Color in photography has come a long way since the first permanent color photo was taking in 1861. Now nearly 150 years later we thought we would take a look and see where and how color developed in photography. Starting with the black and white beginnings.
Monochrome photography implies the act of recording light in a single color or wavelength and includes such types of photographs as black and white, sepia, infrared photography, and X-ray photography.
Oldest surviving photo created in 1826 by inventor Nicéphore Niépce
Black and White
Black and white photography uses neutral tones of gray ranging from near white to near black, or using a grayscale.
Photo by whappen
Photography began with the discovery that silver is a light sensitive chemical. Silver halides, or silver salt compounds, break down when exposed to light and form black metallic silver2. The darker areas of a negative that received more light during exposure block the light that would reach photographic paper during printing, thus allowing the paper to remain whiter in relation to the local negative density. The lighter areas of the negative that received less light during exposure allow more light to pass during printing, darkening those areas of the print.
To pay tribute to the perfect pair of pants, and its attached color, we thought we would take a look at how this all got started by running through the history of blue jeans and their rise in popularity, from old west pioneers to fashion runways across the world, blue jeans have become one of fashion's most iconic wears.
The First Pair of Blue Jeans
The word denim comes from the location of where the original makers of the fabric resided, Nîmes, France. The fabric created by the Andre family was originally called serge de Nîmes but was eventually shortened to denim.
The first denim pants date back to 17th century England, but it wasn't until a 24 year old German immigrant named Levi Strauss moved from New York City to San Fransisco in 1853 that the first 'blue jeans' were created. The story goes; Levi was headed out west to start a west coast branch of his brothers' dry-goods business. Upon arrival to San Fransisco a prospector inquired as to what Mr. Strauss was selling, which at the time was canvas sheets intended to be used for tents and wagon covers. The prospector replied telling Strauss that he should have brought pants instead, because he couldn't find any that would stand up to the harsh conditions of life as a 19th century Californian Prospector. So, Strauss started making canvas waist overalls which became popular with miners. When the miners started complaining about chafing, Struass started looking for a new material for his pants.
Photo by icantshoot
At the same time in Reno, Nevada, a tailor named David Jacobs was constantly fixing the pockets of one of his customers who routinely tore them on his pants made by Jacobs. As a solution Jacobs had the idea of riveting the corners of the pockets, as to reinforce the seams. When the idea showed its brilliance and the pants became more and more popular, Jacobs thought he better patent the idea. The only problem was Jacobs didn't have the money needed to apply for the patent. So he looked to his fabric supplier, who happened to be one Levi Strauss, to find a business partner. So, in 1872 Jacobs writes a proposal to Strauss telling him about his idea and asking him to be his partner. Strauss see the potential of a stronger more durable pant and agrees to the partnership. On May 20, 1873 the U.S. issues them patent no.139,121, this is now considered the 'birthday' of the blue jean.
Blue jeans are unique because of their attachment to one singular color. One of the earliest precursors to jeans was the dungaree, a thick cotton material created in India in the 16th century. The makers of the fabric choose to use indigo as the dye because it was the most prevalent natural dye of the time, and the dark tone made it a good choice for wear and when frequent washing was not possible.
I thought it was about time we revisited Mojizu.com and shared some more of their wonderfully creative character designs. So to follow up from Color Inspiration: Monsters and Dubious Characters, here are 20 more characters and some examples of characters used in good graphic and web designs.
Creative Characters in Modern Web Designs
We've been seeing vector characters pop up as mascots for new web sites and they do a great job of adding a little extra personality to the sites. Smashing Magazine, showcases a dozen or so in their Isn’t it sweet? Mascots in Modern Web Design post. Here are just a few from that post:
20 Creative Characters from Mojizu
Since launching the pattern maker four months ago, more than 85,000 patterns have been colored and shared on the site. We've been adding more pattern styles as fast as we can and now have 69 different pattern styles for you coloring pleasure. Here are some of the recently added pattern styles and an update for browsing similar designs.
|Pattern By: Pattern Head [www.patternhead.com]|
|Pattern By: designfruit [www.designfruit.com]|
Can particular colors affect a student's performance on exams? Color expert Mark D. Fairchild says yes. He cites recent research establishing an "aversion" response to the color red. "If people are exposed to red just before taking an exam they perform slightly less well than if they were exposed to a different color. The cause of this aversion response is not yet known; it could be learned or it could be something intrinsic that causes us to 'fear' red (just a little).
