Monday, September 9, 2013

Color Mixing

Bruce MacEvoy has a very interesting site about watercolor techniques, which includes this article on mixing green (via Kyle Sluder):

When we go to mix paints, we find it’s difficult to pick the right paint combination — blue and yellow, or green and yellow, or green and blue? — to get the right shade of green, because green mixtures are different from other mixtures. We must know the material behavior of different pigments and paints, and which ones to choose for different purposes. When we mix them, we find that green mixtures follow curves rather than straight lines across a color wheel, and they often require three paints to mix accurately, rather than the two paints we’re been taught (“yellow and blue make green,” etc.). All these mixing complications are the reason there are so many premixed convenience green paints on the market — more premixed colors than for any other hue.

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Reminds me of this: Until relatively recently, the Japanese language didn't have different words for blue and green.

Another complication here is the fact that human eyes are more sensitive to "green" wavelengths than blue or red. Any serious book on color theory and Hume perception can explain this better than I, but to see it for yourself, open any nice photo in Photoshop and look at the individual color channels. You'll note that the red channel has the most contrast, largely defining edges. The blue channel will have mostly noise and shadow detail. The green channel will mostly look like a nice B&W image of the color photo in question.

Green is special for evolutionary reason: our caveman ancestors had to deal with a lot of green shades, and were better off if their genes gave them a good start. There is however also a big influence from childhood and language, which shapes our perception of color based on learning and the context in which the brain develops (jungle or city).

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