Colour is relative

No colour is absolute. Colour is absolutely relative.

The way we see colour is dependent on what we see next to it.

And how we label the colour is dependent of our culture. Some cultures have a vast number of names for one colour, other cultures group several different hues into one word.

Colour is also dependent on the time in which it is described. Victorian fashion magazines had descriptions of colour that are meaningless for us today because we don't have the cultural reference. And centuries from now, will the name "racing car red" mean anything? 

And the way we perceive colour is always an interpretation. The colour is relative to the ones surrounding it.

Let me show you a couple of examples that I have created based on a book called Interaction of Color by Josef Albers. The content of the book is also available as an interactive app that can be downloaded on a tablet (sadly not on a phone). It is full of examples similar to the ones I have created below.

Blocks of colour illustrating the relativity of colour

Look at the block of purple in the top rectangle.

Compare it to the block of purple in the bottom rectangle.

We are led to believe that they are two different shades of purple, right? 

Blocks of colour illustrating the relativity of colour

Even  for people with the most perfect colour acuity cannot interpret the colours correctly, when placed with these different backgrounds.

Colour illustration 2

As you can see on the image on the left, the one X seems darker than the other.

On the illustration on the right, I have connected the two X'es to show you that they are, in fact, the same colour. 

But they appear different when placed next to different colours.

Colour illustration 3

The Problem:

We are tricked by our own eyes all the time.

The Solution:

We can manipulate how a colour looks by placing it next to different colours.

Your face, your skin, placed next to different colours can appear completely different.

This is the basis of Personal Colour Analysis. During a Personal Colour Analysis we do precisely this. We analyse how the appearance of your face changes next to different hues, value and chroma, until we find the varieties that make your face look fresh and radiant.

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