Thursday, 3 May 2012

The perception of colour

This post should have been called the highly subjective perception of colour as everyone see's colour differently.

What is Colour?

Colour - is what we as humans perceive visually from the spectrum of wavelengths transmitted by light. When you see a colour it is actually a wavelength of light that the cornea in your eye is seeing as the perceived colour.

Colours are perceived differently by men and women because the cone cells in our retinas differ. Generally women will see more colours from the spectrum of light than men will. Women have a more complex eye structure than men which allows us to see more of the colour spectrum than men - as in the diagram below.

taken from
Men are also more likely to be colour blind, which means they cannot perceive a difference in the colours red and green.

To check if you are colour blind visit


Colour produces an emotional response in people. Across the world colour affects people different because we all have different cultures and associate colour with different things.

Red, orange and yellow are generally perceived to be seen to look closer together on the colour spectrum and can be called warm colours.

On the flip side blues and greens are cool colours and are morel likely to be seen as calming colours but can also associate sadness.

Favourite Colour?

Blue is most likely to be a favourite colour for both men and women.
Interestingly, this could be because as far back as when we were all tiny amoeba. The first place we lived was in the sea and the first colour we saw was blue, because the sky above was blue this was the only colour we could see.

Head over to my facebook page and answer the question what is your favourite colour? 

Blue therefore is seen as calming because even in primitive brains we know that this is safe.

It wasn't until we left the sea that we began to see other colours but we only began to see other colours because our survival depended on it. So as we became more and more complex creatures our eyes became more complex, allowing us to understand the world better, perceiving danger better.

This was not meant as an exhaustive method to learn about colour. People spend their whole lives devoted to the study of colour and for many purposes, so if you are interested like me go ahead and read as much as you can about the phenomenon.

Brigid Visser
Professional, creative, media design from CR8:V-Design.
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