This has also been found in sporting events where athletes dressed in red tended to be more successful . . . perhaps because their opponents were viewing it and having an aversion response (rather than the red having an effect on the athlete wearing it)."
As the first in an new series, I'd like to introduce you to The Cinematic Palette, a look at the use of color in film and how it acts as a secondary means of communication for the director to tell stories in an organic way. Since I am passionate about beautiful films, I have quite a few in mind for the future, but I'd also love to hear your feedback in the comments about your favorite colorful films and how they affected you.
This week's film of choice is Paprika, an animated film by Satoshi Kon, who is known best for his propensity for stories which stir the emotions while they blur dreams and reality. The effect is mesmerizing and often unforgettable, and while many of his films leave you feeling as if you are awash in a sea of vivid color, Paprika ranks highest when it comes to its carnival of beautiful hues.
Paprika begins in the unspecified future, in which an invention called the DC Mini has revolutionized the psychotherapy industry by allowing the user to view people's dreams. The head of the team, Doctor Atsuko Chiba, is using the device illegally to help patients outside the facility she works in, appearing in their dreams as "Paprika", a young female who embodies her dream alter-ego. At the start of the film, we are shown a reoccuring dream which belongs to Detective Konakawa Toshimi, who figures prominently into the story as the film goes on. One immediately considers the ramifications of such a device when the three prototypes of the DC Mini are stolen, leaving its tremendous power open to manipulation from less than reliable sources.
From the harsh arid regions of South Africa and reaching to some areas of Southern Europe color inspiration can be found in the beauty of the Stapeliads. Resembling cacti, Stapeliads are most abundant in warm, dry climates. " Their stems are often angular, mostly four-angled in cross-section, but in some species there are six or more, with some species of Hoodia having more than thirty angles. In size they vary from less than 2.5 cm/1" in length to over 2 m/6" tall. The leaves are in most species reduced to rudiments, sometimes hardened and thorn-like, arranged on bumps or tubercles on the angles."
Below is a stunning set of images of Stapeliads taken by Martin Heigan, plus a few other random flowers as well.
The Many Kinds and Colors of Stapeliads
Photo by Martin Heigan
Photo by Martin Heigan
Photo by Martin Heigan
For the last 100 years or so kids have been exploring and creating worlds of color with Crayons. For a lot of us, our life long love affairs with color began with these wax sticks and a blank sheet of paper. According to a Yale University study, the scent of Crayola crayons is among the 20 most recognizable to American adults. Coffee and peanut butter are 1 and 2. Here we go down crayon color memory lane with all 120 color names and hex codes, fun facts and photos.
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Photo by Sir Fish
Crayola crayons currently come in 120 colors including 23 reds, 20 greens, 19 blues, 16 purples, 14 oranges, 11 browns, 8 yellows, 2 grays, 2 coppers, 2 blacks, 1 white, 1 gold and 1 silver. Although Crayola crayons come in 120 different colors, the labels are only made in 18, which cover the full color spectrum. Nearly 3 billion crayons are made each year, an average of 12 million daily. That's enough to circle the globe 6 times with color!
120 Crayon Names and Color Codes
Aaron at ColorSchemer.com created a fun list of all 120 Crayon Colors with their hex codes and RGB values. "All of these colors are rough approximations from Crayola’s current list of 120 Crayon Colors. -CS"
Is it possible to glimpse or foresee colors of the future? Will they be rosy, or golden, or perhaps drab? Predicting tomorrow's color trends is vitally important for the likes of fashion designers, cosmeticians, advertisers, furniture makers, dye manufacturers, and automobile companies. The problem, as the philosophical literature of India points out, is that the organ of sight "apprehends only the present color, neither past nor future colors" (Jadunath Sinha, Indian Psychology, 1986). Though we can't physically see future colors, through the corners of our eyes we might become aware of colors on the way out of vogue and spot the inklings of emerging fads. "Color forecasting," explains fashion expert Sue Jenkyn Jones, is a science for anticipating demands for color up to two years in advance of a retail sale season (Fashion Design, 2002). Color forecasters "collate information from all over the world on sales figures and changes in market interest in colors.
