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Ivan's picture

Anatomy of colors

The red light focuses slightly behind the retina, this is why a red surface will feel like it's coming towards us when we look at it. The yellow is focused right on the retina, that's why we perceive it as the lightest color. Even lighter than white. The blue however is focused slightly before the retina, therefore a big blue billboard feels like it's moving away from the viewer. Greens are close to blue and oranges are close to red.

There are many cultural, sociological and other reasons that define a color. However because of the above mentioned universal physical reasons, red is strong and energetic, while blue is cool all over the world. That's why red should be your first choice for a retail product, especially if it's to be distributed internationally. Do I need to give you an example? Thirsty?

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kit's picture

Very interesting, I didn't know that. Thanx for sharing.

Anonymous's picture

12 examples of the color red in logos

Ivan's picture

"The colour red makes us hungry. And it's not just in logos, it's everywhere you'd want to be hungry."

that's cool, thanks. :)

also, 50% of the flags around the world contains the color red.

Amogh's picture

nice post.
this also explains why certain graphics looks like its 3D. the red goes down the green goes up. I wonder how can i use this to design my business card ! shoooo!

Ivan's picture

if you finish, please show it off, i want to experience it. :)

Ivan's picture

Kit on his blog linked to the LÜSCHER COLOR DIAGNOSTICS ®. Check it out!

Anonymous's picture


If this were the case, wouldn't that mean that as someone got more nearsighted, the world would turn more red and as they got more farsighted, the world would turn blue?

Go to a better source if you are interested in color vision.

charlie don't surf's picture

This topic came up on a linguistics chat board a while ago. Several examples from across the world of water faucets labeled red/cold and blue/hot were provided.

Your explanation of chromatic aberration is overly simplified. I suggest you study Cezanne and his "color pressure" theories, as well as Josef Albers Color Theory, before making sweeping generalizations that chromatic aberration is the reason why colors recede or advance. My painting teachers made us do exercises to cause colors to move opposite of what you would expect. It is largely a matter of "simultaneous contrast," in other words, any color can recede or advance dependent on what color is next to it.

Ivan's picture

Thanks for your comments. The most important benefit for me from doing this blog is that i learn from you, so please take no offence when i defend my case. maybe it will help to clarify the situation.

regarding the link at wikipedia, it's very important common knowledge, thank you for it. but i have to say, that i fail to see how it makes my post nonsense.

as for the book, how was it? is it worth getting it?

i lived in China and i know from first hand experience that the red and blue faucets are sometimes mixed up. it doesn't mean that in china red means cold. it's simply a mistake from the local plumber, who didn't care or didn't know the meaning of the two different colors. don't take everything you read on boards too seriously. ;)

of course my post is overly simplified. that's why this blog is not called the creative encyclopedia. if there is a mistake in my understanding of this subject, my appologies and please correct me if you would take the time.

i did similar exercises in my first year too. in such exercises you are manipulating with several colors, not just one, right? that's a totally different situation in my opinion. also, i didn't say that this all you need to know about the subject. of course there is more to it and thanks for pointing it out.

Ivan's picture

Check out the post with the test pictures here to see for yourself. Does red appear to be on a higher level or not?

PsychoCat's picture

I would be repeating what others have already said by telling you how much I really enjoyed reading the article. I've been wanting to understand more about color for awhile now. I'd like to read more if you have them.

Anonymous's picture

"If we cover one eye and focus on a red car 100 yards away, then a blue pencil just two feet in front of us would be in focus at the same time! Wherever we looked, our routine experience of the world would be of near, in focus "cool" objects popping out of a field of view anchored on distant, in focus "warm" objects."

"Why don't we ever experience the world in such a bizarre way? Because our eyes are adapted in many ways to eliminate chromatic aberration from our visual experience. We simply never see it, unless it is produced by cheap artificial optics. The focusing of our eyes, the appearance of objects and the development of our color associations can hardly be influenced by optical effects we never see!"


"A typical orange is always lighter valued and more intense than a typical blue. But when orange is matched with its complementary blue on chroma and lightness, the orange appears to be a dull brown. I don't think anyone claims that brown is "advancing," "attention getting," "cheerful" or "arousing"!"

Anonymous's picture

Someone said:
((If this were the case, wouldn't that mean that as someone got more nearsighted, the world would turn more red and as they got more farsighted, the world would turn blue?))

While I don't know if it actually happens, I do know that we, as humans, are supremely good at "correcting" for color abberations in our brain. That is why photography can be such a "surprise" at times; we shoot the photo and things look normal, but the actual photo shows a non-percieved color bias that we very well may not have been aware of during the shooting.

The real "magic" of color is not in the color you choose, it is in the colors you choose to go around that color. That is called "field control." And it is the real key to making incredible color choices. Some people use these principals intuitively, but you don't have to give up if it doesn't come so easy. There is a great book by FABER BIRREN, a world famous colorist (a pioneer in the field) who reduces down all the academics to information specifically for ARTISTS. The book is called "CREATIVE COLOR" and, while I don't know if it is still in print, it is readily available on HALF.COM and through used book sources. Seriously, if you are an artist, the priciples in the book will blow your mind!

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