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May 30, 2009

Da Momma’s color-matching system
Posted by Teresa at 06:40 PM *

Figuring out the true colors of things you see on your computer screen is always a challenge, and buying into the Pantone Color Matching System has been unfeasibly expensive for non-professionals. However, Da Momma, a.k.a. Cutancoupons, who sells fabric on eBay, has now come up with a reasonably functional workaround:

DA MOMMA’S REVOLUTIONARY CRAYON COLOR DESCRIPTION SYSTEM ~~~ I am going to describe fabric colors by giving the closest matching Crayola crayon shade names. This will be the actual color of the wax and not the color the crayon is when you use it on a sheet of paper. I can’t guarantee an exact color match to the fabric but I think being able to hold a crayon and see the color on your end of the “www” will work better than having to worry about photos and individual monitor settings :)
This is brilliant like Apple Thunderscan and Feynman’s o-ring demo were brilliant. A big box of Crayola crayons will give you enough invariant reference color matches to figure out how your own screen display relates to the fabric she’s describing. Thus, this hard-to-assess print can now be coded as most closely approximating Crayola White, Black, Almond, Carnation Pink, Apricot, Sepia, Maroon, Razzmatazz, Cotton Candy, Raw Sienna, Desert Sand, Tan, and Tumbleweed.
Comments on Da Momma's color-matching system:
#1 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2009, 08:47 PM:

Speaking as someone who used to work in graphics software and struggled with calibrating a monitor and printer, I love this, madly.
But mainly because it gives me an excuse to buy a big box of crayons.

#2 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2009, 09:10 PM:

Maybe I'm confused... but I thought the crayon colours actually varied by country, and over time... (I like the idea, however!)

#3 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2009, 09:19 PM:

As a person who sometimes buys fabric online, this is brilliant, and I hope it catches on.

#4 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2009, 09:34 PM:

Razzmatazz, Cotton Candy

Hmpf. These modish Crayola boxes with their Nouvelles Couleurs...what is the playroom coming to?

#5 ::: Phiala ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2009, 09:36 PM:

Why doesn't she just use the DMC number like everyone else in fiber arts who needs to communicate colors? You can see charts online, but also purchase printed charts, and go to any craft store to see the real thing.

It's not as accurate as Pantone, of course, but has a much greater range of colors and finer gradients than a box of crayons, and without any brand or regional variation.

#6 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2009, 09:37 PM:

Even better would be if she placed the reference crayons in the photo--then you could easily see if the fabric is slightly lighter, darker, yellower, etc. than the nearest crayon shade. Even more exact!

#7 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2009, 11:26 PM:

Heresiarch is right. Including the crayons in the photograph is a much better way to match color, as there are so many places where the color can vary, starting with lighting, camera, and monitor.

For my money, buying a Huey monitor color calibrator is an absolute necessity. Worth every penny. But then, I work in the graphic arts, so my needs may be more than yours.

#8 ::: Max Kaehn ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 01:06 AM:

As long as the crayons mostly stay in the box, this should be pretty effective. If they collect dirt (or suffer ultraviolet bleaching), a box of crayons could drift off their reference value.

#9 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 01:07 AM:

Why doesn't she just use the DMC number like everyone else in fiber arts who needs to communicate colors?

Because maybe not everyone she's selling to knows the system?

You can see charts online, but also purchase printed charts, and go to any craft store to see the real thing.

And? I'd never heard of the system before you mentioned it. I'd have had no idea there was likely to be a chart at a fabric store.

This has the advantage that someone who doesn't know the other system, can go to lots of shops and spend 10 bucks to get a reference set, without needing to know of the other system, nor having to find a shope which has it.

janetl: Marna said exactly that when I read it to her.

#10 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 01:45 AM:

I don't know that I trust Crayola crayons to be invariant from one box to the next. I'm certain that I don't trust them to be invariant over time.

#11 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 02:40 AM:

I really like the idea. I've been head down in colorimetry lately, and most of I what I've learned can be summarized as, "We don't know enough." This doesn't sound half-bad to me. But Pantone and the Color Association of the United States are in no danger. I think Avram has the right of it. I doubt that Crayola's QC is all that precise. Then, too, a small area of color generally appears darker and more saturated than a large area; if you've ever painted a house, you've probably seen this in action. And the crayons have to be viewed under uniform light--if the light Da Momma uses is very different than the light the buyer uses, they will be seeing different colors.

Phiala, are the DMC color numbers and swatches internationally used by fiber artists, or primarily in the USA?

Oh, and, people interested in color might want to wander by Rolf Kuehni's color website and take a look. People really interested in color might want to look at the recent CIE book, Colorimetry.

#12 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 02:46 AM:

Glenn, has there been independent testing of the Huey Pro? Last time I looked, Pantone was very vague on its accuracy. (And the non-pro version is not useful for, well, much of anything as far as I can tell--Pantone doesn't tell you what the settings mean.) Personally, I'd rather go with an Xrite I1.

#13 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 04:18 AM:

This is very smart.

I think we can all comfortably grant that there are expensive professional systems that will do better. I certainly hope that Pantone and DMC can do better.

And people who buy fabric over eBay aren't looking for insanely good color matches. They're trying to make up a quilt, so they need "near enough" values. Crayola's quality control is good enough to cover that.

Also, note the price on the auction. EBay fabrics are low-cost enough that, if for some reason it still doesn't match, the buyer isn't out a lot of money*.

No, this is brilliant. Clear, clever, economical. Good value for money.

-----
* until they have so much stash they're renting storage units

#14 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 04:20 AM:

So far as I know, from trying to get accurately coloured prints of art textiles, there is no hardware difference between the two hueys: it's a matter of the software they are shipped with. There is at least one (terrifying) opensource program usable through a frontend called dispcalgui which will use a cheap huey in ways that only the less cheap one is meant to be used. It works under Windows, Mac and Linux too.

But don't get me started on the calibration of colour printers.

#15 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 04:22 AM:

DMC is also used in the UK and Australia, and presumably anywhere else where US, UK or Australian-published cross-stitch magazines are sold.

There are rival colour chart systems from other thread companies -- I own a mousemat with an Anchor colour chart, which is exceedingly cute but not entirely practical for use as a serious colour chart. On the other hand, it's really meant to be a quick reference kept right by your computer for exactly this sort of situation, where you want a better idea of true colour on something you've just seen online.

#16 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 04:24 AM:

True graphic pros no doubt use spectrometry to describe colors, with wavelengths enumerated to six or twelve significant digits.

But failing that, this system is simple, easy to describe and to understand, works well enough (to within the limitations of Crayola's QA and the lighting) to describe shades of color, is easily reproducible by both the original user and any prospective seller (again within the limits of Crayola), is not meant to translate colors from some abstract numbering system to Real Life Color, and is dead cheap.

One thumbs up from this graphics pro.

#17 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 04:25 AM:

I'e often been puzzled by the variety of colour-names used to describe military uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars.

Facing colours in particular (such things as collars and cuffs) were used to distinguish regiments, and the names suggest a subtlety which seems unsustainable.

#18 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 04:26 AM:

Um, yeah. What Abi said at #13. :-\

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 05:00 AM:

Bruce @18:

Yeah, but you're a pro and I'm not.

This is not a specious distinction; professionals have often run across—and thought through—problems that aren't obvious to the casual observer but will still bite amateurs.

#20 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 07:13 AM:

The only problem I have with this system is that I'm being stubborn and refusing to buy any more Crayola crayons since they "retired" Green Blue (and the other half-dozen or so that went at that time - I think it was about 1990, give or take a couple of years and I'm not planning to run off and google it this morning before breakfast.)

Green Blue was and is the awesomest shade of blue ever and whatever they have in there now is a pale substitute.

(I should probably go get some coffee now so I can start making sense.)

#21 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 08:08 AM:

Bruce @16

May I just run through the different elements which lead to colour.

1: The reflection or transmission spectrum of the object.

2: The original lighting spectrum

3: The overlapping sensitivity curves of the four different sorts of light sensing cells in the eye (three primary colours and overall brightness).

4: The signal processing in the optic nerve and brain, which can compensate for variations in 2, and produce plausible colour from less than three primary colours.

5: That camera you're using doesn't match your eye.

6: and then the monitor doesn't match anything else

7: Neither does the printer

#22 ::: Phiala ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 08:11 AM:

DMC is used internationally, at least northern Europe, Australia, probably Japan. Since I wasn't particularly clear last night, DMC is an embroidery floss maker, and they produce a tremendous range of colors. Each is numbered, and you can purchase printed color charts, or even buy skeins of the colors you're most interested in. It's more professional in the fiber arts sense, but nothing like as complicated or expensive as Pantone. Walmart, Michael's, etc - any store with a rudimentary range of craft/hobby supplies will have at least some DMC floss. For the more devoted, there are also charts like this linking natural dye colors to DMC numbers.

The crayon idea is clever, no doubt. Crayon names have changed over time, and I have no idea of the international consistency. They do have the advantage of familiarity. But the idea of getting pigmented wax anywhere near my silk makes me shudder!

We may be back to the pro vs amateur distinction again, only in fiber arts rather than graphics, but it seems to me that anyone willing to go out and buy a box of crayons to match fabric might also be willing to match DMC numbers. Quilters I know certainly would, though garment sewers often aren't quite so picky.

#23 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 08:36 AM:

What Phaila said. I've seen DMC-equivalency lists prepared for Knitpicks, among others. (The issue with Knitpicks, for me at least, has been that the heathering/tweeding levels of their yarns are difficult to see online, or even in the sample books. It's frustrating to order a heather I assume is heathered in shades of dark blue and find out that, oops, no, the heathering is dark blue and bright teal.)

#24 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 11:41 AM:

I like the Crayola idea, despite having boxes and boxes of DMC thread. By the time my mother passed away, she didn't even need the thread nearby to compare, she could look at something and say "DMC 666" (bright red, appropriately) or "DMC 501" (my favorite blue-green). Still, not everyone gets a set of every color DMC made for their high school graduation, and for those people, a box of crayons is probably a much more elegant solution, and will take up a lot less space.

#25 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 11:48 AM:

Bruce Adelson, #16:

"True graphic pros no doubt use spectrometry to describe colors, with wavelengths enumerated to six or twelve significant digits."

Hee. Do you know what a spectrometer costs? You can buy cars for less. (And six digits of precision is an absolute waste where perceived color is involved.) Nah, that's an industrial tool--they can afford it. Most designers and photographers use some matching system, or some (ultimately CIE-based) calibration system. The CIE systems are the only ones that truly crosses industry boundaries, but require instrumentation to apply.

abi, #13: It's a cool idea, but, well, would you depend on Crayola's quality control for anything you cared about?