They come together twice a year for conferences in Europe and the United States to summarize and define the broad industry trends." Jones notes that "the principal color advisory bodies are the British Textile Colour Group, the International Color Authority (ICA), the Color Association of the United States (CAUS) and the Color Marketing Group (CMG). In the process of analyzing data, the forecasters also observe and interpret the underlying social and cultural context and make projections for the future." Jones offers an example from the 1990s, when environmentally-conscious consumers showed concern about chemical dyes. "Color forecasters warned the dye companies to concentrate on more natural shades and formulations. This provoked a return to the use of softer-colored 'natural' dyes and to the prevalence of undyed and unbleached materials in fashion." Meanwhile, notes textile expert Helen Goworek, "coolhunters" actively seek out "global influences on future trends by identifying individuals and groups within subcultures who have developed innovative styles of clothing" (Careers in Fashion and Textiles, 2006). Their data and predictions filter down to fashion designers, which helps to explain the similar colours and styles in competing stores.
Spring Color Forecast from the Color Association of the United States
Thine is the heritage of the world, thine the task of moulding destinies, thine the privilege of seeing all things through rose-coloured glasses.
—Charles W. Wood, The Argosy
"To see the world through rose-colored glasses" is an idiom referring to a positive outlook colored by naivety or sentimentality. As feminist commentator Pamela Varkony puts it, "Looking at the world through rose colored glasses makes for a pretty picture, but not an accurate one." To be sure, one famous drawback of rose-colored glasses is that not everything that appears red is objectively red. Hence, the lovelorn are cautioned against wearing them: "When we are in love, or when we want to be in love, we sometimes see the world through rose-colored glasses and don't spot the red flags" (Christine Hassler, 20 Something, 20 Everything, p. 224). Sightseers are also advised against wearing rose-colored glasses while on holiday: in Alaska, you'll miss seeing the Northern Lights; in Australia, Mount Uluru will be invisible; in Bermuda, you could sunburn and not know it; in Switzerland, the Matterhorn will appear bright pink. Rose-colored glasses are likely rarely abused at the Grand Canyon, where at close of day the sky turns purple, the sun glows orange, and the clouds blush pink.
Whimsy aside, although the exact origin of the idiom has been lost in the "rose-coloured mist" of time (Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, 1856), we can speculate that it may reference the sanguine light of sunset, when the world is momentarily bathed in rosy radiance. That healthy glow is soon followed by twilight blindness and then impenetrable darkness—hence the air of suspicion. Ironically, though, private investigators and varmint hunters assure us that red lenses help the eyes adjust to low lighting and improve one's night vision. That's because red lenses filter out lower wavelengths and reveal a brighter panorama. So the poetic caution against rose-colored glasses would appear to be ill-conceived.
Indeed, Dr. John Izzo suggests that figurative rose-colored glasses can be a practical tool enabling starry-eyed romantics to pinpoint their ideals and pursue them with focus. He explains: "Usually meant as an insult, [seeing the world through rose-colored glasses] is a way of saying that someone is a bit too innocent, that he or she sees the world with too much optimism. The intimation is straightforward: Wake up and smell the coffee. Some people see the world through other kinds of glasses—cynical glasses—and surely the lenses they choose color their experiences. When it comes to rediscovering wonder and innocence . . . few decisions are more critical than choosing your glasses" (Second Innocence: Rediscovering Joy and Wonder, p. 73). Dr. Izzo seems to be suggesting that in the absence of adopting some sort of rosy focal point, one is likely to see a world limited to depressing shades of grey. It's true that "the particular glasses we wear reflect how we analyze and interpret what we see" (John Peter Rothe, Undertaking Qualitative Research, p. 137), just as the microscopic lens unlocks a richness of detail. These glasses symbolize what Prof. Jerry Griswold calls "forcible shifts in perspective, techniques for seeing things differently." Prof. Griswold cites The Wizard of Oz, "in which Dorothy and her companions put on green glasses before entering Emerald City, and then marvel at how green everything looks. In Pollyanna, however, the equivalent image is, significantly, not rose-colored glasses, but the prism. When the girl hangs dozens of these in the windows of Mr. Pendleton's house, we see something more than her transformation of his gloomy room into a rainbow-spangled place. We see how she has changed him in her prismatic shifts of perspectives. It is her pointing to a spectrum of possibilities, her reminding him of his freedom to choose, which leads Mr. Pendleton to conclude that Pollyanna is 'the very prism of all'" (Audacious Kids, p. 235).