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Practical Color Theory for People Who Code (tallys.github.io)
491 points by donnemartin on Mar 15, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 69 comments

If you want to do something meaningful with colors, don't use RGB, and don't use HSL (which is based on RGB). These spaces are problematic. For instance, pure blue and pure green in RGB space have very different lightness. Here's a picture of the region of colors covered by RGB:


If RGB space corresponded to what our eyes saw, that would be a perfect hexagon. It isn't. It's warped, and the warping isn't subtle.

Use CIELAB. CIELAB is designed to match what our eyes see.


In a little more detail, distances in the CIELAB colorspace approximate perceptual distance (how different two colors look). Distances in the RGB colorspace do not.

RGB and HSL are related, but I wouldn't say HSL is based on RGB.

From a design point-of-view RGB actually has some problems, as it is difficult to manipulate in a reliable manner. However, from a data point-of-view if is useful because it can scale up or down depending on how much room you have to store information. Also, it relates to the way TV and many video standards transmit information.

In HSL, you have saturation and brighness, which can scale nicely depending on how much information you have, but hue is a a position on a circle, which is a different type of measurement.

Also, how exactly is lab color useful in web programming? How do you support it in CSS or HTML?

“HSL” is a trivial transformation of RGB. It’s what you get when you prop an RGB cube up on one corner, squish 6 of the other corners into the same plane, and then inflate it until it fills a cylinder shape. (Note that none of these steps make any reference to human perception.) Here’s my 2010 diagram showing that visually https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hsl-and-hsv.svg

> Also, how exactly is lab color useful in web programming? How do you support it in CSS or HTML?

Implementing CIELAB in Javascript is straightforward. https://github.com/jrus/chromatist/blob/master/src/cielab.co...

You could alternately use a model like CIECAM02, but that gets a whole lot more complicated. https://github.com/jrus/chromatist/blob/master/src/ciecam.co...

I just wanted to say that the diagram of the transformation from RGB to the different color models is absolutely beautiful as well as informative. When I have a free day or two I am going to have to put together an animation for it where you can track a given color through the process. My favorite class in university was about color models, all the way from CIE 1931 to the various transformations on it to match human perception and driven by anatomical insights about the human eye. It's fascinating!

Just because something can be translated into something else doesn't mean that it is "based" on that thing.

Would you say celsius is "based" on fahrenheit? Or the other way around?

Is yiddish based on english?

Both RGB and HSL are based on the physics of color and perception. Just because it is trivial to transform one to the other doesn't mean anything.

> RGB and HSL are related, but I wouldn't say HSL is based on RGB.

HSL is explicitly defined as a transformation from RGB space, so each RGB triangle has a corresponding HSL space.

RGB is absolute garbage for doing anything other than displaying pixels. It's so bad, that the (piecewise) linear transformation to HSL is perceived by many to be good, when it's still equally terrible.

The main problem is that not all wavelengths of light contribute equally to perceived brightness in our color vision. Any color space that puts red, green, and blue on equal footing for a transformation is going to produce bad results. If you really want a linear transformation from RGB, you'll want to use something like luma instead (Y = .21R + .72G + .07B, according to Wikipedia)--you'll go from bad to acceptable, as luma is only a few percent off from the accurate results.

If you want to do color interpolation, you'll absolutely want to use CIELAB, which was explicitly designed for this purpose. Any good toolkit should provide CIELAB--d3 does, for example. If not, it's not hard to find snippets to do the conversion for you on places like stack overflow.

Note that “luma” (Y’, to avoid confusion please don’t call this Y) is based on a gamma-adjusted RGB space, and is therefore is not accurate for saturated colors.

To get a reasonably accurate correlate of lightness perception, you need to take your linear combination in a linear RGB space to get luminance (Y), and then afterward apply a non-linear correction to find lightness.

Plugging my side project a Munsell to sRGB converter.


It's useful because it gives a manipulatable version of the colour (lighten the value, shift the hue, etc) and then wing it back to hex. Integrates with keybinds and clipboard integration. Highlight, keybind, manipulate, keybind. Repeat as needed. There's a demo in the readme.

Amazing! I've been looking for a munsell colour space converter for weeks for my branding work. Thanks for posting this.

No worries, give her some use :)

See also http://www.hsluv.org for a perceptually uniform colour space based on CIELUV.

I'm not convinced. Picking one fresh-looking color, and sliding the "H" slider, I'm running into non-fresh (dull) looking colors. Or is that somehow supposed to happen?