Phiala, #22: thanks.

Oh, and, never trust a cheap LCD display's colors.

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 11:52 AM:

#15
Many years ago i bought (at a needlework shop which is long gone) a book called 'Fiber Fantasy', which cross-references the various manufacturers' color numbers, both by number and by color family. It was published in 1989, so anything added since then, and colors that have changed without being renumbered (DMC413!), would need to be redone, but it's been handy. It includes DMC, Paternayan, Medici, and an assortment of other fibers, including several of the specialty items.
(It also was produced, as far as I can tell, with Excel on a Mac.)

#27 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 11:55 AM:

Dave Bell @ 21

One really nasty limitation of color matching is that monitors and printers can't distinguishably reproduce some colors the eye can distinguish. And cameras can't distinguish some colors the eye can distinguish. And those three sets of colors aren't the same.

Luckily, the match between cameras and printers is close enough that most reflective colors a textile artist would care about are in the distinguishable set. Monitors are quite another problem.

#28 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 12:08 PM:

Randolph @25:
It's a cool idea, but, well, would you depend on Crayola's quality control for anything you cared about?

Of course not, but that's not what we're talking about here. How much effort am I going to go to for for a $1.89 fat quarter?

I'm not proposing that we throw out our Pantone. This is a classic case of horses for courses.

#29 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 12:23 PM:

abi @ 28 ...
Of course not, but that's not what we're talking about here. How much effort am I going to go to for for a $1.89 fat quarter?

Depends on how much the colours being not-quite-right are going to bug you, or if it's that last 'perfect' bit you really, really, really need...

#30 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 12:30 PM:

xeger @29:

I reckon if it doesn't match it joins the stash. It's not like I have to use it before its expiry date, after all. It doesn't go off like milk.

It's not ideal. Agreed. Given. Yes. But it's a good solution for the amounts of money in play.

#31 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 01:12 PM:

Abi @18: Thanks. As you note @28, this isn't a technical solution -- but the context isn't highly technical, either. I had a longer explanation, but "horses for courses" is why I applaud the Crayola method.

Dave Bell @21: Thanks. That's an excellent summary of the actual technical side of the problem. I'd expect those to be handled in the technical solutions intended for professional color matching.

Randolph @25: No, I don't know precisely the cost of spectrometry, but I have an idea of its order of magnitude. In fact, I mentioned it to suggest the high cost of the extreme precision required for professional color matching, and to establish a contrast with this situation, which is neither extremely expensive nor extremely accurate, but which is, IMO, good enough for its use.

#32 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 02:09 PM:

Bruce, #31: Well, if you trust Crayola and don't mind the occasional wrong purchase. (Subtle color match errors can sometimes be as unpleasant as off-key music.) But pros don't work the way you seem to think; in between spectrophotometry and matching swatches is colorimetry, which is not that expensive. I suspect the people who most use spectrophotometers are astronomers and material scientists.

#33 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 02:56 PM:

Color management is a PITA. I have to do it (because I want my prints to look to the world as they look to me when I play with the files... I'm not even going to to try to get into the issues with film... the variables go up by orders of magnitude, and one is either a whiz in the darkroom, or has a very good relationship with a printer; and hopes she outlasts you).

I use a spyder, and recalibrate every few months. I used to do it every couple of weeks, but the changes actually seem to be a lot less than I needed to worry about that often.

Dave hits lots of the problems. The camera doesn't match your eye is the least problematic. Film/sensors have never mapped color properly. Neither does paint.

We learn to live with it, even to take it as normal (a large part of the thing which makes digital look, "not quite right" to me [and other antediluvean photographers] is the different color spaces, and the zonal ranges). The real problems are in monitor, and printer.

Solving those requires widgets,and faith.

Because the cast of the paper will affect the final print. I use the profiles the paper maker provides (when they provide).

I also "waste" a couple of sheets, because at least once that profile was completly buggered (if anybody want's a slightly magenta cast Lava Lizard from Darwin Station, Santa Cruz; Galapagos, let me know, I have a lovely print just waiting for a decent home)

When all is said and done, close enough, is good enough.

#34 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 03:14 PM:

Irrelevant anecdote on color reproduction: One of the best graphic designers I've known, at VeriFone some years back, designed the company logo. When it came to color, with all of the Pantone color range at his disposal, he selected Process Blue because, in his words, "there is no way any printer in the world can screw that up."

#35 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 03:56 PM:

This is amusing and practical. It could potentially have saved me some grief on at least one occasion when I was buying bedsheets online.

It's also a little synchronicitous, to a UNIX-geek... as this paper about the X Window System puts it (warning, PDF), "Rumour
has it that the [color names used by the X Window System] come from a very large box of crayola [sic] crayons sometime back in the history of X or its predecessor W." Some combination of "great minds think alike" and "the street finds its own uses for technology". :-)

#36 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 04:32 PM:

Clifton Royston, #34: hee.

Terry Karney, #33: have you seen this?

#37 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Thena @ 20, I bought a box of 120 crayons just last month, and while I was getting it, I noticed a "collector's set" box on the shelf at Toys R Us that claimed to have all the retired colors in it. I think it was a replica 1957 box. I was very tempted to buy it in order to have MY favorite retired color, Thistle.

#38 ::: Glen Blankenship ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 05:13 PM:

Of all the hazards that bedevil fiber-arts colors, one of the most under-appreciated is #2 in Dave Bell's list @21, "The original lighting spectrum."

I did theatrical lighting for some years, and had many encounters with harried costume designers who had used two different batches of "matching" fabric, either in a single costume, or in multiples of an identical costumes (like uniforms), only to discover, much to their horror, that two pieces of fabric that matched perfectly in daylight, or under the fluorescent worklights of the backstage shops, were quite visibly different colors under the stage lighting.

And they might or might not look different depending on whether the stage lighting used 2850° K. conventional incandescents, 3200° K. tungsten-halogen lamps, a white-flame carbon-arc follow spot at 6200° K., or a yellow-flame carbon-arc at 4100° K.

Not to mention whatever color gels the lighting designer might put on the lights.

Colors that match under one illuminant but not under others are called "metameric pairs."

I also did some lighting for fashion shows, some of which were televised, and earned the undying gratitude of the designers by lighting the entire stage with completely un-gelled 3200° K. tungsten-halogen instruments, and color-correcting my follow spots to the same color temp with filters.

The video guys also loved me because the consistent color temp made it easy for them to white-balance their cameras, and get results the designers were happy with.

With today's proliferation of compact fluorescents, which come in several quoted "color temperatures", (none of which are actual matches for the designated temp, since the flouros' rather bandy emission output is nothing like a black-body curve - the quoted temp is just the black-body temp they most nearly resemble), the entire process is rather fraught, since even common household lighting can produce widely varying results with metameric pairs, depending on what sort of light bulbs one uses.

And of course there's a high probability that "matching" fabric/crayon colors may be metameric pairs rather than true spectral matches.

One of the advantages of the Pantone system is that Pantone swatches are true spectral matches for Pantone printing inks, so the swatch color and the printed color will look identical to one another under any illuminant.

#39 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 05:26 PM:

Dave Bell @ 21:

" May I just run through the different elements which lead to colour....

4: The signal processing in the optic nerve and brain, which can compensate for variations in 2, and produce plausible colour from less than three primary colours."

I think variations in different people's signal processors for color may be greater than is generally acknowledged (but have no independently verifiable way to test that this is true other than my observation that some people enjoy the color "orange" and I don't, or that other people enjoy color combinations that I think are positively vile).

If different people see different colors differently, then I'm all for a cheap, rough system like this, since it's entirely possible (in my mind) that two people using the Panatone Color matching system will end up using it differently.

This doesn't mean, to me, that people using DMC charts or more exacting systems to describe greater ranges of variability aren't trying to do something valid and useful. It's just that I've always wondered, when we all agree that the sky is blue, if my blue sky is the same as yours.

#40 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 06:02 PM:

Other Half and I went curtain shopping this afternoon. We were looking at fabric samples under the store lighting. When we found a pattern we liked, but couldn't decide which of two slightly different colourways to go for, I decided that we had to ask if we could take the samples outside for a minute to look at them in daylight. Fortunately this was in a store where they had no problem at all with this. The samples looked *very* different outside...

#41 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 06:19 PM:

Julia Jones @ 40 ...
There's a store whose changing room lighting is so hideously coloured and aimed that any item which looks tolerable in the changing room will look quite good anywhere else.

#42 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 06:30 PM:

Phiala @5: My impression when trying to match DMC threads to things is that there are a number of notable gaps in that range. (Of course, I suppose there are likely to be some in crayons, too.)

#43 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 06:50 PM:

There is a pretty decent advantage to crayons, especially for people like me who aren't so well-versed in DMC or other systems: crayons go both ways. I know what 'cornflower' looks like (middling blue, a little translucent), so if I want that, I can look for things labeled 'cornflower'. At least potentially. I don't know floss colors or Pantone anything that well.

Yeah, I was the kid who liked reading crayon labels.

#44 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 06:52 PM:

Why am I feeling this need to go out and buy a box of crayons?

#45 ::: Jack Siolo ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 07:07 PM:

Glen Blankenship, 38,
With today's proliferation of compact fluorescents, which come in several quoted "color temperatures", (none of which are actual matches for the designated temp, since the flouros' rather bandy emission output is nothing like a black-body curve - the quoted temp is just the black-body temp they most nearly resemble),

This is becoming an increasing problem with my photography, trying to correct white balance after the fact in photoshop. I'm not looking forward to the upcoming (2012) ban on the production of incandescent bulbs between 60-100 watts. It's going to make things really hard for people taking casual digital camera shots, when you have multiple not-quite matching CFLs lighting things.

Oh, and your story about lighting for the fashion show? Pure brilliance! Kudos.

#46 ::: Jack Siolo ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 07:11 PM:

LLA, 39
I think variations in different people's signal processors for color may be greater than is generally acknowledged

Not only are about 5% of males green/red colorblind, but there may be some tetrachromat humans as well. Yes, that's right: four cones, not three. Leading to better differentiation between 'close' colors. Possibly more prevalent among women. (Contradictory research alert!)

#47 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 07:14 PM:

abi@sundry: I am reminded of some social/homework software developed as a college project. AIUI The successful students relied on the social networks already in place to promote and to police their software, and designed to encourage that. Groups that tried to duplicate, or replace, those social functions ended up with expensive, bloated failures.

Depending on situation, the professional option can be worse than the box of crayons.

