Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What the heck is Color?

What is color? Can it even be contained in words? I think visual people tend to use emotional words to describe color and that is often the reason people do not agree on color. Often we like to use food words to describe color like kiwi, cranberry, lime, lemon, cherry red, tomato red and so on. Today I have been e-mailing with an important commercial client that is looking for a certain shade of mustard. I have proofed her a couple of times and I am not at the perfect happy place just yet for the color she has in mind.   I will get there, it just may take a bit more proofing. I decided it might be time to ask for a swatch.

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words:
This is never more true than when it comes to color. Too often designers and artists will spend way too much time messing around with language when all they need is to insist on a color swatch. One of my favorite places to reference people for an easy on-line way to share color is They have a great search tool and when I tried it for the word "cranberry" I got 670 results. That tells me that a lot of people have very different ideas about that color. Nobody is wrong, color is just very subjective at times.
Another way to work is of course to ask clients to go to their local hardware store to look at paint swatches. This takes a bit more work on their part however if they are really wanting a very specific shade this is the best way to go about it. They can even take the swatch and place it into the room where the art will live and see how that color reacts to the lighting in that room.

Merriam Webster defines Color:
a : a phenomenon of light (as red, brown, pink, or gray) or visual perception that enables one to differentiate otherwise identical objects b (1) : the aspect of the appearance of objects and light sources that may be described in terms of hue, lightness, and saturation for objects and hue, brightness, and saturation for light sources color of the sky>; also : a specific combination of hue, saturation, and lightness or brightness colors> (2) : a color other than and as contrasted with black, white, or gray

Ok, and now a video embed for fellow artists and designers. Please note: This is not my client or any client I have ever had, just an over the top stereotype that humorously explains the problem with using language to try and define color.

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