Monday, March 14, 2011

The Effect of LIght on Local Color

I made the two diagrams below to help anyone trying to understand how color changes under different lighting conditions. I've started with a local color at top (sort of a dull red) and shifted the color to show it's possible variations under different color and intensity of light. Here are some vocabulary words to start.

Four "Dimensions" of color:
Hue:  Generally this just means the "color." Blue, Red, Yellow-Green, and Magenta are all hues. White, gray, and black are not hues. 

Value: The relative lightness or darkness of a color.

Chroma: Sometimes called color intensity, saturation, or brightness.  This is the relative dullness or vividness of a color.   Colors with low chroma are closer to gray while color with high chroma are colors in their unmixed brightest state.

Temperature: Colors are often referred to as warm or cool. This is a relative term and usually used to describe colors in comparison to each other.  Orange is the warmest hue while blue is the coolest.  Yellow and red are somewhere in between. White, neutral gray, and black are also considered cool while browns and warm grays are considered warm. If this is a little confusing it's because this concept is a little less measurable than the three above however it's often useful when comparing colors.

Gray swatches on the far left is there as a colorless value reference. The strip on the far right is a gray local color under warm light conditions.
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When employed this understanding of how light effects local color gives convincing results. The three strips on the right depict the same local color under cool, white-balanced, and warm lighting conditions.  The descriptions at right describe how the reddish local color shifts dimensions in each zone.

Also see my post about how lighting conditions effect a range of different colors.

Hope this helps!
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