#48 ::: Phiala ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 07:26 PM:

Oh, and while we're discussing color and color perception, we definitely need the Munsell color test. I scored an 8. :)

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 07:35 PM:

#48
I got a 12. Which isn't bad.

#50 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 07:47 PM:

Phiala @ 48 ...
I also scored an 8 ... but my eyes are now bleeding -- I rarely turn my lcd brightness up past 60%, but thought that I should probably try turning it all the way for that.

#51 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 08:26 PM:

I don't know much about color systems, but I do know someone who has written a book about their history, and it is available online: The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe by Sarah Lowengard. Looks interesting.

#52 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 08:37 PM:

"Depending on situation, the professional option can be worse than the box of crayons."

Sometimes. But avoiding learning pro methods can make someone permanently semi-competent.

Jack, I looked recently, and the research which argued for tetrachromacy and pentachormacy didn't hold up. It's a current research topic, however, so that might change again. What does seem to hold up is research into genetic variance of retinal pigments. (They are not "red," "green," and "blue," btw. The peaks are violet, green and yellow-green.) There's also recent research that plausibly explains the neurophysiology of color neutrality as well (how do we see white?), but this is also very new and may not hold up.

#53 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 08:40 PM:

Bill, see also Keuhni and Schwarz, Color Ordered.

#54 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 09:10 PM:

Phiala#48 --

I managed a perfect score. With a lot of patience; I was swapping every pair forward and back to verify them. And I took my glasses off (and leaned in real close to the monitor) to ensure the surface imperfections weren't messing with me.

Yes, my eyes are strained now.

#55 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 09:18 PM:

#48: I also got an 8.

#56 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 09:19 PM:

Phiala @ 8: I scored 4. Maybe I'm in the wrong line of work.

#57 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 09:38 PM:

Glen Blankenship: I had a client send me about 700 photos which needed to be color corrected. Oi...

Thankfully the color temps were in a range, but the falloff to the back was horrid, which posed a different set of problems.

The final book looked ok.

#58 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 10:07 PM:

Holy crap! I have perfect color vision, without even turning up my monitor or trying particularly hard. So either my monitor is really good, or the 4 days of sorting my mom's thread stash paid off! Heh. Maybe I should sideline my dreams of being an animal husbandry specialist or a medieval historian and become a paint saleswoman.

#59 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 10:37 PM:

Phiala @ 48:

That was fun! (well, except for the fact that I agree with Xeger about the Pain associated with turning my monitor to full brightness!). I got a perfect score!


Jack Siolo @ 46:

I'm not a genetics researcher, but I've often wished a genetics researcher would study my family (as long as they limited their research to the genetics of color vision -- I don't really want to know where the "glow in the dark pallor" gene came from!).

A couple years ago (in a thread that doesn't appear in my view-by-all, so it may have vanished in the Great Making Light database trauma?), I commented that both my father and my uncle are red-green colorblind, but to notably different degrees. I also commented that I have an ability I have been told is unique -- the ability to hold onto a color "memory" so that I can walk into a store, no matter what the lighting conditions, and instinctively match thread to fabric I left at home, or a new skirt (under horrible department store dressing room lights) exactly to a blouse I've had for five years and that has faded in the interim.

I have no clue whatever to what degree the ability to remember hue, saturation, color cast, contrast, and the variability of a fabric's ability to reflect light at differing frequencies depending on the angle of the lighting source has to do with the genes that determine the makeup of the rods and cones in the eyes.

I do know that my dad likes to see me in red, and he likes to see me in green -- and that he claims he sees both as "colors" (in other words, they're definitely not grey to him) -- but that, to him, certain shades are both the same color. My uncle has distinctly more limitations on the range of his color vision; some oranges and some blue-greens are the same color to him.

If I am a tetrachromat, it might make sense for my father and uncle to have inherited different genes. Chromosomal crossover makes more sense to me, though, since my grandmother (who didn't know she was a carrier since she was one of three girls and her father was not colorblind, nor were any of her many uncles) and has never shown any particular skill at matching colors, even when she holds the thread to the fabric (researchers -- if you want to have at my family, you'd better hurry! Grandma's 95 and she's got cataracts!).

So either there was an out-and-out mutation in recent family history or perception and memory of color are controlled by different combinations of genes than those that control the actual physical structures of the rods and cones. I suspect we still have a lot to learn about the complexities of the genetic code, so I would bet on the latter explanation.

But as I said, I'm not a genetics researcher!

#60 ::: 'As You Know' Bob ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 10:40 PM:

I got an eight, but I blame my tools. ; )

(Cheap laptop....)

Which is good to know, that my color perception is good but not perfect. In my day job, I'm mostly on the 'text' side of things, but I'm occasionally required to visit our printers and do on-press approvals for some of our larger print runs.

#61 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 10:50 PM:

39 & 46:

Remembering the astonishing change in the the appearance of the world a bit over a year ago, when the original-issue lenses (beginning to be affected by cataracts) in my eyes were replaced with plastic ones -- colors became both much brighter and significantly different in certain spectral ranges -- I can no longer assume that anyone (photographer, printer, or painter) perceives colors the same way anyone else does.

Fortunately, most people in those lines of work come close enough to some kind of average or norm that it usually works out acceptably. (Though I suspect that part of my liking for Terry Karney's photographs, for example, stems from a close correspondence in our respective color perceptions, and part of my dislike of, say, Frank Wu's fanart comes from a considerable difference in our color senses.)

#62 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2009, 11:13 PM:

I scored a 45, confirming for me my theory that I see fewer colors than other people. That's a really bad score.

#63 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 12:04 AM:

LLA, #59: See. Check the "publications" section of that site--there's quite a bit of material on the genetics of color vision, if you're willing to read academic papers. But just go to the "basics" section. Your father and your uncle are probably what are called "anomalous trichromats." I'd guess--but only testing can confirm it, and the tests may not exist--that you have slightly different sets of color pigment genes on your two X chromosomes. As to color memory, it would be really interesting to know more about it.

#64 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 12:33 AM:

Randolph @ 63:

Thanks for the link. I'll plough through the academic papers since I've been interested in the mechanics of color vision from the time that I realized that my dad and uncle's conversations about the problems of driving through certain intersections (because of variants in the shades of the red, yellow/orange, and green of the lights or the presence of only red/green or just flashing yellow/orange) meant that the strict Mendelian explanation for color vision couldn't explain the differences in the extent of their disability (and they both view it as a significant disability -- though definitely the least of the well known chromosome-linked genetic problems!).

If I'm forced to analyze how my color memory works, I would say that I have a given reference for "pure" red, blue, and yellow and I work from those reference points to say that a certain red is more of a blue-red and another is more of a yellow-red. I make allowances for lighter and darker (based not only on the amount of white/grey/black added -- as if I were dying a pristinely white piece of linen -- but also on the saturation of color as the shade is deepened/lightened).

As a practical matter, though, that's not how I do it at all. I used to regularly buy thread for a friend who was too handicapped to go to the fabric store often. She was an avid quilter and needed help cutting fabric strips, so I would cut them and several months later, she might call me and ask me to get her thread to match. I would go to the store, have a flash of memory about the fabric, and take her the thread. It just worked.

#65 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 12:56 AM:

Re casual digital photography in varying light situations ...

I have two relevant anecdata to share. The living room of a friend's house is lit in part by some stained-glass piecework lamps: imagine sort of polygonned cylinders, where each subsection is (a) an identical rectangle and (b) a different strong color (red, blue, green, or yellow). For fairly obvious reasons, most digital cameras' automatic white-balance chooser throws up its hands in dismay and gives up. When I take photos with flash on, it blows everything out and looks like crap (true no matter what room I do it in, alas, given my camera); with flash disabled, everything has trippy LSD-like color trails. She currently has incandescents in those fixtures, but will be switching to CFs when they burn out, at which point all bets are definitely off.

Secondly, I'm the layout monkey for my community college's school newspaper, and let me tell you, the lighting at school looks institutional but ok to human eyes ... but to our cameras it turns everything I-just-peed-on-your-picture yellowish, as well as dim and shocky. I've gotten half-decent at sort of perking it back towards normal using the simple adjustments in Preview on our newer Macs, but I was utterly startled when we had a new guy (art student; his own serious camera instead of newsroom-issue) go out and shoot quick headshots for a last-minute story and have them turn out LOOKING RIGHT with no need at all for post-processing. Amazing. He was bouncing flash off the ceiling, for one thing; I don't know what-all else he was doing. Of course, he never came back again after that issue (le sigh).

Also, to tie in the reproduction-of-color thread, we have to pump all our photos until they're cartoony-contrasty on our monitors and our half-decent color laser printer, because otherwise when they come back on newsprint from our actual commercial print shop, they look like they've been soaked in water and smeared. I have NO idea what's up with their equipment, but maaaaan its color reproduction is screwed up. We've had to settle down to using just a tiny subset of 'the websafe colors' (as it were) in our sidebars, colored stripes, etc, in order to get any kind of consistency out of it, and even so, there can be strong variance from issue to issue, with a bar that's sort of not-quite-royal blue on one copy being decidedly purple on another in the same bale of newspapers.

#66 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 01:10 AM:

Randolph @ 63:

Sorry for posting two separate answers to the same question, but the "colorblind world" part of that link doesn't match the descriptions my dad or uncle gave of the challenges they faced -- and it doesn't match the conversation I had with a guy who was a budding romance until he uttered the fatal words, "Oh, I don't know, I'm colorblind."

And I said, "Really? My dad is colorblind."

And we both looked at each other, did the mental calculations that any hypothetical future progeny would have full color vision, and the romance immediately left the room.

But his descriptions of his colorblindness matched those of my dad and uncle -- he insisted he saw red and green as colors, but just had trouble distinguishing between them (in other words, he also saw them as the same color).

Otherwise, the slides exactly match the critical areas where my dad and uncle identify their colorblindness as a disability. Dad's career choices were severely limited because he couldn't tell blood from puss, he couldn't do a flame test in chemistry, and there's no way he'd ever qualify for a pilot's license (among the myriad of tasks that require the test-taker to judge between various color-coded options as part of a day at the job).

#67 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 01:14 AM:

I kind of wish I knew which of my four possibly-colorblind cousins are colorblind. Not for any good reason, just pedigree-building, like with the taste strips*. I bet two of them have had arguments with science teachers (I would have) because they're girls, and that's just the way the genes fell.


*what, your Thanksgivings don't involve taste strips?

#68 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 01:47 AM:

Diatryma @ 67:

Are these cousins on the spear or the distaff side of your family? Because as much as I generally oppose the ease of drawing family trees on patriarchal lineage over matriarchal systems, if Mendelian genetics has any validity (which Randolph has me questioning more than I thought I previously doubted), color-blindness only affects your family tree if they're cousins on your father's side.

