Art: If we cant see the right colors...how can we paint them..

# Thread: If we cant see the right colors...how can we paint them..

1. ## If we cant see the right colors...how can we paint them..

2. Registered User Level 4 Gladiator: Meridiani
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you fall in the trap, i saw that it was on a iq test or something, but the question is misleading you or your mind just sees the wrong thing here.
which one is darker A or B?, of course you are looking at the color of the square, and yes one is darker than the other but what should look is the color of the letters A and B!

3. Originally Posted by Fovos
you fall in the trap, i saw that it was on a iq test or something, but the question is misleading you or your mind just sees the wrong thing here.
which one is darker A or B?, of course you are looking at the color of the square, and yes one is darker than the other but what should look is the color of the letters A and B!
Actually, if you cut and paste the squares, they are the exact same color. And B is darker than A.

4. i know i know... just that...its quite fckd. i mean, can i paint this picture right (in case i dont know the trap)?...no way.

5. If you paint the values relative to the other values, this problem can be largely avoided. If you focus in on that color and try to get it right without systematically comparing it to the other values in the composition, it's easy to shift values & colors away from what they actually are.

Also, take note that this is a pretty abstracted example. You're talking about an at-best moderately accurate computer rendering of a situation that would almost never occur in nature. If you set something like this up in real life, things would not be so clear-cut:

-The light would fade in intensity as it gets further from the light source, which is not represented in the rendering and would change the color/value of all the squares.
- The light would invariably have some color to it- however close to white it might look- and thus the square in shadow would have a color difference as well as a value difference. It's highly improbable that either would be a neutral gray, and impossible that both would be.
- Linear perspective would make the squares appear different sizes, so you wouldn't have such equally sized fields of color.
- Most importantly, the square in shadow will appear darker because there would actually be fewer light rays hitting your eye, as opposed to the monitor which sends roughly the same amount of rays of different wavelengths, which creates a much different perception.

That being said, zeroing in on colors without comparing is a common problem while painting that causes all sorts of trouble. That's why it's a good idea to paint things relative to everything else in the composition, and the real lesson of this kind of optical illusion.

6. In addition to the good advice Dose has offered, I would add that you shouldn't be afraid of this particular optical illusion (simultaneous contrast). Given the right conditions, this effect can make a single value appear to be two distinct values, which allows you to essentially say more with less, and IMHO that leads to a stronger visual design.

7. This is an excellent example of how in our normal mode of viewing we see what our brain works out for us, rather than the raw external stimulus. Dose is right that we need to see the tones in relation to each other, but achieving this artist's way of seeing is admittedly easier said than done. I find that by really squinting and by avoiding focusing on the edges of the squares, I suddenly can see that B is the same tone as the dark squares, especially the nearer two that don't abut directly against stark white. If you don't see this immediately then keep trying, the switch in mode of seeing seems quite sudden for me.

If you continue to have difficulty in switching to this way of seeing, you could try some mechanical aids - the best of which I believe is a card with two apertures in it that you can use to compare tones.

8. I placed my finger so that it interects with both A square and B square ( covered horizontally whole area between them) and instantly they both started to look like the same value. Try it out, you might see it.

9. Registered User Level 7 Gladiator: Samnite
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Originally Posted by kait
If we cant see the right colors...how can we paint them..
Who's going to know? Are you being tested or something? Unless you're painting something that other people see as your painting it, how can they tell if it's incorrect? Don't sweat it. It's an issue of the relationship and balance between one color to another.

10. Well, I got perplexed as hell when i saw this. I actually got a little bummed. Then I took it in to photoshop and did the copy paste thing. Did it slowly and tried to see when the transition occurred. Still didn't click in my brain, and i felt even more bummed.

Then I squinted, and I could IMMEDIATLEY see that they are the same value. Penny dropped. Relief! Try it, Its quite astounding.I squint constantly when I'm drawing or painting, but this is hardcore evidence why and how it actually works, and that it DOES work! Yay! Its a real hard squint though, close your eyes and open one of them very slowly. You may even have to tilt your head back a little.

11. I agree about squinting- it's a very effective tool for determining relative value. However, I find that squinting at an image on a monitor is about half as effective as squinting at a photo, and a tenth as effective as squinting at nature.

I believe it has to do with the fact that when looking at a monitor, nearly everything you're seeing is a light source. When you squint at something in real life, values of the darker things drop out because there are actually fewer light rays hitting your eye. When looking at a monitor, nearly everything except black is actually a light source of varying intensity, so you have to squint waaaay down to get the same effect- which I'm not even sure you can get. The darker values drop to black rather quickly, but the details are not obliterated the way they are when squinting in real life or even at a photo. This is what I was getting at in my last post.

Just another reason to paint from life when possible!

12. Sorry Dose, I still don't follow you. Certainly everything on a monitor is a source of light, but there are still "fewer light rays" (so to speak) coming from the darker areas.

