Ford Kuga
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Paint - General Information » Color Identification and Chromatics
Basic color theory

In order to achieve optically perfect painting results it is vital to understand the physical principles of the origin of color impression.


Color itself is a sensory perception.

This perception arises through the combined effect of the following components:

  • Light (sunlight or artificial light irradiates the object).
  • Surface of the object (reflection from the object of certain constituent parts of the light).
  • Eye (perception of the reflections from the object).


Because the sensory impression of color is produced by all three of these components, it is dependent on the type, quality and function of the individual components. Practical examples make this clear:

  • If a particular article is subjected to artificial light, then it gives a different impression of color to that which it gives in sunlight.
  • An object with uniform color but different surface textures appears to have different colors (grained or ungrained dashboard).
  • A person with perception disorder (colorblindness) cannot recognize certain colors or distinguish between them e.g. red-green weakness).

In turn the type of color is determined by the light absorption ability of an object. Light shines with all color components (spectral colors) onto an object, certain components of the light are absorbed (taken  in) and other components are reflected (sent on).

The components which are reflected produce the specific color impression.


The colors as we see them are the result of a combination of reflected colors from the spectrum.

Physically speaking, these are electromagnetic waves with different wavelengths (and frequencies). The healthy human eye can recognize wavelengths between 0.36 |jm (violet) and 0.78 ^m (red).

If all the perceptible wavelengths of the spectrum impinge on the human eye at the same time, the impression of white light is produced.

Additive and subtractive color mixing

Additive and subtractive color mixing

Additive color mixing is the combination of light from different sources to give white. Different intensities of the additive primary colors red, green and blue allow millions of different colors to be represented (RGB colors).

Additive color mixing is always therefore used when light should enter the eye directly (without reflection off an object). Such as in the case of computer monitors or overhead beamers.

Additive and subtractive color mixing

Subtractive color mixing means mixing the primary colors cyan, magenta and yellow to form a desired color (CMY colors).

Subtractive color mixing is used when light should enter the eye of an observer after reflection from an object. Such as happens with painting or in printing.

Oswald color circle

Oswald color circle

The Oswald color circle is based on subtractive color mixing, and enables the behavior of paints when they are mixed together to be represented.

Colors lying opposite each other are complementary colors and should not be mixed together as this will produce a dull (i.e. grey) shade.

If green is added to red, the red becomes greyer, not greener.

Color shades which are side by side are partner colors and produce a mixed color shade. For instance, mixing red and blue produces a pure violet.

In addition, black and/or white may be necessary to produce a particular color shade.

  • White makes the color shade lighter.
  • Black makes the color shade darker.
  • With black and white the color shade becomes more dreary or greyer.


Metamerism is the name of the effect which occurs when two colors appear identical in a particular light (e.g. artificial light), but the colors appear different under another light source (e.g. daylight).

The cause is the fact that the human brain, aided by the eyes, does not evaluate the wavelength, instead it evaluates the spectral intensity of the reflected light.

It is for this reason that color matching in practice must only ever be performed in daylight, or under special artificial light which is based on daylight.

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