I like to say I'm lucky. Since I'm childless, and my uncle only had sons, if Mendel was right, it looks like the colorblind curse dies with me!

Randolph, please don't spoil this illusion for me :-P.

#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 03:34 AM:

LLA @59:

The comment is here. You used a different email address on it, and our view all by is indexed by email address.

(I used the search box on the front page and searched Making Light for "LLA colorblind".

#70 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 04:20 AM:

LLA, the inheritance of color vision is non-Mendelian. It's more like blood-type inheritance: there are three independent genes, each of which can be present or not. In addition, there are variant forms of the pigment genes. Men, with one X chromosome, simply have the pigment genes or they don't. (Or sometimes have mutants--there's some reason to believe that it's an easy error for variant forms of the M and L pigments to emerge.) Women can have one or two of each pigment gene (or variants). Nothing like Mendel's peas at all.

And, yes, there's more to color perception than retinal pigments. The perception of neutrals and complementary colors cannot be explained by reference to retinal pigments alone. Over the years there have been huge acrimonious academic debates on the subject, and it's only in the past few decades that neuropsychology has brought a bit more, ah, light to the topic. It's very much an active research area.

#71 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 06:11 AM:

LLA, I missed your last line. Ouch! Too much bookkeeping, too late into the night. & that, plus the awful news today, has kept me up far too late. But, nonetheless, I can't see any way anyone in your family will inherit colorblindness.

#72 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 08:21 AM:

My dad's red-green colorblind, and also has problems with greys, browns, and slate blues. His comments on red and green match those of LLA's various sources: he can see red and green as different colors, but they don't contrast for him they way they do for those with full color vision.

I have a hard time picturing what this looks like. I have no problem picturing what it would be like to not be able to distinguish red and green, but the concept of being able to distinguish them at all but not have them be blatantly different defeats me.

Wasn't there an episode of the X-Files in which Mulder's colorblindness was a plot point?

#73 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 09:06 AM:

abi @ 69:

Thanks! I guess that was when I was still so new to posting here I hadn't settled much.

And everyone else, sorry if this is hijacking an otherwise fascinating discussion of color-matching!


Carrie S. @ 72:

Seeing my original post shook something loose for me. I got interested in my dad's experience back in the '70s, when men's fashions were particularly wicked to men who were colorblind. My uncle was much more likely to be a fashion victim than my dad (since his troubles were not quite as extended as your dad's but included some reddish-browns/blue-greens).

But my dad was also into photography at the time (old-school -- the kind that required a light meter) and enjoyed making his own prints of his B&W images. We were also planting roses in our garden and he was an active participant in choosing the tea roses that went in the garden. His favorite rose? Mr. Lincoln, hands down. He liked its form, color and fragrance. Yes, I said color. He said it was all the same color (which makes sense, since the red and green values of Mr. Lincoln are the same and the red and green are basically at exact opposites on the color wheel. He would have had no trouble distinguishing the rose from one of his B&W photos of the rose.

I've actually known several other men who were colorblind (it's easy to spot them once you know the behaviors to look for) and, with a little delicate questioning, they all agree with my dad and uncle that they see colors as colors -- there are just too many of them that are the same color.


Randolph @ 70:

I was taught that colorblindness was Mendelian, but that it was a sex-linked trait in that the three alleles for color-blindness fell on the portions of the X-chromosome that are not present on the Y-chromosome.

Thus, for instance, if I had a daughter, she would have a 50/50 chance of inheriting either my damaged X-chromosome (the one I presumably got from my father) or my intact X-chromosome (the one I got from my mother). Any daughter who got the damaged X-chromosome would thus be an asymptomatic carrier, so long as her father had an intact X-chromosome.

Sons would have a similar 50/50 chance of getting the damaged X-chromosome, but without a second X-chromosome from the father to make up for the deficits on my damaged X-chromosome, 1/2 of my male progeny could be expected to be colorblind.

Since many plants are known to have "male" and "female" progeny (you never want to buy a female ginko tree -- the fruit smell awful!), this was explained as fitting into the Mendelian framework quite well. How has the understanding changed?

#74 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 09:29 AM:

Randolph @ 71:

The last line was me having a last laugh at genetics. 'Sokay for you to have missed.

Sorry it's been a rough day.

#75 ::: steve buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 09:35 AM:

#6 heresiarch and #7 Glenn Hauman, by photographing the crayon with the fabric not only are you adding in the complication of the photographic medium with an additional layer of color abstraction, you also add in the complication of how different materials photograph (ie. the crayon wax and fabric) and what light is used to make the photograph (sunlight, incandescent, flash). Better to stick with the "close enough" of Crayola's color fidelity.

#76 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 09:44 AM:

The main thing about Crayola that strikes me (and mind you it's been along time since I worked much with them) is that the colors are considerably darker in the stick than on the page, so that a box of crayons, when looked at, is deficient in medium-range colors. IIRC this is particularly evident in the blues and greens. Also as with all artist's colors they run to the saturated end.

One of the things that always amused me with the DMC colors is that the brightest, most primary red is numbered 666.

#77 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 10:41 AM:

LLA, #73: I've actually known several other men who were colorblind (it's easy to spot them once you know the behaviors to look for)

Now I'm curious. Would you mind elaborating a bit on this?

#78 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 10:46 AM:

Crayons look darker on the stick than on the page because, on the page, they're spread thinly across a reflecting background.

EClair @ 58: Me too. I didn't turn up my monitor but I do keep it calibrated.

...and all the way back to :

Dave @ 21: All that also applies to the client's eyes, brains, lights and computers but never with the same values as yours.

I have a friend who sells sock yarn via interweb and, when her store was new I spent some time teaching her about exposure and white balance so that her photos would be right on her monitor and there was some small chance that, if the customer's monitor wasn't too far off, they might get something like what they ordered. It seems to have worked - she has fan mail praising the colour accuracy.

#79 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 11:10 AM:

Lee @ 77:

One dead giveaway is that they tend to dress in "conservative" colors -- but will compliment me that I look good when I'm wearing strong reds or greens. I wear these colors often because they suit my coloring and I like them a lot, but the giveaway is the fact that the man won't name the color I'm wearing. He'll just compliment me on my appearance.

There are others (the problems with older lights at some intersections, troubles with color-coded file folders, etc.) but people who are colorblind IME tend to try to hide these disabilities (probably for the same reasons they tend to dress in colors that they can't easily mess up).

There's not a lot of stigma attached to the genetic component of colorblindness, but there's a lot of stigma attached to the, "did you dress in the dark or are you just colorblind" aspect.

#80 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 11:37 AM:

C. Wingate, it's the difference between "masstone"--the color an opaque mass of the medium will reflect--with "undertone"--the color a translucent layer of the medium will transmit, usually twice, with a layer of white paper behind it. These can be quite different. Da Momma is specfic that she is referring to the masstone, though she doesn't use the word.

LLA, thanks for the sympathy, and I'm glad I didn't offend you.

Your teachers used a very loose definition of "Mendelian," I would say. Also, I wouldn't call missing or variant retinal pigment genes "damage," exactly. It's a variation, and sometimes a difficult one, but the chromosome is otherwise functional. People with the usual red-green color-blindness do see colors, but they don't see a color wheel--rather a color line. Only two primaries, rather than three, are required to match all colors for such people: a blue and a yellow, so they are called "dichromats." It surprises me you regard it as a "curse."

Carrie S, red and green (magenta and green, more precisely) are complementary or opponent colors. Your observation that you can't imagine them as similar was the basis of Herring's color order system, which paired red and green and blue and yellow, and the source of much academic dispute in the late 19th century.

I think it would be really interesting to contact Crayola and ask about their colorimetry, though they may hold that information as close as most restaurateurs hold their recipes.

#81 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 11:55 AM:

Randolph: That's funny, I thought blue went with orange and yellow with purple. Perhaps that's because I'm used to the kind of color wheel one gets in books about how to design color schemes for crafts.

#82 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 12:53 PM:

I scored a 4 on the color test, but while that seems to be "pretty good" I have no idea how good it actually is.

#83 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 01:03 PM:

Well, the highest and thus wost score is on the order of 1520. So 4 is darn good. :)

#84 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 01:38 PM:

Was very surprised, given the number of debates the hubby and I have about the color of [random item], to get a perfect score on the color quiz without trying very hard. Gratified, too, because now I'll win those debates!

I once beaded a bracelet with some lovely lavender crackled glass beads. A year or so later, at Darkover, I set that bracelet out for sale at our booth and was extremely surprised to find that under the hotel lights those beads were a strangely unpleasant shade of blue.

(I always seem to jump into discussions late!)

#85 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 01:46 PM:

I'm guessing that the score on the color test is exactly how many chips you misplaced. So if you swap a pair, that's a score of 2.

If I'm right, then a score of 1 is impossible. If you're good enough to get every chip within one spot of its correct place, then your score will be even -- two times the number of swapped pairs.

(Also, re other comments, I figure I'm proof that "perfect" color vision is no guarantor of good dress sense.)

#86 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 02:16 PM:

caffeine @84: I once beaded a bracelet with some lovely lavender crackled glass beads. A year or so later, at Darkover, I set that bracelet out for sale at our booth and was extremely surprised to find that under the hotel lights those beads were a strangely unpleasant shade of blue.

Neodymium glass! Or so I assume; did the bead supplier call that color "alexandrite"? Neo-alex glass is lavender in sunlight and incandescent light, but ice-blue under fluorescents.

Uranium glass also has an interesting color shift depending on light source since it converts ultraviolet to visible green; the most common color of uranium-glass beads is pale yellow under most forms of artificial light, but takes on a somewhat lurid shade of chartreuse in sunlight.

And then there's Swarovski's "cantaloupe" crystal formulation, which has *four* possible different colors-- pale green under fluorescents, pale red under incandescents, silvery grey in sunlight, and a sort of steely aqua under some unidentified bulb type at the gem show booth I bought them from and have been unable to figure out since. (Not halogen or LED.)

(Pix.)

...And then there's the new type of glass I've recently found-- I think with cadmium as a chromophore-- that's sulfur-yellow in normal light but fluoresces tangerine-orange under UV.

#87 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 02:18 PM:

I got a perfect score on the test. Not sure if it was my monitor or eye fatique, but from time to time the whole bar seemed to jump a few shades in a different direction...

#88 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 02:41 PM:

In regards to fashion for the colorblind .. I got to help an actally blind-blind (he could tell bright streaming daylight from a dark closet, just barely) man shop for clothes once. It was fascinating.

