Project 3: Stage 2 – Colour Perception

Both of the exercises below were based around how we perceive colour in relation to other colours that surround it and the context in which it is seen – I fully admit these exercises were quite a surprise in some ways as I did not expect to see such noticeable differences and so although they seemed a little tedious to do (sorry but yes!) they also made sense as I did them both.



The first two photos show how the placing of different coloured small squares on a variety of different colour backgrounds alter how you perceive the colours.  For the first one I tried yellow square on the backgrounds and it is immediately obvious, even in the photo, of how different they each look – in some the yellow recedes and almost blends in and yet in others it really comes forward very strongly. I realised how we perceive colour and the way it changes in different contexts or with different colours near to one another is something I probably take for granted in my knowledge of colour and although I pay attention to it when choosing colours I also do not think about it enough.

In the second photograph I changed the central square to green and really noticed how much the background colour also seemed to change in appearance too – this can be seen when you compare the turquoise in the top picture and the same in the bottom as they look quite different in how bright they are.  I can also see this difference in the pale pink background too – the yellow centre in the first seems to be brighter but the green in the second seems more muted.  Whether it is the background larger squares or the smaller squares I see them each in a different way – it was also interesting to note that looking at these same pages in different lights also had different effects i.e. a fluorescent light will effect the way we perceive the colours very differently to how we would see them in natural daylight.

I also tried just on my desk in placing different colours next to each other in much the same way I have learnt through quilting to check for whether a fabric is light, medium or dark when placed next to another – a medium fabric can seem like a dark one when placed next to a very light fabric but can then seem light next to a very dark.


The next exercise was along the same principles but putting a grey small square in the centre of the larger coloured squares – this created a slight illusion as each little grey square looks very slightly different from each other.  According the course material this different in perception is because the eye needs a colour to be balanced by its complementary colour  and will do so even if it is not actually there – this ‘after image’, (as it is called), was a surprise in some ways as you do not tend to think about this aspect of colour perception.  I found it easiest to see with the bright pink and also the orange background squares but also was able to see it even more clearly by removing my reading glasses as my sight is slightly quirky – I am long sighted in one eye and short in the other so by covering one eye I blurred my sight which increased the effect of this after image.

As I state above at the end of the first exercise how I see the colours has also been affected by the light source and whether it has been natural daylight or a light bulb and I did find that by using my kitchen light I did see the complimentary colours created more clearly.

I did a second series of trials along the same lines as above but using different coloured squares on different backgrounds – the effects can be seen clearer in the photograph than in the actual sketchbook.  It is noticeable how bright the pale pink small squares are against the background colours (al of which are hand painted and mixed squares) – the red is clearly a high toned pink as opposed to saturated red and in the sketchbook the pink appears darker than say on the purple square.  The effect can also be clearly seen with the red small squares and in particular the contrast between how it appears on the orange background and the light green – the orange background almost absorbs the red as it is a secondary colour whilst the pale green is a lighter tone of its complementary and therefore the red really stands out.  This can further be seen with the blue squares too – against the red which is the complementary colour the blue really comes forward and is at is brightest whereas against the green it is absorbs and recedes but against the yellow it takes on a greenish colour (in the sketchbook this can be seen clearly).

This has been really enlightening to see how much our eyes are almost tricked into seeing colours in different ways and is also making me look more closely at what I do in fact see or consider how I place colours even at this stage in this part of the course.

I have as suggested started a colour sketchbook and initially the start of it is being used as a reference for colour mixes of different media:



This sketchbook will further expand as I am already interested in the Impressionists and indeed their forerunners such as Alberto Pisa or Post-Impressionist artists such as Georges Seurat and know that this will continue as I go further with the History of Art course I am doing concurrently along with this textiles course. I have started to learn colour mixing with watercolour paints through layering consecutive washes of colours and building up tones and hues rather than mixing them directly on the palette as I may do using gouache or acrylic paints.


This entry was posted in ASSIGNMENT 2, ASSIGNMENTS, Coursework, Part 2, Project 3:, Stage 2 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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