The logical place to start a resource page about color is to begin with the topics of what is color and how do we see it.

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What is Color?

Color is an event that occurs when you have three things: a light source, an object, and an observer. If any of these three things changes, the color event is different. Or in other words, we see a different color.

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The Influence of the Observer ~ Color Vision & How We See

Did you know 1 out of 255 women and 1 out of 12 men have some form of color vision deficiency? Interested in testing your color perception? Take the X-Rite online color challenge, based on the official FM100 Hue Test. It is the online version of the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Test, which is used to measure an individual’s color vision.

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Effect of Light

Objects appear to be a certain color because of their ability to reflect, absorb or transmit light. The characteristics of the light have a profound effect on the experience of color.

Have you ever dressed in the morning thinking you put on two black socks then walked outside in the daylight to discover one sock is actually navy blue? The mismatch occurs because of the difference in the spectral distribution of incandescent lighting (3200K) and daylight (5000k.). The phenomenon of two different objects appearing to match under one lighting condition is known as metamerism.

In the graphic arts is not about matching socks but rather having a standardized viewing condition to accurately evaluate color proofs. It is critical all people in the color approval process–designers, photographers, digital imaging specialists, and pressrooms–use the industry standard of 5000k viewing booths.

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Juxtaposition ~ Influence of Surroundings Color

Colors present themselves in continuous flux, constantly related to changing neighbors and changing conditions.” – Interaction of Color, Josef Albers

Thus, color is relative. The surrounding colors have a profound effect on the appearance of color.

One color appears as two. In both examples the center squares on each graphic are the same color. We perceive them to be different because of the influence of the surrounding colors.

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See For Yourself, Purves Labs
A fun, interactive site to test your perception of brightness & contrast and color.


Interaction of Color by Josef Albers
The Elements of Color: by Johannes Itten
The Art of Color by Johannes Itten
Perception & Imaging by Richard Zakia

Color Management

If you create, review, evaluate or edit graphics and photography, a color-managed environment is essential. Designers and digital photographers don’t need to become color management experts, but they should become color management practitioners.

Resources to expand your understanding of digital color reproduction and color management.

Photoshop & Creative Suite Color Settings

Monitor Calibration Hardware

PDF’s to Download

Do you have suggestions for other color resource sites that should be listed here? Let Us Know.

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