His first step was to find a friend who was (a) congenial and (b) generally acknowledged by other friends of his to have good color and fashion sense. My mother was actually the recruited friend, but I got to go along and chip in with advice (because she trusted my judgement).

Next, we went to stores. He would use his friend (henceforth 'the spotter) to help him navigate to proper racks of clothes, prompting with instructions like, "I need some casual pants," "I need shirts that can be worn with ties," "I'm looking for athletic socks," etc. Once there, we'd read tags for him to find roughly-the-right-size items, and he'd feel to make sure he liked the fabric (he was the first person I met [before getting involved in the SCA, where this talent is common] who could instantly tell poly-blends from all-natural, and so on, by touch).

Then he'd go try stuff on. If it felt like it fit right, he'd come out and give us a 'fashion show,' to be told whether the garment suited him or not, in both color and cut.

After the store stage came the at-home stage. He very carefully only ever bought garments in neutral or bold-colored shades. Once home, with the price tags removed, he would take his braille labeller (it had things that would take braille but were soft enough to sew into clothes -- very cool), and with the aid of the spotter, mark each garment for color, for example, "Neutral - black", "Neutral - navy blue," "Neutral - tan," "Bold - red," "Bold - green," etc. He had had some vision as a child, so understood color names as something other than abstract random words.

When building an outfit, he would wear one neutral and one bold, or two neutrals (top versus bottom, that is), and pick color based on whim or occasion: he took great joy in wearing vibrantly clashing greens for St. Patrick's Day here in Chicago, for example, once the custom was explained to him.

#89 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 02:43 PM:

Julie L. @86: That actually explains rather nicely how people's eyes can change color radically under different lighting -- their iris pigments are doing similar things, one presumes.

Plus the usual 'wearing a blue dress makes grey eyes look bluer' thing.

#90 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 02:46 PM:

Julie, that's it exactly. The supplier (Purebeads, I think?) likely did label them as "alexandrite" beads.

One of the more interesting glass-related color discussions I've witnessed was a thread on the About.com jewelry-making forums in which a woman had made a necklace with a number of the same Swarovski crystal color, either siam or light siam. The crystals were genuine.

When she took the necklace out into the sun, some of the crystals changed color. Given Swarovski's quality control, no one on the boards was able to figure that one out.

#91 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 02:52 PM:

LLA @66: [..] his descriptions of his colorblindness matched those of my dad and uncle -- he insisted he saw red and green as colors, but just had trouble distinguishing between them (in other words, he also saw them as the same color).

A few years back when I was working with students learning Maya (the 3d modeling and animation program), I had one student with exactly this problem. And it was a problem, because the program uses red-green-blue to distinguish x-y-z axes in the 3d gnomon (the pointer indicating the direction of the world axes) as well as in the action of tools (red arrow for moving in X direction, green circle to indicate rotation around the Y axis, etc.).

Fortunately, the program has a very configurable interface, and it was possible to change the default setup of these indicators, and substitute yellow and brown for red and green, which worked for him.

#92 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 02:53 PM:

I use the vizcheck website to do spot checks on whether my website is legible to colourblind readers. I can't tell how accurate it is, but the filter does seem to match the text descriptions I've read of how colourblindness affects vision.

#93 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 03:04 PM:

Randolph @ 80:

I was first exposed to colorblindness as the model for discussing Mendelian genetics in the '70s in grade school -- so yeah, it was a fairly loose introduction.

It was used, as I understand it, because other well-studied sex-linked chromosomal mutations carried so much stigma/high high mortality rates that they were more difficult to study -- and recessive traits on the non-sex chromosomes are less likely to show up, making their distribution in the population harder to divine (and unlike Mendel's experiments with peas, you can't just order two people you think might have a recessive trait to reproduce so that you can study their offspring!).

Meanwhile, I had a dad who asked his six year-old if this tie went with that shirt and cursed at people who made non-standard road signs and signals.

The use of the term "damaged" chromosome continued to be a frequent euphemism for the more stigmatizing term, "mutation," up to and including my college botany course (where "damage" was used to help people remember earlier human sex-linked human genetics, but "mutation" could be something you might deliberately induce in a plant -- usually to get unusually colored flowers or fruit :-}). My course was post Watson & Crick and pre DNA sequencing.

I still don't think my dad would describe his vision the way you describe dichromat vision (he was familiar with the color wheel and used it to try to explain to his nosy-parker daughter what it was like to "see" color when you're colorblind), but I'll test him on the website this weekend.

#94 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 03:18 PM:

And I have just proven that my color vision might work, but my ability to spot places where I left in the word I was revising the sentence around is less than superlative!

#95 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 03:28 PM:

Andrew, #85: I think if that were true, then it would be impossible to get any odd-numbered score... which (without going into embarrassing detail) I did.

#96 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 03:38 PM:

Lee @ 95: Easy-peasy. Instead of swapping a pair, you swap A for B, B for C, C for A. Three wrong.

#97 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 04:20 PM:

I got a 4 on the color test, which pleased me since I knew a few were wrong when I hit the submit button--but I'm (ahem) at work and was trying to finish quickly. At first I had trouble with the test--all the similar colors looked so very alike--but I noticed after a minute or two that if I looked at the color line as a whole, it was easy to spot my mistakes.

My dad's red-green color-blind and I have a paternal cousin who claims she is too. I'm not sure I believe my cousin, though; maybe she's just trying to cover up for her awful fashion sense. :) My brother, fortunately, sees colors just fine--but I have always noticed that his color preferences are radically different from mine. He hates blue and green together, which I find hard to understand. Blue and green look great together! Trees against sky!

When I did my student teaching, I had a little boy in my first grade class who we only realized was red-green color-blind when another kid tattled on him for doing his math lesson wrong. We were working on patterning, so I'd given the kids Skittles (the chewy candy that comes in various colors) and little pattern charts where they could count up how many of each color Skittle they had, and then eat the Skittles. This boy saw no difference between the purple and orange Skittles and was counting them together.

#98 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 04:22 PM:

caffeine @90: Swarovski, either siam or light siam. [...]When she took the necklace out into the sun, some of the crystals changed color.

Really? Cool-- did she say which direction the color shift went, and whether it was consistent for the ones that did change? I don't think Swarovski's "cantaloupe" would be red enough under incandescents to be mistaken for "light siam"; wonder what got mixed in there?

#99 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 04:59 PM:

While we're talking about colors and stuff, one thing I don't understand:

The primary colors are different for different circumstances:

RGB (red, green, blue) for blending beams of light

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK) for blending transparent inks,

and Red, Blue and Yellow for blending opaque pigments.

I undestand the part about r, g and b being the mathematical complements of c, m, and y, but why is it that opaques are different from transparents? (ie, cyan is almost blue but not quite, magenta is almost red but not quite)

#100 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 05:22 PM:

Erik Nelson:

Part of the issue is that there aren't primaries for subtractive color in the same sense that there are for additive color, so everything is more approximate. You can't (in general) work out the appearance of a subtractive mixture from the appearance of the components, because there are lots of ways to get the same appearance from very different spectra.

That's why there are four primaries even for simple color printing (CMYK) and larger numbers for more accurate color reproduction.

My guess is that the traditional primaries for pigments are red, yellow, blue mostly because there have been fairly good red, yellow and blue pigment paints available for a long time (good in the sense of mixing well).


#101 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 05:23 PM:

K.C. Shaw @97:

"but I noticed after a minute or two that if I looked at the color line as a whole, it was easy to spot my mistakes."

I found the same thing -- it was easier if I sort of squinted a bit to blur the color line into a whole, and looked for discontinuities.

#102 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 05:34 PM:

Julia Jones@92

A colleague with protanopia told me about the vischeck website and says it is quite accurate.

I've used the same color equivalence data to make a package called 'dichromat' for checking color visibility in statistical graphs made with R, and again, people with both forms of red-green color blindness have said that it is a reasonable representation of what they don't see.

#103 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 06:20 PM:

Diatryma @43:
There is a pretty decent advantage to crayons, especially for people like me who aren't so well-versed in DMC or other systems: crayons go both ways. I know what 'cornflower' looks like (middling blue, a little translucent), so if I want that, I can look for things labeled 'cornflower'.

I wonder if there could be a test for color deafness (I forget where I first heard that term). The score would be based on how many colors you can identify by name and put in the right rainbow order. Red, Green, Blue, are easy. Cornflower, Plum, Aubergine are harder. Visit a paint store and look at the chips, for examples of the very hard names. Scoring would be based on both knowing the name, and accurately sequencing them — which has the added challenge of color not being a one or two dimensional scale. I'm familiar with 3D color space but I expect that even that is insufficient.
There would be some ambiguity since not everyone would label a color exactly the same — since there is no standard reference for them even in the professional world. Crayons vs. paint chips vs. process colors vs. trademarked names (Barbie Pink) vs. who-the-hell-knows.

Just what we need, of course: another attractive nuisance on the internet.

#104 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 06:55 PM:

Julie @98, sadly I don't remember the color shift; this was several years ago and I don't think I remember enough of the discussion to pull it up in their search engine. Several people did suggest that she might not have used all genuine crystals, but she said she only buys from reputable suppliers. (Who, presumably, were buying direct.)

Wait a minute. Aha! Found it! Here's the discussion. Re-reading, my best guess is that the crystals she originally bought were a mixed batch of two colors, but that doesn't answer why they'd look the same at times. Be sure to check out the photos!

#105 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 07:11 PM:

It didn't even occur to me to take off my glasses to check the color quiz. I probably would have done better. I got weird artifacts where the squares alternated light and dark because I could tell they were squares.

I saw a batch of photographs online years ago that were doctored to look roughly colorblind. It was weird.

#106 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 07:59 PM:

caffeine, #104, I'd guess they were slightly different batches and the light is what made them look different. Did you know Swarovski is discontinuing the 5301s? They're replacing them with a bicone the same size but with more facets because too many other companies are marketing fakes of the 5301s.

#107 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 09:03 PM:

LLA: Um... "modern" photography requires light meters too. Most people don't use any but the one which comes in the camera, but without them you couldn't trust the camera to "guess" properly.


Carrie S.: There are two sorts of color, additive, and subtractive. Additive (or pigment) uses RBY as the primaries. Subtractive (or light) color uses RGB as the primaries (which is approximate, because the source matters, a lot; and there are things whuich affect source). The opposite sides of the respective color wheels are a bit different. Since most people are dealing with paints, and other pigment based systems, most of the things which deal with the subject, in a general sense, are based on the RBY spectrum.

The eye copes really well with all of this, but reproductive media don't.

#108 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 09:22 PM:

re Rikibeth's @ 37 They retired Thistle? What's next, Periwinkle? Outrageous.

