C O L O R and Perception:

Newton vs Goethe

Interactively Explore Color Mixing Applets Here: Very Good Resource

Executive Summary:

Newton's theory of color involves color addition which leads to the idea that Red , Green and Blue are the primary colors.

Goethe's theory of color involves color subtraction which leads to the idea that Magenta , Cyan, and Yellow are the primary colors.

These concepts were demonstrated in class. Note today they are very relevant to the production of media. Color print uses largely color subtraction sources as the paper is illuminated by ambient light.

Sources of color with their own illumination (e.g. the computer monitor upon which you are reading this) operate via color additions and use RGB pixels.

While Newton is most famous for developing mechanics, gravitational theory and calculus, in his spare time he also invented optics. Physicists like Newton only occur once every 1000 years.

Newton used a prism to show that the white light of the sun was actually made of component colors

A prism is known as a dispersive element. Incoming light interacts with the atoms in the prism which results in the light being diffracted into component colors.

Objects in nature appear to have color based on the relative reflectance and absorption of these component colors. For instance, a leaf strongly absorbs red and blue light but reflects green light and hence appears green

Make your own colors here

How the Eye works to perceive light and color


Some paintings based on Goethe's Theory

Color Addition (RGB) and Color Subtraction (CMY) or complimentary: