References and Web Sites on the Science of Color

Web Sites
Physiological Principles for the Effective Use of Color
Excellent color theory site for artists that uses correct color theory and
color wheel
Optics for kids (Education web site of the Optical Society of America)
Adobe Color Models
Kodak Color Theory
Color applets for additive (emission) and subtractive (absorption) colors

Color calculations
Color Models
Color Glossary
Industry Glossary of Terms
Color Management
Color Gamut and Gamut Mapping
Munsell Color Science Laboratory Demonstration Images
Comprehensive site aimed at artists, including information on color perception, color theory, color value, and mixing your own paint wheels.
Color Theory
Physics of color, color vision, color models, color perception.
Color mixing guide - one of the few artist-related sites to use the correct color wheel.
The Color Cube
Project LITE: Light Inquiry Through Experiments - An undergraduate educational materials development project at BU supported by NSF
The Joy of Visual Perception: A Web Book
Make a Splash with Color
Demystifying Color
The Physics of Coloured Fireworks
Color Science
Poynton's Color links
Charles A. Poynton
Pantone Home Page
Through the 6x6x6 Color Cube: An Interactive Voyage
Web Color Charts plus Links
CVRL Color & Vision database
Interactive Color and Light: Java Tutorials
Color Mixing/Great Site
Color Conversion Software

Information about the eye

Parts of the Eye Lesson Plan

Parts of the Eye


Vision and Art: the Biology of Seeing by Margaret Livingstone, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 2002. (A wonderful, colorful, understandable book about the human visual system and its relationship to art with many excellent illustrative diagrams, photographs, and paintings.)

Color Analyzers (Grades 5-9), one of the Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) units, available from the Lawrence Hall of Science, (510)-642-7771.

Colour: Art and Science, edited by Trevor Lamb and Janine Bourriau, Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Color Theory and Its Application in Art and Design, G. A. Agoston, Springer Verlag, 1987.

Human Color Vision, 2nd Edition,P. K. Kaiser and R. M. Boynton, Optical Society of America, 1996.) (An in-depth text on human color vision)

Evolution in Color, Frans Gerritsen, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1988. (SUPERB! Discusses the history of color wheels and presents the arguments regarding the inconsistency of the traditional color wheel and the rationale for using the new color wheel.)

Handbook of Optics: Volume 1, Chapter 26: Colorimetry, ed by Michael Bass, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1995. (Excellent and concise description of color models and spaces.)

Clouds in a Glass of Beer: Simple Experiments in Atmospheric Physics,C. F. Bohren, John Wiley and Sons, 1987.) (A great book by a great scientist. Read this if you want to see scientific thinking in action.)

What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks?: More Experiments in Atmospheric Physics,C. F. Bohren, John Wiley and Sons, 1991) (Another great book by a great scientist. Read this if you want to see more scientific thinking in action.)

Light and Color in Nature and Art,S. J. Williamson and H. Z. Cummins, John Wiley and Sons, 1983.) (An excellent conceptual discussion of a wide range of topics.)

Principles of Color Technology, Roy S. Berns, John Wiley and Sons, 2000.) (Well written, complete, up-to-date, extensive use of graphics makes it relatively easy to understand. The book to get if you want to learn about color at a more in-depth level or if you want a good reference.)

The Physics and Chemistry of Color: The Fifteen Causes of Color,Kurt Nassau, John Wiley and Sons, 1983.) (An in-depth discussion of color - for a shorter version, see Nassau's Scientific American article referenced below.)

Color Atlas: A Practical Guide for Color Mixing, Harald Kueppers, Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1982.

Color: Essence and Logic, Rolf G. Kuehni, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York, 1983.

Colorimetry, Chapter 26 in Handbook of Optics, Volume 1 , McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York, 1995.

The Colour Science of Dyes and Pigments, K. McLaren, Adam Hilger Ltd., Bristol, England, 1986. See especially pages 64-75, which provide a clear history of the development of both color science and color misconceptions.

Digital Color Haftoning, Henry R. Kang, IEEE Press, Piscataway, NJ, 1999. See especially pages 13 and 24.

Classical Electrodynamics, second edition, John David Jackson, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY . See especially pages 290 and 291. On page 290 is a plot of the absorption coefficient of water as a function of frequency. As Jackson states, "Then the absorption coefficient falls precipitously over 7.5 decades to a value of alpha<3e-3 in a narrow frequency range between 4e14 Hz and 8e14 Hz. It then rises again by more than 8 decades by 2e15 Hz. This is a dramatic absorption window in what we call the visible region. The extreme transparency of water here has its origins in the basic energy level structure of atoms and molecules. The reader may meditate on the fundamental question of biological evolution on this water-soaked planet, of why animal eyes see the spectrum from red to violet and of why the grass is green. Mother nature has certainly exploited her window!"

Sources of Color Science, edited by David L. MacAdam, the MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1970. Pages 95-100 are particularly informative as to the confusion that existed regarding the primary colors as well as additive and subtractive colors at the time of Helmholtz - 1866.

Color: a guide to basic facts and concepts, R. W. Burnham, R. M. Hanes, and C. J. Bartleson, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1963. An excellent publication of the Inter-Society Color Council.

Note this excerpt from section "a) When color samples are arranged in a circle according to the hue responses that they elicit, complementary samples may be placed opposite each other on the circle, so that a line drawn diametrically between them will pass through the center, which represents the neutral achieved by mixing the two stimuli responsible for complementary colors.

b) In general, yellow hues are complementary to blue hues, blue-green (cyan) hues are complementary to reds, and bluish reds (magentas) are complementary to greens."

, Ruth Heller, Putnam and Grosset, New York 1995. (This book almost gets things right. It correctly states that the primary hues used by printers are yellow, magenta, and cyan, but then errs by claiming that mixtures of these primaries make orange, purple, and green. The book has cyan, magenta, yellow, and black transparencies that nicely overlay to produce a colored flower.)


"Basics of Display Color Specification," Peter A. Keller, Information Display, January 1966, pp. 18-22.

"Confusing Color Concepts Clarified," L. D. Woolf, The Physics Teacher, Volume 37, April 1999, pp. 204-206.

"The Causes of Color," K. Nassau, Scientific American, Volume 243, Number 4, October1980, pp. 124-154.

"Quest for Color," Cary Wolinsky, National Geographic, Volume 196, Number 1, July1999, pp. 72-93.

"Who Invented the Color Wheel," C. Parkhurst and R. L. Feller, Color Research and Applications, Volume 7, Number 3, Fall 1982, pp. 217-230.

"Colors of the sky," C. F. Bohren and A. B. Fraser, The Physics Teacher, May 1985, pp. 267-272. This is a fantastic article by two of the best science writers around.

"The Life and Times of Roy G. Biv," C. F. Bohren, Optics and Photonics News, August 1993, pp. 50-51. Here is a quote from this article: "Newton, like all geniuses, is quoted (inaccurately) vastly more often than read. It seems that Roy G. Biv was born illegitimately on the pages on Newton's Optiks (1704), where in Prop. II Theor. II we find that 'Rays ... appear tinged with this Series of Colors, violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red, *together with all their immediate Degrees of a continual Succession perpetually varying. So that there appeared as many Degrees of Colours, as there were Rays differing in Refrangibility*'[emphasis added]. Failure to read or heed the emphasized words has led to the notion that Newton believed the number of colors to be seven. But what he really did was to rattle off a string of color names and stopped at seven."

"Givers and Takers of Light," C. F. Bohren, The World and I, August 1991, pp. 348-353.

"Multiple rainbows from single drops of water and other liquids," Jearl D. Walker, American Journal of Physics, Volume 44, No. 5, May 1976, pp. 421-433.

"What are "all the colors of the rainbow"?," Raymond L. Lee Jr., Applied Optics, Volume 30, Number 24 . 20 August 1991, pp. 3401-3407.

"Why is Water Blue?," C. L. Braun and S. N. Smirnov, Journal of Chemical Education, Volume 70, Number 8. August 1993, pp. 612-614.

"Color Vision - Almost Reason Enough for Having Eyes," J. Neitz, J. Carroll, and M. Neitz, Optics and Photonics News, January 2001, pp. 26-33.

"Spectral Properties of Plants," D. M. Gates et al., Applied Optics, Volume 4, Number 1. January 1965, pp. 11-20

"Some paradoxes, errors, and resolutions concerning the spectral optimization of human vision," B. H. Soffer andD. K. Lynch, American Journal of Physics, Volume 67, Number 11. November 1999, pp. 946-953.

"The peak brightness of the solar spectrum is in the green (560nm) when plotted in wavelength units. It peaks in the near-infrared (880nm) when plotted in frequency units. Therefore the oft-quoted notion that evolution led to an optimized eye whose sensitivity peaks where there is most available sunlight is misleading and erroneous" " ... We have shown that, contrary to the belief expressed by many authors, the eye is only weakly optimized to take full advantage of the available solar spectrum. The erroneous belief often arises from blind faith in the power of evolution to optimize absolutely, coupled with a misunderstanding of the nature of density distribution functions. That misunderstanding appears in a diverse range of scientific literature. Other constraints upon the eyes' evolutionary optimization besides the Sun's radiance were also important, such as the historically significant influence of the transmission of water, the susceptibility of potentially available biological materials such as photopigments to UV damage, and the instability of possible infrared sensitive photopigments."

"Evolution of the Color Diagram," F. Gerritsen, Color Research and Applications, Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 1979, pp. 33-38.

"Colour Teaching - A New Color Circle" by F. Gerritsen, pp. 494-498 in Colour 73, Survey Lectures and Abstracts of the Papers Presented at the Second Congress of the International Colour Association, John Wiley and Sons, 1973.

"Working Knowledge: Instant Film," Stephen R. Herchen, Scientific American, January 2000, p 108.