I like the Crayola idea - may start using it to describe colors in things I make. Of course that means I'll have to go out and buy a box and that'll probably get me weepy over the changes, since the color names I have lodged in my memory are all from the 60s.

#109 ::: DavidS ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 09:22 PM:

Erik Nelson, at 99: "why is it that opaques are different from transparents? "

According to the Poynton Color FAQ, "It is complicated to predict the colours produced when mixing paints, but roughly speaking, paints mix additively to the extent that they are opaque (like oil paints), and subtractively to the extent that they are transparent (like watercolours). "

That sounds logical to me, though I have little background in these things.

I wonder about extreme cases. Tile mosiac's viewed from a distance should be almost completely opaque; do they work additively?

#110 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 09:25 PM:

I like this a lot, as a "just good enough" solution to a common problem that already has a lot of "far too good" and extremely expensive solutions.

Those problems are often the hardest to solve because even noticing that there is a problem is very difficult because it's so common (requiring a novel conception, and people making the natural assumption that if there was a simple solution it would already exist) and because when they look into solving it they find a highly-engineered solution, which leads them to assume that a highly-engineered solution is required, since surely the smart person who made the highly engineered solution would've thought of a simpler one.

Well, no.

Making a complex solution by cobbling together other components and overengineering are almost always easier and faster than thinking of a novel simple solution, which is why people make them. See also: almost all software ever made. Also, it's easier to make money that way, so once you have an expensive, complex solution that you can sell, you lack incentives to find a simpler one as long as nobody else is doing so. You especially lack incentives to say "Well, you don't need my $10,000 machine, you can buy a $10 box of crayons."

#111 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 09:38 PM:

wrt #s 104/106: Although no specific technical explanation comes to my mind for the color shift, iirc most red glass gets its color from colloidal effects rather than ionic concentration, which would make consistency between batches much more difficult-- and red glass formulations can also be pushed into some really funky dichroic effects, such as the Roman Lycurgus cup that reflects light as green but transmits light as red and (I think) the rare old "saphiret" glass that reflects light as orange to brown but transmits light as blue.

Even if the original poster was looking at her earrings in sunlight on both days, there might've been enough variability in time of day, angle of light, and even atmospheric diffusion effects (clouds/smog/etc.) to explain the difference in appearance.

#112 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 10:04 PM:

This all reminds me of the ad several years ago for a video card. The ad pictured a kid with a box of 64 Crayolas and the caption "Remember the last time you were this excited about upgrading your graphics hardware?"

#113 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 10:08 PM:

Marilee @106: Oh no! The 4mm bicones are my favorite to work with. Going to have to stock up.

#114 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2009, 10:42 PM:

Trying to catch up with a suddenly-expanded thread:

LLA #59 & 64: Your color memory is surely a cognitive difference rather than a perceptual one, though I assume it's backed up by particularly good color vision. While it is a rare talent, I'd be wary of saying "unique", just on general principles. ;-)

It's just that I've always wondered, when we all agree that the sky is blue, if my blue sky is the same as yours.

An old question, to which my flippant response is, "well, that's why we invented words!" Color perception is mostly intrinsic to a person... but color names are learned, by reference and example. As long as we can both tell the difference between periwinkle and lavender, we don't need to worry about subjective perceptions.

BTW, my father and uncles also were/are colorblind too, to widely varying degrees. They do have the usual increase in shading/detail perception, proportionally to their colorblindness. One of my nephews is also colorblind, but apparently it's pretty mild. (Naturally, we were all wondering early on... at one point, he pranked his Grandma by purposely labeling a set of colors all wrong! ;-) ) Anyway, the degree of the condition for this type is clearly controlled by factors well beyond the single gene that causes the presence of colorblindness. (IIRC, they're just starting to poke at the developmental processes that give us randomly-but-evenly distributed cones in our retina.)

On the other hand, my mother's side of the family runs to very good color vision, coming at least from her father. Almost everyone in my family has at least dabbled in the visual arts, and Mom is an avid amateur painter (as was her father).

I just did the Munsell Hue Test, and I thought it was pretty tough. I wonder if some of those chips were in fact the same color, as there were several runs of three where I couldn't be sure... but I did in fact get a perfect score!


#115 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 12:48 AM:

David Harmon @ 114:

I didn't actually mean "uniquely" unique (a voice in the back of my head is saying, quite firmly, "Unique is a word that does not take a modifier!"). I'm just unique in my own experience (no-one on my mother's side of the family has the same degree of color perception, which I always thought was weird since my dad has none and my mom has little, so where did I come from -- did I mention that I was a trial to my parents, always asking teh questions?).

It's good to hear, though, that someone else from a family of colorblindness has observed variations in the degree to which it can affect siblings. That's not something I've ever had confirmed before -- and always wondered, why?


Terry Karney @ 107:

How did I know you'd say that?

#116 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 12:56 AM:

LLA: Because I'm as much a practical pedant as anyone else here?

I have three light meters. One antique (still useful, but not practical), from the late '40s. A Pentax "digital" spot meter (it has a numeric readout, instead of a needle); which has a most useful slide rule (the useful part is that one can use it to decide where the range of the medium falls), and a "flash" meter for use with my studio lights.

Honestly, after a flash unit, and a tripod, the expensive thing I recommend is a decent spot meter. It makes it a lot easier to avoid being fooled by the camera.

#117 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 01:02 AM:

Terry Karney @ 116:

I wouldn't call you a pedant. I'd say that you're exacting and care about having the best tools available so that you can do a job well.

My dad tried to teach me to use a light meter when I was five and completely scared me away from photography for years in the process (which is the reason I celebrated when light meters began to be built into the cameras!). Maybe I should ask him for another lesson.

#118 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 01:14 AM:

LLA: Depends. Honestly, (for all I got grief when I was looking for it. Idiots telling me I didn't need it... they, apparently, didn't need my money either), the pentax spot meter is one of the easist to use out there.

Basically it tells you how bright a given piece of the scene is, and what f-stops will work. You frame the scene, and point the meter at the brightest part (it looks like an old movie camera; you look point a ring in the middle of the viewfinder at what you want to measure), and the darkest.

If both those numbers are within the range of your "film", you're golden. If they aren't, then you reframe, or you decide to keep the hightlights, or the shadows.

If you are working with film, there are trick you can play (esp. if you are using a view camera).

But, if you have a tripod, you can fake some of it with High Dynamic Range software.

#119 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 01:44 AM:

Terry Karney @ 118:

My mother's brother (the Uncle who has full color vision -- but we've discussed the issue and he doesn't have color memory, either :-() has an old-school Quad camera that he still uses (with a light meter) and he still uses it to capture large format images with stunning detail and color variability.

I could be convinced to be tempted if I had the budget....

#120 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 01:52 AM:

"why is it that opaques are different from transparents?"

Because with opaque paints you see with the light reflected by the surface of the medium and with transparent paints you see the light the medium transmits, less the light absorbed by the board. The physics of light and materials is strange and wonderful.

#121 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 02:17 AM:

LLA: The detail in a larger format image is because so much less magnification is happening.

A 4x6 image, from a 35mm negative, has been magnified 16 times. to get to an 8x12 it's 64 times (if you take frames of film, that's how many it would take to cover the image).

To get that 4x5 negative onto an 8x10, it's only been magnified 4x. So a lot more detail can be kept.

The color, depends on the film. That's one of the things I miss about shooting film regularly; thinking in the color space of the film when planning a picture. Mossy? Go with Velvia 50.

Autumn leaves, Kodachrome 200.

Warm tone sunset... Kodachrome 64, or Kodak 400UC.

That completely ignores the mindset needed for working in B&W color spaces.

One learns to think differently. I recall talking color-spectra, and correction, with Glen Blankenship once, in a Goodwill, as we were looking at the clothing our SOs were looking at. Wonderful stuff light.

#122 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 06:37 AM:

John Houghton @103

That reminds me of something I read years ago. Someone created a giant matrix of color squares and had people all over the world divide it into colors and then circle the most representative square for each color within that section.

What he found was that people saw as many different colors as they had names for. It's been long enough that the details are fuzzy, but I remember that women had more color words than men (blue, teal, turquoise, jade, green vs. blue, green) and that the hypothesis was that knowing the word "chartreuse" made the color visible, rather than seeing the color made one want to learn the name. Teaching people color words changed the way they answered the question.

#123 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 08:24 AM:

The fun part about the color-chip experiment was that everyone around the world had one of two or three squares that was "red", and one of a similarly small set that was "green", and so forth.

The number of color words in languages varies a lot, too--there are some that have just "light" and "dark", pretty much. And languages tend to pick up words for colors in the same order; the tendency is to have light/white and dark/black, then add red, then yellow or green, then the *other* of yellow or green, then blue, then brown, then orange, pink, grey and purple in whatever order.

So languages that have a unique word for "brown" will also have white, black, red, green, yellow and blue.

The folks who originally did the study thought it was a universal rule, which turns out not to be quite true, but it's a neat rule of thumb.

#124 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 10:22 AM:

Juli Thompson @ 122:

Going by that description, I do not think that study shows what they think that study shows. Do you happen to remember anything more about it, or what it was called?

#125 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 11:20 AM:

Re opaque and transparent colors....

Randolph @120: "Because with opaque paints you see with the light reflected by the surface of the medium and with transparent paints you see the light the medium transmits, less the light absorbed by the board."

Something that I learned wandering in art stores is that there's a third category, called "interference paints", based on dichroic materials.

An opaque paint reflects some colors and absorbs the rest.

A transparent paint absorbs some colors and lets the rest pass through. The color is strongest on a white board, which reflects everything that passes through the paint (twice). Watercolor paints on a black board are just black. (For the ideal case, I mean. In real life, all paint reflects *some* light.)

A dichroic paint reflects some colors but *also* lets the rest pass through. So the color is strongest on a black board. A white board just reflects the rest of the light, producing a (nearly) white result... Again, this isn't perfect, because the dichroic material comes in flakes and so there's some iridescence. But the effect of the stuff painted into a checkerboard is weird, because paint shouldn't *do* that.

#126 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 12:16 PM:

LLA #115:

Eh, my family is a example case for all sorts of genetic oddities, especially on Dad's side. Come to think of it, I think I'll try looking one of those up -- the restricted range of my various arm and leg joints. (For example, my wrists don't bend back to perpendicular -- only about 40 degrees max.)

I gather there are other versions of R/G colorblindness that are total (thus, no variation), but I think all the cases I've met were partial.

#127 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 01:46 PM:

Color deficient vision (strictly speaking; not color-blindness) is a confusing mixture of genes, primarily because there is no one single gene for color vision.