In a sense, yes. The true "freshness" of a color is shown on the color picker as the distance from the center of the circle. This is equivalent to the chroma component of CIELUV, the color space that HSLuv is based on. The problem with that component is that the maximum chroma is different for different hues, so if you were to move the hue slider while keeping true chroma static, you would run into impossible colors (such as dark saturated yellow).

This is a fundamental trade-off. If you need true saturation, you can use CIELUV and deal with impossible colors. If you need a color space that doesn't have gaps, use HSLuv and deal with a suboptimal saturation. The strongest claim I can make about HSLuv's usefulness is that it is a better HSL.

Hope that helps.

EDIT: You gave an idea that it would be useful to show another slider on the picker called "C", showing the chroma component with gaps.

> You gave an idea that it would be useful to show another slider on the picker called "C", showing the chroma component with gaps.

Yes, that would be nice. But as I understand it, fixing C would cause the H slider to show gaps too (?) Also, if you show sliders for H, S, L and C, then I think it would not be clear from the interface which sliders are fixed.

Good points. Hmm. Needs more thought :)

What sort of computer are you viewing it on? On my mac and ipad the colours work very predictably, but on my work Linux box (which has absolutely no colour calibration) I see huge changes round the red and purple areas of the h slider.

I'm on Linux.

The article is about subjective design choices. Any color space is fine for that as it's only used to pick colors.

Generally, though, what to use working with colors greatly depends on what you are doing and I'm pretty sure most of the time where you think you need CIELAB, HSL with luma for Lightness would do just fine, heck, even jpeg's native YCbCr or RGB might do. It's just not a good advice to avoid RGB or HSL simply because it doesn't work well on rather rare occasions.

Well, for the most part, the color space we're accessing is the exact same, so you can always use whatever space you please. The biggest problem with things like RGB is that color selection ends up turning into a horrible mess of seemingly unrelated magic numbers.

Here's XSLT code that transforms RGB colour space into LCH (and vice versa), which is then used to colourise an arbitrary number of visually distinct and harmonious pie chart wedges:


The algorithm is straightforward, albeit verbose.

I'll add my shot at converting RGB to CIE (XY + brightness) I wrote for my command line controller for Hue lights:


(code in Common Lisp)

Hue documentation (available after registering with them) also has example algorithm in (AFAIR) Objective-C.

EDIT: replaced Github link with commit permalink, in case I change the file in the future.

The issue with CIELAB is that a* and b* are poor fits for most peoples' mental models of color. HCL still gives perceptual uniformity while also giving the knobs most people are interested in turning.

I built a CIELAB / HCL color-scheme designer prototype, because I wasn't able to find anything comparable. RGB-Based color pickers often make it easy to choose ugly colors. Even though it's unfinished, I think it's already useful. It also visualizes the CIEDE2000 perceived color-distance as a graph in realtime: https://fdietze.github.io/pigment

This is pretty flawed. First off, never, ever use complementary colors as the foundation for your design. A red green color scheme (for example) will produce a result that "vibrates." Open your image editor of choice and look at green text (#00FF00) on a red background (#FF0000). Illegible. Painful to the eye. Don't do it. Read more here: https://webdesign.tutsplus.com/articles/why-you-should-avoid...

Secondly, rotating around HSL will not produce true complementary colors. Quick: what are the primary colors? Red, Yellow, and Blue. Here is where the problem lies; In an HSL rotation the primaries occupy the following H values: red (0°), yellow (60°), and blue (240°). These colors are not equidistant. The opposite of red SHOULD be pure green, yet 0°+(360/2)=180° which is #00FFFF (blue-green). The opposite of yellow SHOULD be pure purple, yet 60°+(360/2)=240° which is #0000FF (pure blue). Which means... you guessed it: the opposite of blue SHOULD be orange, but (240°+(360/2))%360)=60° which is #FFFF00 (yellow).

This is because color theory is based on pigmented color. ALL of the most common color models used are equidistant between the Red Green Blue values when rotated, instead of the Red Yellow Blue values.

No calculation will produce harmonious color schemes. Color theory, like any "creative" skill, is something you can hone through practice and experimentation. There is no formulaic solution.

Tl;dr: light and pigment do not have the same "primary" colors. Color theory is based on pigmented colors. RGB, HSB/HSL, etc do not allow for equal transformations between RYB, so you cannot use them to calculate accurate complements.

> First off, never, ever use complementary colors as the foundation for your design. A red green color scheme (for example) will produce a result that "vibrates."