13. *edit* oops, I see Dose already covered most of what I wanted to say, sorry. But it doesn't hurt to stress it :
understanding sometimes it can also become a crutch.
I was taught that when you paint you should never make isolated oservations.
I'm mainly talking about the card with one hole in it here, not exactly what briggsy is talking about but it leans to it.
I feel it's important to share this cause it might be confusing
Painting is all about relative value, relative color, relative edges etc... imo , not about trying to copy what you see..
Relate one thing against the whole.

When looking through a hole in a card you don't see how that color is
perceived with all it's surrounding elements.
I remember in class me or other people had the tendency sometimes to keep working on the background or other stuff
while the model was taking a break. My teachers always advised me no too for that exact reason.
When the model is away all relationships in your painting change !

Last edited by Art_Addict; January 7th, 2008 at 03:09 PM.

14. Art_Addict, everything you say here is perfectly true, apart from the fact that looking through a card with ONE aperture is not AT ALL what briggsy was talking about.

15. When i quickly read your post that was the first thing that popped into my head. True, that was probably due to the language barrier on my part, maybe
I shouldn't have quoted you.

I just felt it was worth saying, since other people might have made that same connotation.
I have removed the quote.

Tom

16. Interesting discussion here.

It's a fascinating optical illusion, especially when we put it in an artistic perspective.

I'm totally bummed out, because I can't see them as the same no matter how hard I squint.

EDIT: Damn my stupid brain! I put it into Photoshop, picked the colour and drew a line between the two squares, and I could see it, but as soon I undo the line, they instantly looks different again.

Last edited by HunterKiller_; January 17th, 2008 at 10:17 PM.

17. As a guy who happens to be colour blind, this is something I've given lots of thought to. The short answer to your question is you can't ever recreate colour with perfect accuracy. The real question though is, does that matter? Sight is always an imperfect and incomplete interpretation of the physical; I think that accepting this will let you focus on bringing more to your art than just what you can see. Even absolute masters of simulacra like Gerhard Richter acknowledge the restrictions of cameras and sight in their work.

18. I'm with you on this. It depresses/worries me tons that I can't see the same colors there. There's another illusion that uses color instead of b&w and I can't see it either. No matter how much I squint.

It makes me feel like I must not have the "artist's eye"

I guess we just have to hope our audience doesn't know the difference.

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In response to the last post - there is no such thing as seeing or recreating exact color. We see the relationships, not the exact colors or values. Here is a quote from a book by E.H. Gombrich "Art and Illusion", who I think has a pretty good grasp of the subject;

"According to a classic experiment by Wolfgang Kohler, you can take two gray pieces of paper--one dark, one bright--and teach the chickens to expect the food on the brighter of the two. If you remove the darker piece and replace it by one brighter than the other, deluded creatures will look for their dinner, not on the identical gray paper where they have always found it, but on the paper where they would expect it in terms of relationships--that is, on the brighter of the two. Their little brains are attuned to gradients rather than to individual stimuli. Things could not go well with them if nature had willed otherwise. For would a memory of the exact stimulus have helped them to recognize the identical paper? Hardly ever! A cloud passing over the sun would change it's brightness, and so might even a tilt of the head, or an approach from a different angle. If what we call "identity" were not anchored in a constant relationship with environment, it would be lost in the chaos of swirling impressions that never repeat themselves.

What we get on the retina, whether we are chickens or human beings, is a welter of dancing light points stimulating the sensitive rods and cones that fire their messages into the brain. What we see is a stable world. It takes an effort of the imagination and a fairly complex apparatus to realize the tremendous gulf that exists between the two. Consider any object, such as a book or a piece of paper. When we scan it with our eyes it projects upon our two retinas a restless, flitting pattern of light of various wave lengths and intensities. This pattern will hardly ever repeat itself exactly--the angle at which we look, the light, the size of our pupils, all these will have changed. The white light a piece of paper reflects when turned toward the window is a multiple of what it reflects when turned away. It is not that we do not notice some change; indeed, we must if we want to form an estimate of the illumination. But we are never conscious of the objective degree of all these changes unless we use what psychologists call a "reduction screen", in essence a peephole that makes us see a speck of color but masks off the relationships. Those who have used this magic instrument report the most striking discoveries. A white handkerchief in the shade may be objectively darker than a lump of coal in the sunshine. We rarely confuse the one with the other, the coal will on the whole be the blackest patch in our field of vision, the handkerchief the whitest, and it is relative brightness that matters and that we are aware of."

He devotes a whole chapter to this, but I think this is sufficient to get the point across. In short - our brains are wired to see a certain way, and this illusion simply exploits it. It has no bearing on the person's artistic ability.

edit:

Chris, I noticed that this works even better for someone who wears glasses. When I look at the image without them, after a couple seconds I can actually see that the two squares are the same color.
It definitely seems to have something to do with blurring.

Last edited by dusty imp; February 4th, 2008 at 06:31 PM.