The most common deficiencies lie in the red and green peaks, so you have people with red deficiencies and people with green deficiencies. More rarely you find people with blue-yellow deficiencies, or tritanopia/tritanomaly. (For a good simulator, go to COBLIS.) My father is a tritanope, and cannot see blues or greens (they all appear as shades of grey). I have trouble with some blues and some greens, as well as pink vs orange -- I have tritanomaly, where my blue/yellow perception is weak. Interestingly enough, one eye is different from the other in perception of colors. In any case, I don't see pink or orange as separate colors; I've learned to distinguish them by intensity of color. By adding a yellow tint to my glasses, I've increased my perception abilities a bit, so oranges and pinks are a little more different.

#128 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 02:46 PM:

Another website for those interested in color vision. This site has the color vision simulator that I first found and liked.

#129 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 03:12 PM:

Re: contemporary cameras. For years we have had cameras which can automatically take several shots in quick succession, typically used for action photography. Are there any that can take a series of shots with a range of f-stops? This would be useful for HDR images.

#130 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 03:18 PM:

Rob Rusick @ 129:

It sounds like you're asking for a camera that does auto-bracketing. Some of the more expensive cameras will do that.

#131 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 03:26 PM:

Terry Karney @121: The color, depends on the film. [..] Mossy? Go with Velvia 50.

Autumn leaves, Kodachrome 200.

Warm tone sunset... Kodachrome 64, or Kodak 400UC.

That completely ignores the mindset needed for working in B&W color spaces.

It almost sounds like an oxymoron, but because there are so few photofinishers nowdays that are set up to deal with black & white photography, Kodak developed a black and white film designed to be processed at a color lab.

#132 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 03:29 PM:

LLA #115:
"Unique is a word that does not take a modifier!""Unique is a word that does not take a modifier!"

Howard Cosell once said that someone was "among one of your more nearly unique football coaches."

#133 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 03:48 PM:

LLA #115, Erik Nelson #132:

I spent several years with a company (which I believe Bruce C STM may recognize) whose advertising touted them as "very very unique". I eventually decided it was too much trouble getting offended, but I did jib at actually using a coffee mug that said that. (I think I still have a tshirt, though, even though it's been over twenty years.)

#134 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 03:49 PM:

Anyone have a link to the color chip study?

#135 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 04:01 PM:


Rob Rusik: What you want is a camera which brackets. Most SLRs will bracket. You also need a tripod.


Actually, as I recall, it was Ilford's XP-1, which was the first intentional C-41 cross processed B&W film. One of the nice things about it was, inside a pretty wide range (ASA 125-800, as I recall) you could push/pull different frames in the same roll.


Erik Nelson: I'm with LLA, but agree that's the only way in which one can modify it, which is to say something isn't quite unique.

#136 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 04:05 PM:

Caffeine @134

I don't have a link on-hand, but Wilson references it in _Consilience_ which should get you the necessary reference.

#137 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 04:13 PM:

Rob @129, I believe most of the dSLRs have exposure bracketing. I know my Olympus E-330 does, and it's only in the prosumer category, so I'd imagine everything from there on up would have it.

#138 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 04:17 PM:

I forgot the other thing about the C-41 cross process B&W films: they are "low contrast".

Getting prints from them is a do-it yourself project, if you want to get the best prints. I tended to need a 3 1/2 to 5 filter on Multi-contrast RC paper to make prints from the negatives.

#139 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 05:16 PM:

Rob @129

The little I know of HDR images suggests that you need to record a much wider brightness range than automatic bracketing will allow.

I do amateur CGI, and what I see on Renderosity suggests people don't much bother. People don't ask questions, despite the Poser manual being pretty uninformative.

#140 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 06:12 PM:

caffeine, #113, yes, me too, since I'm primarily a seed beader and the 4mm 5301s can be worked right in. But the new bicones will be the same size, just sparklier. I have a friend who strings Swarovski crystals for a beadstore and she's stringing the new ones now.

#141 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 07:24 PM:

Dave Bell @139: I used to work fairly regularly with Maya, and had experimented with the techniques for using HDR images as light sources; if you had an HDR panoramic image, you could create the illusion that your CG model is illuminated by the ambient light from the real world scene. It seemed to take a long time to render, so except for the initial experiments, I didn't do much with it.

For a not-as-precise but quicker render, it was also possible to create an array of spotlights (arranged as if on a sphere, pointing to the center of the sphere) which would take their color and intensity from a given HDR panorama.

It's been a while since I was working with this stuff, and perhaps the state of the art (at least with regards to Maya) has improved.

I have also seen examples where an HDR image is used to create a balanced 'flat' image, with detail in both the shadows and the bright areas of the image. That would be useful, too.

The little I know of HDR images suggests that you need to record a much wider brightness range than automatic bracketing will allow.

Too bad. I had hoped that some 'prosumer' camera was out there that let you program a series of exposures.

#142 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 07:48 PM:

Terry Karney @135: Rob Rusik:

Oh, and as a point of curiosity, you consistently misspell my name. (touchy, moi?)

I'm guessing you know Rusiks, and I'm getting filtered.

#143 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 09:02 PM:

Me @#126: Hmm, now I remember why I gave up looking for this before... I'm drowning in injuries, ossification disorders, and "tutting", which seems to be some sort of street dancing.

#144 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 09:13 PM:

Rob Rusick @131:
[...]Kodak developed a black and white film designed to be processed at a color lab.

Kodak was late to the table, Ilford had it first with the XP line [Google] around 1980.

#145 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 10:55 PM:

David Harmon @ 143:

Ouch. That would make me stop wanting to do research too.

Maybe ask your doctor if there's a medical name to limit your search?

We've got lots of weirdness in my family tree too -- mostly in the realm of nobody particularly resembles anyone else unless you take ancestors pictures apart and recombine chin from one, mouth from another, cheeks from someplace else, and so on.

Mostly, I figure, that oddness is part of what makes each human unique (and this time I get to use the word without any modifiers!). But anything that limits range of motion can be rough to adapt to.

#146 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 11:13 PM:

Keith@ at 124:

Some quick googling suggests that the study I'm thinking of was by Berlin and Kay. It also suggests that I'm conflating at least two studies. Berlin and Kay posited the connection between colors we see and words we know. It may be someone building on that who found that women know more color words.

#147 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2009, 11:33 PM:

Andrew, #125: I'm familiar with dichroic glass, but dichroic paint? This I have to see! Can you imagine how freakin' cool that would look on an art car?! *wonders if Texas Art Supply would have it in stock*

Marilee, #140: But will the new bicones work as well as the old ones in RAW?

#148 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 12:16 AM:

David Harmon @ 143 ...
Would you be looking for something like hypomotility ?

#149 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 12:16 AM:

I got a 31 on the test, but I didn't spend much time on it and am looking at my laptop screen from a less than ideal angle, so I'm not particularly worried.

#150 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 12:33 AM:

Juli Thompson @ 146:

Thank you. That at least nets me some interesting websites.

I can buy that as civilizations grow they accumulate more color words, although the claim that civilizations only start off making the distinction between light and dark seems a little strange. That's what the Berlin and Kay study seems to show. There's still some controversy about it with regards to methodology and conclusions, though.

What I find dubious is any claim that people don't recognize different colors if they don't have words for them. If I didn't know the word "burgundy", for example, I'd still be able to tell it apart from brick red, fire engine red, and plain ol' red. Depending on my mood and the particular situation, I'd probably lump it in under the category of "red" if someone asked me to group colors, even though I do know the word "burgundy".

#151 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 01:03 AM:

Rob Rusick: No, fault is mine entire. I misread your name, and thereafter the error persisted.

My apologies.

#152 ::: Regular posting nonymously ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 01:13 AM:

My scores on the color test bother me. A lot.

Two nights ago I tried it for the first time: 100. I tried again: 150. Then again: 220.

Yesterday I tried it in full daylight, switching the contrast & brightness & gammas and anything else I could think of, and worked for quite some time: 71.

What does it mean, other than when tired repeating a test does not make for improvements?

I mean, I can see that in one arrangement it looks like plaid, and with rearrangement the amount of "jump" between one square to the next goes down. Other than for the one brown square in rows 1 or 2 that I never know what to to with.

#153 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 02:24 AM:

Unlike paper, a display is self-luminous, and the daylight competes with the light from the screen, making it harder to read. There is, especially, a problem called "veiling reflections," where incident light is reflected from a screen, interfering with its legibility.

If you're using a cheap LCD display, chances are it simply doesn't display subtle color differences reliably.

And, perhaps, there is some vision problem as well, but I'd look at veiling reflections and display quality first.

#154 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 07:59 AM:

Wikipedia has a decent overview of the Berlin and Kay study, if anyone's interested. I mean, it is Wikipedia, but linguistics is one of the sciences WP is actually OK on. :)

#155 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 08:50 AM:

Rob Rusick @142 said:
Terry Karney @135: Rob Rusik:

Oh, and as a point of curiosity, you consistently misspell my name. (touchy, moi?)

I feel your pain. :-> I'm tempted to get a livejournal or gmail account called "2ells2tees" or something, just as a reminder mnemonic for my friends.

That's what I get for picking a name with at least 4 very common, mutually correct spellings, though at the time, it was more important that it (a) started with El-, while simultaneously (b) not sounding Melvinny (unlike, e.g., Elvis, Elrond, Elwood, Elmer ... Eli and Elijah are all right, but I'm not Jewish).

#156 ::: Jack Siolo ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 09:01 AM:

Rob Rusick, 129,
Re: contemporary cameras. For years we have had cameras which can automatically take several shots in quick succession, typically used for action photography. Are there any that can take a series of shots with a range of f-stops? This would be useful for HDR images.

My Olympus 520* will auto bracket, by taking 3 consecutive shots: down one setting, on the metered reading, and up one setting. A setting can be as little as .3 of an EV (exposure value) or as much as 1. (You may also be able to ISO bracket on that model, but I'm less sure.)

Useful for HDR? Wrotniak says:
For shooting sequences to be merged into a single HDR (high dynamic range) image, it would It would be useful to have also an option of 2 EV here.
The limitation seems to be buffer size. Why there isn't a "gee, I'll take my chances with the buffer filling up, just give me the +/- 2 EV please" mode, I can't imagine. Ditto for time lapse. So, to answer your original question, you can manually bracket...faster, with current cheap DSLRs.

Also, there are no f 1.8 or larger lenses for the Olympus 4/3rds cameras that cost less than 450$. Just fyi, in case anyone is looking at getting one.


*450$, w/ lens. 400$ for the 420 model.

