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Understanding Color and Light


Color and light color are essentially one.

Art students should lay a foundation by grounding themselves thoroughly in knowledge of both the physical facts concerning light and the physiological and psychological effects of light, and its resultant color, on the individual.

There are many books on the subject you can read. That's why, in this page, I only touch on a few fundamental facts about color.

Color and Light

Light is said to come from its source as a wave motion, the waves traveling at the remarkable speed of approximately 186,000 miles a second.

The sensation known as color is produced by the action of these waves of light upon the human eye.

The waves vary in length. These variations in wavelength produce different sensations in the eye corresponding to the different hues with which we are familiar.

Newton performed an interesting experiment, which you could easily repeat if you wanted to.

In a darkened room he placed a beam of sunlight through a slit in a window shade and allowed it to traverse a prism.

This separated or decomposed the light into a long line of colors, imperceptibly graded one into another, similar to a rainbow.

This separation of white light into its elements is called dispersion.

The resulting band is known as the spectrum.

The colors of the spectrum arrange themselves in the order of their wavelengths, the long waves being less refracted (that is, bent as they pass through the prism) than the short.

Starting with the red, which has the longest and slowest vibrating waves of any color visible to the human eye, innumerable colors follow, the most prominent being, in this order, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and, finally, violet, which, has the shortest and most rapid waves of any visible color.

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Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez

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