Color can Fool You

Color is a complicated topic and one that is quite subjective. Even when people are given examples of the colors they should choose, it is hard to pick the exact same color out of a group of similar colors. Add to that other complexities like background or texture or other distractions like content or subject matter it can be easy for our eyes (and brains) to be fooled by colors. We are going to work on a series of exercises that show just how subjective color analysis can be.

The Assignment This assignment show you what happens when the same color is placed in juxtaposition with other colors. Colors that were once warm, are now cool or cooler. Two areas of the same color can look different just because they are on different back- grounds. They become illusions.

Try this First:

Take three containers large enough to hold your hands, (like buckets or saucepans from your kitchen). Fill the left one up with hot water as hot as you can get it and still put your hand in it. Fill the right one with cold water and put a few ice cubes in it to make it really cold. Fill the middle one with lukewarm water. Now put your right hand in the cold water and your left hand in the container with the hot water. Wait 20-.30 seconds or so for your hands to become adjusted to the temperature. Note the feeling of temperature you have in each hand. Now immediately place both hands into the lukewarm water. What is happening? What temperature do you feel on each hand? Keep in mind they are in the exact same pall of water. What you are experiencing is called a Haptic Illusion. (Haptic refers to the sense of touch.) A similar thing can happen with your eyes, hence the phrase Optical Illusion.

Step one:
Making the same color look different. Each person is to cover a 6 by 12 inch piece of illustration board with two colors. Dividing the board in half so that you have two equal 6 by 6 inch sections. Half the board with color one the other half with color two. You are to pick one set of colors from the following:

Black/White, Warm Light Gray/Cool Light Gray, Warm Dark Gray/Cool Dark Gray, Blue/Yellow, Red/Yellow, Blue/Red, Orange/Green, Orange/Violet, Light Violet/Green, Yellow/Black, Black/Warm Light Gray, White/Warm Light Gray, Warm Light Gray/Cool Dark Gray, Cool Light Gray/Warm Dark Gray, Red/Black, Blue/White, Red/White and Green/White. Then create more swatches of color that are exactly 2" x 1V". Cut these swatches in half to 1" x 1V" and place them in the center of your color fields. Your final piece should look like the illustration below. Now comes the experimenting. Create a dozen or so different 2" x 1V" colors and cut them in half to see which ones produce the most change. They will be different for each background pair. Bring these to class and we will discuss them.

Transparency and color:
The next part of this assignment involves creating 4 fairly large square fields of color each one about 4 inches square. The fields are joined together to make a larger square 8" x 8". (See diagram below). These squares can be any color you choose, but the idea behind these colors is to create a directional flow from one square to the other. The flow can go vertically or horizontally across the shape, they can go diagonally from one shape to another, they can even go around the squares so that three squares make up the flow and one square is excluded. Then create four new squares the exact same size as the first squares only all of them need to be either darker in value or lighter in value than the first set. You will create another set of squares that looks like the example to the right. The last part of this assignment involves cutting out a set of smaller (2" x 2") squares from the larger ones and insetting them into the first squares. Your attempt with these sets is to make it appear that you have inset a fifth square that is slightly opaque on top of the other four. When you are done you should have two sets of larger squares each with 4 smaller squares inset in the middle like the sample. By carefully choosing the colors, you should be able to get the illusion that a slightly opaque square has been placed on top of the four larger squares. We can begin to create the effect of transparency using completely opaque objects (painted paper). The illusion, when done right, is very convincing.