You’ve probably heard designers talk about how the same paint color can look entirely different in a different home or space? You’ve probably heard them say it depends on lighting, the direction that the room is facing, what you are painting over, and the surrounding colors. But, have you ever wondered if that was really true?
We can start by just looking at different spaces with the same paint color, but then we’ll dive into something even more interesting!
Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter is a popular color. Most call it a gray with a slight tan to it. Here (below) it is in a dining room. You can see the tan in it, thus making it a greige (mix of tan and beige).
And, below is the same paint color in another dining room. It looks purely gray here. Much colder, in fact.
Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue is a good example of a color that really shifts according to the space for me. Below shows how gray toned it can look. It’s calm and serene, yet sophisticated.
Then, here (below) it appears much like it did in my home when I tried it – fresh, much more green and it can go “little boy’s room” fast, as Kristie Barnett, The Decorologist and color expert, has put it before.
How about a color that I currently have in my home? Lets look at Sherwin Williams’ Loyal Blue. Here it is (below) in Emily Henderson’s office. Dark and moody.
And, in my entry. Cheerful and happy.
It’s also the color of the ceiling in our family room if you want to check that out.
None of these are that dramatic, but when you are trying to get a color just right, such differences can certainly cause frustration.
Now, let’s play a game based on this premise – that colors appear different in different situations, specifically based on the colors surrounding that one color and perceived lighting.
Look at the squares below. Which is darker – A or B?
Post it Science writes: “Incredibly, the answer is that squares A and B are the same color, but your brain perceives them to be different based on surrounding color and shadow information. What’s amazing about this illusion, is that even after you learn that the 2 squares are the same color, your brain continues to perceive square A as significantly darker than square B. This proof drawing helps your brain believe what your eyes aren’t seeing:
Why can’t we see the colors as they actually are, even after we’ve been told, and shown, that they’re the same? It largely has to do with our brain’s ability to interpret a 2-D drawing as a 3-D representation. We expect the cylinder to cast a shadow on the checkerboard- and because we are used to compensating for shadows in “real life” we perceive and compensate for the shadow we assume has been created by the cylinder. However, the creator of the image has manipulated the colors and the shadow to give the illusion of the shadow–without there actually being a realistically rendered or predictable shadow. In addition, because we interpret a checkerboard pattern in an expected way (alternating light and dark squares), due to the respective positions of squares A and B, our brains automatically categorize square A as a dark square and square B as a light square, despite their actual color.”
Check this out. I looked at it in Photoshop with the color picker on B.
And, now with the color picker on A. No kidding. The numbers are all the same! Yet, they look so different to us.
Would you believe that gray ovals have the same shade of gray?
It is interesting how the color surrounding them affects our perception!
Here is another variation on Adelson’s illusion. This one is from National Geographic episode of Brain Games.
Can you believe these two boxes in the image below are the exact same shade of gray?
Gradients and shadows give your brain clues based on your past experiences with shadows. But shadows can lie to you.
Don’t believe it? Save the image and use a photo editor’s color picking tool and compare the two colors. I assure you that they are the same.
One more example of how color can change based on the objects around it?
Another illusion from the show that demonstrates how color can appear differently based on its surroundings is this one (below). See the square in the middle marked orange and the square above marked brown?
Would it surprise you if I said they are the same color? Below is another view.
One side is colored to look as if it were in a shadow. Because of this coloration, two blocks appear to be different shades of brown even though they are the same color.
So, keep that in mind as you choose color in various forms and wonder why it may be looking so different in your space. It’s not the color itself, it’s perception, my friend. Based on lighting, surrounding colors, the direction the room faces (and quality of outside light), as well as what you are painting over.
Have you experienced this?
Other color topics that we’ve discussed on this blog: muddy versus clean colors, greige and undertones, whites, beige and mistakes to avoid, greiges by brand, color recommendations listed by brand,