What is

Color - explanation and definition of the color

What is color?

Color is the sense that our brain interprets when light strikes an object and is reflected and captured by our eyes, ie the color is the presence of light.

The light from any light source like the sun, the light of the bondfire or the light of the lamp of our room is made up of multitude of electromagnetic waves, when a ray of light strikes an object part of the waves are absorbed and the remaining are reflected by the object, which are captured by our eyes that are responsible for transforming these waves into signals that the brain interprets and gives us the sense of view and recognize a certain color.

Considering the color definition described above, we can conclude and say that for the color exists 3 basic elements are necessary:

  • Light Source
  • Object
  • Receiver / Observer

Or what is the same, it would be its equation;

Color = Light Source + Object + Receiver

Light source

As we mentioned above any light source emits light in form of electromagnetic waves, as with any type of waves we can identify or classify them according to the distance between a valley or wave crest itself, this quantity is known as length wave being represented by the Greek letter λ , if we graph each of the electromagnetic waves by their energy or λ would get what is known as the electromagnetic spectrum, into it and occupying a tiny portion exists the visible spectrum which contains all lengths wave equivalent to the colors that we are able to observe, so the color really is equivalent to a single or combination of several waves with certain energies or λ.

The same color can be seen differently depending on the nature of the light source that illuminates and why we observe, is not the same to observe a color in sunlight noon, under the street lamps that illuminate the city at night or under the lamp our room. The explanation of this phenomenon lies in the nature of the object is illuminated and the nature of each type of light, our object can absorb all the waves emitted by the light of our room and yet deflect part of the waves sunlight containing no artificial light, so within each light it is important to know the composition of the electromagnetic waves.

To avoid these problems, the colors generally are referenced to the light source under which it is observed, in the field of industry they have developed booths standardized light which are used to compare colors directly, so for example is available D65 illuminant booths that simulate daylight, TL84 which are fluorescent or A illuminant that are incandescent lights.


Objects have no color, objects have the ability to absorb, transmit and reflect some of the light waves that illuminate and are captured by our eyes and interpreted by our brains.

Although the objects have no color is a reality that determines it, pure white color would be the result of an object that reflect all the waves that compose the visible spectrum, however pure black would be the object to absorb the entire these waves.

Depending on the dyes and / or pigments which are part of the object and the degree of surface roughness it is determine the color type, degree of transparency and brightness. A color will be brighter if the object surface is completely smooth since it will allow to reflect the maximum amount of light received, these phenomena are known and used by man for example in the manufacture of road signs, bands and reflective vests that allow clearly distinguish the reflective object when illuminated with light of our car while driving at night.

Receiver / Observer

The eye is the organ recipient that captures the different waves emitted by bodies or objects when illuminated, our eyes have 3 sensors in the retina which capture the wavelengths emitted by the object and transmits them to the brain through nerves optical, then our brain transforms this stimulus to sensations of colors.

The sensitivity and number of colors that our eyes captured and our brain interprets captured depends of each person, for example there are colorblind people who confuse colors can observe only a small range of these changes and others with the ability to reach there to distinguish details minimum of one color to another.

Color attributes and properties - colorimetry

Colorimetry is the science that measure and classify the wide range of colors that we can perceive, from its earliest beginnings in 1665 when Sir Isaac Newton demonstrated that white sunlight is a combination of 6 colors of the visible spectrum by using a prism to this day, the science of colorimetry had given giant steps thanks to time spent by different researchers and related associations efforts to this end.

To catalog the wide range of existing colors we have to identify the basis of the three intrinsic properties or attributes that has a color:

  • Hue
  • Intensity
  • Saturation

Hue represents the predominant wavelength that our eyes capture an object, so we can say if it's red, blue or yellow. The hue is the same as saying what color is.

Intensity or brightness defines the amount of light reflected by an object illuminated, so we cherish very light colors they reflect a lot of light or too dark when not reflect almost anything.

Finally Saturation corresponds to the degree that a color resembles more or less pure chromatic color or appropriate, ie it is purity.

Based on studies of Newton in 1776 the naturalist Moses Harris made the first color wheel in two dimensions, then the color cylinder which took into account the three attributes of color (hue, saturation and intensity) was developed. In 1931 the International Commission of Color proposed a number system that allowed encode and recognize colors, known as CIE XYZ its use spread rapidly until 1976 evolved into the CIELAB system we currently use.

Today all colors are coded and cataloged, there are many standard letters as RAL, Munsell, Pantone or SPS, when we go to a paint store we can choose without mistakes the color that is exactly the same as our walls or furniture, when we repaired our car hit the painter preparing a mixture of dyes that reproduce the same original color ... even if we have doubts today there are devices known as spectrophotometers and colorimeters that measure and calculate in seconds differences color regarding their pattern.

Now that you know what is the color, did you know that colors influence our behavior and mood ?, for example the color red increases us our heart rate and is used as a warning sign in many light signals, traffic lights, appliances, etc ... for shopping centers is also used as bait to attract attention in sales and nature even uses the color of our blood as a sign of danger and warning, on the other hand a black color denotes elegance and inspires is used in luxury products.

what is color