s in space to grow plants. It was found to increase the growth and photosynthesis in the plant cells and has been tested to see if it would increase the energy in human cells as well. There have been some trials to use red light therapy to help with different skin conditions by dermatologists and in some high-end spas. 

Green light is reflected in plants, suggesting that the leaves reflect green light and absorb the blue and red lights. However, there are some initial trials in the study of green light therapy to assist in the bodies release of natural painkillers and could potentially help with some cases of chronic pain. 

Blue light consists of high energy, short-wavelength light, and it is everywhere. The biggest source of blue light we experience is from sunlight. In fact, it is what makes the sky blue. It is also in fluorescent and LED lighting as well as flat-screen TVs, computer monitors and other electronic devices. Our eyes are not very effective in blocking blue lights, and blue light exposure is suspected to increase our rates of macular degeneration, which can lead to vision loss. 

Color can impact us in other ways, as well. It is believed that 90% of snap decisions on products is based on color alone. A marketer will look at colors to establish a brand’s personality and individual product’s color appropriateness when formulating a market strategy. 

Like marketers, artists and designers use the concept of color interaction to evoke feelings in various situations. Color can be an important communication tool. It can be a call to action, influence moods, and trigger your physiological responses. Perceptions of color are not necessarily universal because personal preference and experience can impact this, but generally warm colors on the red end of the spectrum create feelings of warmth, anger, power, and hostility while colors closer to the blue end of the spectrum can be calming, creating feelings of peace, trust, and even sadness and indifference. 

We make selections based off of colors every day, from what paint color we select to what kind of car we want to drive. The way we choose to use color around us can evoke specific emotions, so when you are picking a color for your wall, or how to decorate your home, your garden, or your office, be sure to think about what sort of feeling you want when you are there. Color is what can make that happen.

Comments (2)

  • Charb on Sep 23, 2022

    I love your post on color. Where can I find additional info on the color theory…..I am in the process of selecting paint for the interior of my home.
    Thnx again for all the great info you folks put out there.
    Take care.

  • Cynthia Martin on Sep 23, 2022

    Again I learned something new. It seems every email from you provides a wealth of information I really like or didn’t know. I appreciate the way you folks think. Thank you.

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