#157 ::: Jack Siolo ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 09:30 AM:

LLA, 117,
My dad tried to teach me to use a light meter when I was five and completely scared me away from photography for years in the process (which is the reason I celebrated when light meters began to be built into the cameras!). Maybe I should ask him for another lesson.

Wow! And Ouch! That's some pretty darn abstract stuff, there. Five year olds typically get pretty frustrated with abstract thought! It took me a long time as a 20 year old to piece together how light worked with light meters, and I was an art student. I'm curious, what was he trying to teach you? The sunny-16 rule, or the zone system, or what?

#158 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 09:34 AM:

Juli Thompson 122:

What he found was that people saw as many different colors as they had names for. It's been long enough that the details are fuzzy, but I remember that women had more color words than men (blue, teal, turquoise, jade, green vs. blue, green) and that the hypothesis was that knowing the word "chartreuse" made the color visible, rather than seeing the color made one want to learn the name. Teaching people color words changed the way they answered the question.

The original article or discussion of 'color deafness' did allow as women have far more awareness named colors then men (on average).

It is an attribute of language that we can't 'know' something until we have a name for it — else how could we talk about it? The problem that arises is that 'the map is not the territory' and a name is a simplification or even a distortion of the actual thing. This can be done deliberately — naming a color monkey-vomit green does more than just position the color in the spectrum, it carries a value judgment as well. A lot of political discussion gets shaped by how the terms of discussion are phrased (like using "intellectual property" to describe the limited rights granted by the Constitution, or using "piracy" to describe downloading music as the equivalent to seizing ships on the high seas.

#159 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 10:23 AM:

I am color blind. My wife is an artist. When we went through the color vision exhibit at the Pacific Science Center the aftermath was disturbing--she looked at me mournfully for days.

Then again there was the time we went through the San Diego Zoo near twilight. We kept going by exhibit areas where the other folks on the bus were moaning about empty exhibit areas, and I kept pointing out to her the animals right there. Shook her up a little bit.

#160 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 10:28 AM:

24 on the colour test. I fear the world of interior design is forever barred to me. (Unless I work in Japan. "We've painted all your walls plain white, Mrs. Watanabe." "Fantastic!")

#161 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 11:36 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @159, fascinating to find a possible advantage for colourblindness.

I've seen a computer colour-picker using a box of crayons metaphor; maybe 50 colours, all the grey's names were metals. Now wondering if names were 'real' crayon names.

#162 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 11:51 AM:

My score was 15, with the problem in the middle of the blue/green spectrum.

#163 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 11:56 AM:

Jack Siolo @ 157:

You have to understand that my S/O very quickly picked up on a personality quirk my dad has. If you ask (or seem to ask) him a question and he pauses and takes a deep breath, you'd better either run from the room or be prepared to find out way, way more about a topic than you'll ever really want to know (he passed the trait on to his kids, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish! :-0)).

So there weren't any rules of thumb to this lesson -- he taught me the abstraction of how photons being reflected and refracted by various objects would be captured by the light meter, which would give me a reading that then needed to be corrected to match the light sensitivity of the film in the camera so that I could match the f-stop to the manually adjusted shutter speed, then mentally measure the distance to the object I was photographing (so that I could start to adjust the manual focus), -- and, because old school photography wasn't immediate, it would be months before dad would get the photos developed (because ya gotta fill the whole roll first! -- no wasting shots!).

I think, today, I might have a prayer of understanding where I'm making the mistakes if I got a light meter and tuned my digital camera manually since I have the immediacy of being able to download the mistakes and learn to correct them, then try to apply the skill-set to digital cameras.

But I'm the one who asked my dad what he was doing with the box with the pointy arrow when I was five. He just told me.

#164 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 12:14 PM:

D'oh.

That silly sentence was supposed to read: "...then try to apply the skill-set to film cameras."

#165 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 12:24 PM:

I now have an absurd desire for a chart that matches Crayola crayons to their DMC floss equivalents.

Has anyone done this? And if not, why not?

#166 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 12:37 PM:

I find that a dslr is a pretty good light meter. Canons will auto-bracked +- 2 stops, and if you're doing raw, that should give you something of a range for hdr.

#167 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 02:21 PM:

eric: For most purposes in camera light meters are pretty good. I use the default on my camera most of the time. But having an external meter (esp. a spot meter) lets one adjust for the sorts of anomalies which screw things up.

How fine tuned is the bracketting on your Canon? I have 3 stops, and can chop those up into 1/3 stops, and program up to nine frames as an automatic function (it's best to then set the auto-fire to the same number of frames as the bracket list, or one is out of synch, and series get ruined).

LLA: Been there. Asked for help with binomials, got a complete rundown of the quadratic theory.

#168 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 02:31 PM:

Terry Karney @151: No offense taken. I'm sorry you don't know Rusiks; beyond being what we assume to be Anglicized Slavic, the derivation of our family name is a mystery (Czech, Ukrainian, and Polish have all been suggested). Grandpa died before I was born, and apparently said nothing about it to his children.

#169 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 03:07 PM:

Carrie S., #81: "That's funny, I thought blue went with orange and yellow with purple." Only in the most common trichromatic vision. The most common sort of dichromats lack the "L" pigment and have a color-vision deficiency in red. See.

Lee, #147: "dichroic paint?" See. Golden makes cool paints.

Hilary Hertzoff, #165: "I now have an absurd desire for a chart that matches Crayola crayons to their DMC floss equivalents."

Hee. Under what light source?

#170 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2009, 03:33 PM:

Terry Karney @ 167:

Well, in my dad's defense, we'd already covered reflection and refraction of photons when I was three and asked "Why is the sky blue?" The answer he gave then was directly on topic for this discussion, took about an hour, and I understood all of it (I still have a little memory movie of much of his explanation and the adult reference books he used to show me pictures of each aspect-- it's wonderful how childhood memories can be so crisp and clear!).

I learned four things from my dad's answer to "Why is the sky blue?" 1) I learned a great deal about the physics of light and the structure of the eye and the mechanisms that transform information from the eye into the brain's perception of the color blue. 2) I learned that my mom could be a little sadistic when she got tired of having me ask too many questions since she knew what kind of answer I'd get when she said, "I don't really know -- why don't you ask your father?" 3) I learned enough to be quite surprised when he started asking me which clothes went with what (which set me up to start asking questions about colorblindness). 4) Most of all, I learned that he didn't understand the question I was asking, which is much more complicated (and the reason my mom punted). I really wanted to know why the sky wasn't green or purple.

So when he gave such a complex explanation of how to use a light meter, I knew I wasn't going to get an easy answer -- and that it might not meet my needs right away. It has at least been enough for me to play around now that I have a digital camera that lets me set f-stops and exposure times independently.

#171 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 12:12 AM:

Lee, #147, I guess we'll find out!

#172 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 02:49 AM:

Terry Karney @ 121:

And then the manufacturer discontinues the film whose color you like best. When I was learning how to shoot color pictures I fell in love with Kodachrome X, an ASA 100 slide film with high contrast, fairly good resolution, and colors just a tad bluer than Kodachrome 25. I spend most of the next few years just shooting monochrome, and when I went back to buy some color film I found that Kodak didn't make it anymore. I had to learn how to use Kodachrome 200 instead.

Part of my liking for Kodachrome, by the way, is that for awhile there, a lot of people writing about photography gushed about the color of Fuji film, which I thought garish and over-saturated.

#173 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 03:11 AM:

Lee @ 147:

Dichroic paint should be available at any art supply store; I've been seeing it on the shelves for at least the last two years at both Michael's, a craft store, and Art Media, a semi-professional art store (one of its stores is located a few blocks from Portland State University where they can catch the art students).

We've got some around somewhere, though damned if I know where. Eva was playing around with it to see if it would work for coloring polymer clay.

#174 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 04:22 AM:

Back in the old days, the British magaziune Practical Photographer consistently recommended Kodachrome for "glamour" photography.

And was sometimes referred to as Practical Pornographer. Those were the days when, tucked away in the classified adverts, were overseas suppliers of exposed, but undeveloped, photographic films.

Agfa film was recommended for landscapes.

Times have changed.

#175 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 05:58 AM:

Here's a chart of your DMC floss colors.

#176 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 01:27 PM:

Terry -- Both the 40D and Original rebel will auto bracket 3 shots in 1/3 stop increments up to +-2, e.g. -1 2/3, 0 +1 2/3. It's better on the 40D since it's that much faster and not likely to blow your buffer doing it.

I've got an incident meter, but I've never actually found the batteries for it. It takes some exotic thing that I've never bothered to buy. The flash meter though, it takes AA's, and I've used it a few times. Though, honestly, It's just as easy to pop one and look at the histogram.

The meters came in a big case o' MF film gear for $500 a while back. I need to drag out the Mamiya 645 and play a bit again. It's got a nice 80/1.9 lens (and a 55, 110, and 150 too) and I've got a few rolls of B/W film in the fridge. It's just sooo much easier to fire off a bunch of frames on the DSLR.

#177 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 02:03 PM:

Batteries have killed off a couple of old cameras I have. The meters depend on mercury-based cells, no longer available. And the precision of the battery voltage matters.

On the other hand, I have a half-century-old rangefinder camera and a Weston meter. And the basic lens design was patented in 1902.

#178 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 05:08 PM:

@Bruce & the rest of the PDX'ers

There is (or was four years ago) another branch of Art Media out on SE 82nd just north of the clackamas mall.

I miss Art Media. The local Michael's is a small one and doesn't stock Golden products. I have to drive down to (the other) Portland for that.

#179 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2009, 10:46 PM:

Bruce (StM) My "lost" film was B&W. I still pine for Tech-pan. The tonal range, the even curve, the creamy whites and inky blacks, the miniscule grain (which allowed for those creamy whites).

Nothing is like it, because no one makes an accutance film anymore.

eric: I have options for bracketing. I can go up, or down; from baseline, as well as up/down.

I can choose up to four steps (up, down, or both).

I can have 1/3, 2/3rds, or full stops. If I use the exposure compensation I can cheat up to three stops in either direction. It's handy when I feel like doing HDR, or am worried about complex lighting.

I'm not a big fan of the histogram. I know what I want the image to look like, an that chart doesn't really help (and the limited range of the back of the camera histogram is a factor too).

So I use the meter (in camera spot, or external), and chimp for composition.

Flash meters are for studio lights, though mine is also useful as a plain incident/reflective light meter. Without it, studio work would be a real pain. I'd have to use the digital as a polaroid for the 2 1/4, or the 4x5.

#181 ::: LLA ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2009, 03:01 AM:

Terry Karney @ 180:

I feel plagiarized.

#182 ::: janetl see spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2010, 02:29 AM:

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