20. This points up another interesting phenomenon to do with what everyone has said about squinting: It's main effect is that it blurs everything to a high degree and this alows us to see the value relationships without the brain being tricked by the 'drawing clues' as how to read the image when everything is in focus. This is why the brain is decieved in its value judgements because it is making adjustments to this 'shape clue' component - something that dissapears when squinting. This is the reason that paintings look brighter when they are sharper - the brain is making an association with the effects of a sunny day. A high key late Turner somehow looks 'duller' than a Caravaggio for this reason.

21. Yutani- Thanks so much for posting that excerpt... I feel so much better about all this now. It was really helpful and I feel a lot less inadequate.

22. Here is a related illusion that I painted in Photoshop, without reference, for the Dimensions of Colour site. Hopefully the image creates the illusion of two uniform red strips passing from shadow into light. In order to create that illusion it was necessary for me to get the colour relationships between the four zones A-D (and the background) just right. If you were to paint this subject yourself you too would have to get these relationships right if you wanted to recreate the same effect of light. In this particular case this would mean painting D exactly the same colour as A. Looking normally at the image, D certainly doesn't look the same as A (for the reason described by Yutani), but if you were to paint D any other colour you would not recreate the same effect of light.

There is however no reason for anyone to feel perplexed/ bummed/ depressed/ worried/ inadequate if they can't see D=A, because there is nothing whatsoever wrong with using any tool that you need to do so. After all, your compressed eyelids are a tool of sorts, but so far I haven't heard anyone dismiss squinting as a "crutch". If squinting doesn't seem to work for you (yet), use any other tool that does, whether it be a Claude glass, the Finger of Farvus, or the Two-Holed Card of Briggsy. I bet everyone here will find that at least one of these tools will work for them.

Of course, getting these colour relationships just right is essential only if your style of painting aims to create vivid effects of light and atmosphere, and this is only one of many possible aims of painting.

Last edited by briggsy@ashtons; February 4th, 2008 at 07:31 AM.

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Briggsy, I hate to complicate things, but have you noticed that the degree of brightness affecting B in your image is not the same as D? If you pick the colors in Photoshop you'll see that the brightness of A = 51, B = 96, C = 26, and D = 51 (A = D as you were saying.) However, If you change D to have the same brightness shift from C as B does from A, then D would be brighter (hope that makes sense.) That would make the brightness of "light" to be the same for both strips, and in that case D would not be = to A.

For example, I took the liberty of editing your image to describe what I mean. I changed D to be as bright as B, and the small square in A is the same color as D. Did I miss anything?

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25. I think you'll see that in your changed example the apparent difference in local colour (specifically, lightness) between B and D now appears to be less than the difference between A and C. Brightness differences work proportionately, not additively. The logic is that if colour X reflects half as much light as colour Y in the light, it is still going to reflect half as much light as Y in the shadow.

http://huevaluechroma.com/102.php

In my example the R values (of RGB) for A,B,C and D are 129, 247, 67 and 129 respectively, and C/A = D/B = 0.52. Also A/B = C/D = 0.52. You'll see that I made the shadow 0.52 times as bright as the stronger light, and the lower strip reflect light 0.52 times the brightness of the upper strip, which is why D ends up the same colour as A.

Applying the same calculations to the relative brightness values (B) gives basically the same results, though for some reason the numbers I get diverge slightly in the second decimal place.

Last edited by briggsy@ashtons; February 4th, 2008 at 09:03 PM.

26. I think being able to see in an artistic way as Briggsy puts it could prove to be helpful, i can see them as the same color just fine with out squinting.

For those who can't see them as the same color here is what I do:
Step back from your monitor a little bit. Look at A then at B, then look at both at the same time. Focus on the entire image and try if you can to see both A and B directly while blocking out everything around them. All the other squares should seem to entire into your peripheral vision while your focused on just those two. Then try to focus on more of the white squares in shadow and more of the dark squares out of shadow. They should all be the same, and everything else in your vision should be blurred and out of focus. Then get closer and closer to your monitor while trying to maintain that state of mind.

Thats sort of how my brain processed this task, maybe this will help someone else out

27. OK, let's add the Jedi Stare of Wake101 to the list! (Personally I find it hard to follow your directions without squinting though - it's such an ingrained habit).

DBC, you might like to look at this diagram that I just made to clarify my point about brightness differences being proportional rather than additive. The shadow illumination is half the brightness of the illumination on the right.

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29. Another discussion on the same topic went on here over the last few days:

http://www.boingboing.net/2008/02/08...optical-i.html

Two contributors came up with variations on the Jedi Stare technique:

"Stand back from the monitor and try to imagine A, B, and the same-coloured squares next to them floating in a separate level above the rest of the grid.

If you can do that (like bringing the image out of one of those 3-D pictures) you are longer influenced by the shadow of the cylinder and the squares are very clearly the same shade; it popped out at me quite suddenly, along with two other squares at the bottom of the grid which are also the same colour."

and

"I've now found that if I just stare a hole through 'B' it will slowly darken and reveal itself to be the same as 'A'."

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