The laws of color perception in coloristics

The further a person moves away from the color, the lighter the colors will darken, and the dark will go into the main tone. For example, yellow will turn orange. Violet is blue, green is blue, and blue is gray. This is the regularity of the color perspective – the Berzold-Brucke effect. It is due to the fact that with increasing distance the air layer becomes thicker, and the air, as we know, is not completely transparent.

The fact that we see colors differently under different lighting conditions depends on a change in the level of illumination. This is due to a decrease in the sensitivity of the eye to the difference in color tones and a shift in this ability towards the short-wave part of the spectrum. In twilight light, red and yellow colors darken, blue and violet colors lighten. Under artificial lighting – violet colors turn red, blue ones seem warmer.


There are two types of contrasts: achromatic and chromatic. The fulcrum for the first type of contrast is the change in lightness under the influence of neighboring colors, and for the second – a change in color tone. Each of them is divided into simultaneous, sequential and borderline.

Achromatic and Chromatic contrasts

Simultaneous contrast

There is one general rule for chromatic and achromatic contrasts with simultaneous contrast – on a light background, any darker color darkens, on a dark background, lighter – lightens.

Consistent contrast

This is the appearance of a contrasting color in a certain field or with eyes closed after looking at a bright light or colored object. For example, look from the back of the room at the window, and then close your eyes. At that moment, the image of the window will appear in the visual apparatus, but the color and lightness of its glass and window frame will be the opposite of the color and lightness of the stimulus. This is explained by a large amount of light, and it tires the retina of the eye in bright places. Therefore, with a consistent contrast, a dark or slightly light zone first appears. No matter how much you squint your eyes, enough light will penetrate your eyelids to irritate the little tired parts of the retina and thereby a faint light sensation. Therefore, with closed eyes, the window frame seems lighter. This is an example of achromatic sequential contrast.

Consistent contrast

Chromatic Serial Contrast

The phenomenon of successive chromatic contrasts occurs due to the fatigue of irritated visual cells. For example, we look at a red object for a long time. Responsible for red cells begin to get tired. Here the cells responsible for the green color are included in the work. This is in order to maintain the visual balance of the eye. Hence the illusion of a greenish color. And so with every chromatic color.

The main pairs of chromatic contrasting colors are red-green, blue-orange, yellow-purple, white-black.

The main laws of chromatic sequential contrast:

  • Visual change in color tone always occurs in the direction of the color contrasting to the background color
  • A more saturated color also causes a stronger contrast in relation to a less saturated color.
  • Very strong lighting makes the contrast fainter, and when faint, contrast is enhanced
  • The sense of contrast does not last long, because the eyes get tired
  • Achromatic contour reduces the effect of simultaneous contrast (hand-drawn characters from Disney cartoons or stained glass paintings)

Edge contrast

Two types of border contrast


The phenomenon of irradiation consists in the fact that light surfaces seem to increase in breadth. They have more energy than dark ones. Therefore, the light incident from them on the retina of the eye irritates the adjacent nerve endings.

Chromatic stereoscopy

This phenomenon is explained as follows: against a dark background, light colors “protrude” forward, and dark colors “recede” back. It depends on:

  • Color tone (warm – protrude, cold – recede)
  • Lightnesses (warm and bright are perceived as acting against a background of cold and dark colors)
  • Saturation (the more saturated the color, the more it advances).

Very often, this technique is used by artists and interior designers.

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