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The ABC Of Colors

( Originally Published 1924 )

Did you ever consider that Color is an effect rather than a substance? Color is caused by the reflection of certain rays of light on the retina of the eye. Pure light is a form of intense vibration which reaches the earth from the sun, and pure light contains all colors. When light strikes an object some or all of the rays of the light are reflected or absorbed. If all of the rays are reflected, the object appears white to the eye. For example, if the light should strike an object where all the rays except the red rays were absorbed, the red rays would then be reflected into the eye and would cause the object to appear red.

In the study of color it is necessary that we have a standard or unchangeable set of colors for comparison. These standard colors, which never change, are to be found in the prismatic spectrum or rainbow.

The Primary Colors

The primary pigment colors are yellow, red, and blue. They are called primary colors because they are the colors from which all other colors can be produced. With these primary colors and black and white it is possible to produce almost any color, tint, or shade through proper mixing. A primary color of maximum intensity can not be made by mixing other colors. While it is possible to pro-duce a red by mixing purple and orange, it will be a grayed red.

The Secondary Colors

The secondary colors (sometimes called binary colors) are orange, green, and purple. They are called secondary colors because they are produced by mixing two primary colors.

Yellow and red, when properly mixed, produce orange. Yellow and blue, when properly mixed, produce green. Red and blue, when properly mixed, produce purple.

The Tertiary or Neutralized Colors

If we should mix the three primary colors in one mixture, in the correct proportion according to their strength, we would produce a neutral gray. The mixture would possess no color at all. Therefore, in producing maximum secondary colors it is necessary that we mix two primaries which do not contain a part of any other color. To illustrate : In producing a green, we must select a blue that contains no red—hence, a purplish blue would not do—and we must select a yellow which contains no red—an orange yellow would not do. In other words, a green must contain no red if we want a pure green; purple must contain no yellow; orange must contain no blue. We can also produce a maxi-mum green by mixing a greenish blue and a greenish yellow, for neither contains red; in like manner to produce a purple of full intensity, purplish blue would be mixed with a purplish red; to produce an orange, an orange-yellow and a vermillion red would be mixed.

Gray is also a mixture of white and black. If gray is added to yellow it will produce a citron; if added to red, a russet; if added to blue, slate; if added to green, olive ; if added to orange, brown ; if added to purple, heliotrope. Grayed colors can also be produced by mixing any color and its opposite or near opposite, provided the proportion is unequal. In these mixtures the gray will be tinged with the dominant color. Grayed colors may also be mixed secondaries, such as green and orange. The green contains blue and yellow and the orange contains red and yellow. Together they contain the necessary red, yellow, and blue; but the yellow will predominate, making the result a grayed yellow-citron.

A great artist said, "When women realize the beauty of soft, neutralized or grayed colors, then will they become artists in dress." For it is only a person with a flawless skin who can wear pure colors to her advantage. A bright red hat is often chosen by a woman no longer youthful, with the thought that the necessity of bathing in the Fountain of Youth is obviated. The truth is that the red hat is really defeating the wearer's purpose, and, in a most unkind manner, is directly calling attention to her age-just as one may use another's faults as a background on which to play up his own virtues.

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