Color Science: Inventing New Colors?

Color Science: Inventing New Colors?

Is it humanly possible to invent a new color? Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Mark Fairchild says "yes"! In fact, he suggests that all observant people invent new colors at various times of their lives.

Dr. Fairchild explains: "As a color scientist, I think of colors as perceptions, that is things that we see. Of course those perceptions are not just caused by our brain (except when we are dreaming); they are caused by how our eyes and brain respond to the world around us. For color it is the light and objects that we are responding to. Most people would take this question to mean 'has anyone invented a light or object of a new color?' Personally, I have not, but I have invented new ways to understand and describe how we perceive and produce colors in places like the movies. Other people certainly have invented new materials that produce colors that people couldn't make before. Things like new paints, new inks, new kinds of televisions. That has happened often through the history of science. But, if we come back to color being a perception, then it is even easier to say that we invent new colors. I think we all do it quite often if we pay attention to the world around us. Have you ever had a time when you looked at something and it seemed like a totally new experience? Maybe a special rainbow, or a peculiar bird, or a strange way the light bounces around your room? If you have noticed a new experience like that, then I think you could say you have invented a new color. That is because color is truly a perception that is unique to you and any new color experiences could be considered 'inventions.' I like to just think of them as interesting parts of our world that make it fun to study science; in my case color science."

You can explore Dr. Fairchild's research on color perception and imaging at his website.

Inventive Color Inspiration:

a colorful invention i keep inventing

reinvented red invented you

Invention inventions

reinvention re-invention

you invent invent

inventor I Invented You

Reinventing Inventor's Block

invent Reinvent Yourself

inventive ingenuity

reinvented black big inventions

reinvent my invented green

inventing futures. Inventive

inventiveness Inventiveness

Inventionation Invention

invention gone wrong Genius Inventor

brother of invention Inventing

Cover img by mybloodyself.


Craig ConleyAbout the Guest Author, Craig Conley
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow

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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 Comments
Is it humanly possible to invent a new color?

i always used to tell people that my goal as an artist was to discover or invent a colour that nobody had ever seen before. colourlovers has helped me to feel like i've done that when i make and name a new colour. now it seems that it really is possible for me to achieve that goal.
Have you ever had a time when you looked at something and it seemed like a totally new experience?

Well, yes I have. But it only became meaningful in my attempts to explain (or fail to explain) them to others. My perception of colour (and things in general) changes a lot by communicating about it with other people. I strongly believe that the thing we call individual experience is actually a pretty social enterprise. We continually exhibit our (very fine) tastes, share our enjoyments and disgusts. We frequently reaffirm and describe our experiences to others. We use a learned language to describe the sensations to ourselves. We first learn about red, blue, yellow. Later we learn to distinguish mauve, crimson, sienna, tungsten, teal. Later still we know how to experience colour relations such as shades, harmonies, complements, tritones. We communicate in colour wheels, cool vs warm combinations, CMYK, RGB, etc, etc.
As such we reinvent our tastes and experiences through others. ColourLovers gives me a platform to share my experiences with the lot of you, who are an inspiring bunch of people. In the process I've reinvented my perception of colours many times. The colours I perceived 2 years ago when I registered are not the same colours they are now. Thank you for that and for this wonderful article. :)
When working with color I feel as if I am using a seventh sense. And I also get a peak "seventh sense" experience when I study the work of other CL.

I take each pallet or pattern as a universe unto itself and try to experience what the artist said or felt or decided when making it. Very few pallets tell me nothing.

Your choice of samples is very revealing. By looking at them I can see that people have a deep longing to be the creator of something vital - for instance the one that says, "I Created You". Wow. What a statement. There is also "I Keep Inventing" and "Genius Inventor". Really, all of them are a revelation. More to the point, they are a revolution.

Discovering, naming, using color here on CL allows us to condense our creative lust it into a tangible expression.

I love this article. It really makes you think.

A story I wrote a few years ago contains a passage where the protagonist sees plants that are a colour he's never seen before - not a mixture of hues he's never seen before but an entirely new hue. So I have been thinking about the possibility of invented colours for years, and funnily enough never thought seriously about it since I discovered CL.

It seems to me that the light (rather than pigment) spectrum is the place where I'd be most likely to stumble over something as yet unknown to human eyes. Do you reckon there are people in the world whose eyes are able to perceive a wider range of the light spectrum than human eyes are purported to be able? Is such a thing possible?

Like twinkle was saying about a seventh sense, that would be like ESP, but of the eyes rather than the mind.

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