Displayed above is an amazing trichromacy colour effect that all designers should see. If you take a look at the X’s, they both look as though they are different colours. However, they’re not. The colours are exactly the same tone:
Look at where both the X’s intersect at the middle-base of the image. You can see there that the ‘true colour’ is in fact a greyish-yellow tone (a mixture of the two colours used in the rectangles). This effect is based on a painting by Josef Albers.
To see something a little weirder, take a look at the second image I have devised, taking the effect one step further:
As can be seen, the horizontal bar appears to show a gradient, starting with yellow on the left, to grey on the right. However, as with the first image, the colour is a solid tone—not a gradient of two colours at all. If you don’t believe me, drag the images into PhotoShop® and whip out the colour-picker tool!
Why is this happening?
This effect is know as trichromacy, with the images above demonstrating simultaneous contrast. To cut a long story short, out eyes record colour in RGB—but none of us can image a yellowish-blue. Our brains therefore plays tricks on us, resulting in the effect/illusion.
I think knowing this kind of information about colour can be extremely beneficial to a designer. Colour theory is embedded in all we do, so it’s great to understand great effects like this to aid in design work. Knowing what colours will or will not work together can be imperative—especially in logo design.
I have written an article about metamerism with another colour-illusion there if this subject interests you. Do you know of any other great effect like this? Do you think knowledge of colour theory will aid in your design work?
If you liked this post, check out A Print Handbook for Designers.