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Shorter wavelengths appear blue or violet, and longer wavelengths appear red. The animation at the right shows a schematic drawing of a wave. The white line represents the wavelength. Move the slider to explore how the color of a beam of light changes with its wavelength. The order of colors in light, arranged from shortest wavelength to longest, is called the visible spectrum of light.

The image below shows light's visible spectrum, which runs from violet to red. You might recognize the spectrum as the order of colors in a rainbow. But light waves can also have wavelengths lower or higher than the wavelengths in the visible spectrum, and many familiar types of radiation are just light waves with other wavelengths. Ultraviolet light and x-rays have wavelengths shorter than violet light, and infrared heat and radio waves have wavelengths longer than red light.


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The full range of wavelengths for light is called the "electromagnetic spectrum. The long wavelength cones are most stimulated by light that appears red, the medium wavelength cones by light that appears green, and the short wavelength cones by light that appears blue. A monochromatic wavelength of light or a narrow band of wavelengths can be selected as a representative for each of these colors.

These become the primary colors of a system that can be used to reproduce other colors in a process known as additive color mixing. When no light or not enough light falls on the retina, the brain perceives this nothing as the color black. When the light from two or more sources falls on adjacent rods in the retina, the brain perceives the combination as a different color.

The Visible Spectrum

The rules for combinations of the primary colors are as follows…. Most of us with typical human eyes and a basic knowledge of the English language are familiar with the color yellow. This is probably not the case for cyan and magenta. As you'd expect given that it's a combination of blue and green light, cyan appears blue-green — something like the blue of the sky but not exactly.

I'd say more like the semiprecious stone turquoise than anything else. Magenta is often confused with pink, but magenta is much more vibrant. Pink is desaturated red. Magenta is considered a pure color. More on this later. A close relative of magenta is fuchsia, which is a synthetic dye. I can't think of anything natural that looks like magenta. Color mixing is not an all or nothing process. Red light and green light together appear yellow, it's true, but they can also appear orange when mixed if the red light is brighter than the green light. Red light and green light can be combined in other proportions to produce light that appears to be a color halfway between red and orange, and orange and yellow, and yellow and green.

We can keep dividing and subdividing like this to produce new, distinct colors. One convenient way to represent some of the possibilities is with a continuous color wheel. These numbers are called hue angles. White is at the origin. The distance from the origin to any point on the color wheel stated as a fraction of the radius is known as the saturation.

White is completely desaturated. Colors with low saturation are often identified as pale or pastel. Colors with a high saturation are bright or vibrant.


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Purple and violet are similar, though purple is closer to red. In optics, there is an important difference; purple is a composite color made by combining red and blue, while violet is a spectral color, with its own wavelength on the visible spectrum of light. The absence of pigment is white paper. The absence of pigment is paper that appears white when illuminated with white light. The painter's color wheel is a convenient way to understand how to mimic some colors by mixing red, yellow, and blue pigments.

Tri-colour Waves blanket

This does not make red, yellow, and blue the primary colors of the human visual system. They do not satisfy the definition of primary. They can't reproduce the widest variety of colors when combined. Cyan, magenta, and yellow have a greater chromatic range as evidenced by their ability to produce a reasonable black.

No combination of red, yellow, and blue pigments will approach black as closely as do cyan, magenta, and yellow. The primary colors are red, green, and blue — not red, yellow, and blue. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — , student of the arts, theatrical director, and author Iphigenia at Taurus , Egmont , Faust.

Lots of interesting descriptive information on the subjective nature of color, which many physicists of his day ignored, but does not propose a physical model of color. The theory of colors, in particular, has suffered much, and its progress has been incalculably retarded by having been mixed up with optics generally, a science which cannot dispense with mathematics; whereas the theory of colors, in strictness, may be investigated quite independently of optics.

Colour is a law of nature in relation with the sense of sight… [It] is an elementary phenomenon in nature adapted to the sense of vision…. Yellow, blue, and red, may be assumed as pure elementary colors, already existing; from these, violet, orange, and green, are the simplest combined results.

Color – The Physics Hypertextbook

That all the colours mixed together produce white, is an absurdity which people have credulously been accustomed to repeat for a century, in opposition to the evidence of their senses. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Thomas Young, Color scale of temperature This table is the result of an effort to interpret in terms of thermometric readings, the common expressions used in describing temperatures.

Worms did not weave me with the skills of the fates, those that decorated the yellow cloth garment. In India also men may find diamonds of violet colour and somewhat brown , which are right good and full precious. The Buke of John Maundeuill a.

Colour waves.

Mandeville's Travels For a deepe and sad Greene, as in the inmost leaves of Trees, mingle Indico and Pinke. The Compleat Gentleman by Henry Peacham Naos , Mintaka. Spica , Rigel. To scan a code, simply open the Spotify app on a mobile device, go to the search screen, tap the camera icon then hover the camera over the code. Choose to include a printed Spotify code on your artwork, which plays your chosen song see image gallery. Yve Print Co prints are printed to order in our studio in Bristol. We print these on gsm Hahnemuhle Baryta FB, using vivid archive quality inks.

SOUTH - colours in waves (2003)

Our prints are of museum quality, and designed to last for years. We add wooden slips to the inside of the frames to keep the glass away from the print. The result is a contemporary looking, quality frame which we then finish with artist's backing tape. Our aluminium gallery frames have a slim face and stand out from the wall by 2. They come in glossy black or mirror silver.