That's an interesting effect, but I don't see it in the final website layout produced by the tutorial, because neutral colours are introduced between the two complementary colours.

So, I don't see how this example supports your assertion against using complementary colours as a starting point.

To clarify: As a foundation… not a starting point. You're more than welcome to begin with complementary colors, but they should not be the foundation of your final system. Properly segmenting complementary colors of a similar lightness works to reduce this effect, but you are now imposing artificial constraints on your design system: you have to intentionally isolate your colors from one another in order to prevent this from happening. This is less than ideal when trying to create a flexible system of color. When codifying these relationships, you run the risk of improper use, especially if you have multiple developers designing views from this system.

One solution, if you must maintain a complementary color scheme is to vary the lightness of a color (as Shelburne's side begins to do): "The conditions for these varying effects occur between colors which are contrasting in their hues but also close or similar in light intensity. […] This initially exciting effect also feels aggressive and often even uncomfortable to our eyes. One finds it is rarely used except for a screaming effect in advertising, and as a result it is unpleasant, disliked, and avoided" -Josef Albers, Interaction of Color: XXII Vibrating boundaries — enforced contours

Probably not the best idea to use a scheme that one of the most pre-eminent color theorists describes as “unpleasant, disliked, and avoided.” Shelburne's site goes on to lessen this effect by introducing desaturated values, however the site fails to explain that these shades and tint shifts are just one option when it comes to avoiding this vibrating effect; instead it's solely attributed to the desaturation of these hues. There are many color schemes that mix high-vibrancy colors, and do so by avoiding complements.

>You're more than welcome to begin with complementary colors, but they should not be the foundation of your final system.

...that's what this demo does

> First off, never, ever use complementary colors as the foundation for your design. A red green color scheme (for example) will produce a result that "vibrates."

Depending on color model and individual visual anatomy, red and green aren't necessarily complementary [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complementary_colors

I would hope that no one would pick red and green as their primary complementary colors, since to a non-trivial subset of users they would be indistinguishable.

I might add: Mixing complementary colors is also just greying them down. You might consider tinting your colors (mixing both with a single 3rd color) instead.

The reason bright red + bright green “vibrates” is because they don’t have enough lightness contrast (see my other comments in this thread).

If you choose a dark red (say, #C2454F in sRGB) and a light green (say, #51E6AF) you’ll be fine (albeit a bit garish in this particular example). Or choose a light red and a dark green if you prefer. Where you wind up in trouble is with two colors of the same lightness, say #DC555E and #047E54.

red green is bad because of colour blindness

All colors are potentially problematic.


I once read, contrast is the key.

All colors are problematic, but if you get your contrast high enough, this doesn't matter.

A more reliable and helpful approach is to make sure that colors meant to convey information are augmented by some other indicator (symbols/shapes, text labels, line styles, etc.) whenever possible. In addition to avoiding colorblindness issues, this makes the difference easier to recognize in general. It also helps accommodate non-ideal viewing conditions such as a washed-out display, coordinating between displays that are calibrated differently, monochrome print/e-ink, and so on.

Do you guys know of any solid guides on how to use and mix and match colors in photography and video making to evoke certain specific emotions? It's easy to find materials on entry level color theory "here are complementary colors, here is a triad etc" but I haven't been able to find a good resource on how to use those coloring choices to influence viewer reactions. Seems like something everybody in the visual arts eventually has to master but also seems very undocumented, like a black art.

The links between colors and emotions are (at least somewhat) culturally specific and subjective. There have been some efforts to classify specific cultures’ associations and preferences which you can find in a search of the academic literature. It’s hard to find much rigorous material on the subject though.

You can of course also find many artists and art teachers with grandiose personal theories about the subject.

My recommendation is to just put the time and work into learning your own personal preferences, by doing your own color exercises. For some design-y ideas about exercises to try see e.g. Josef Albers’s book. For photography, the best training IMO is to just make and look at lots of pictures.

I'm in the field (recent MA in art).

Colour theory, beyond the important concept of complementaries, is very unscientific. I'm not aware of any credible, rigorous scientific findings about colour and emotion that are actually used by artists. (I'm not saying that no credible research will ever exist: see links here https://designshack.net/articles/graphics/the-science-behind... )

Painters (etc.) choose and apply colour in an intuitive way. Some artists are known as "colourists" for their skill in orchestrating colour effects. The way to learn is to look at that kind of work and absorb the aesthetic.

That's been my experience as well when trying to learn from artists who do this. As you said, they most often will simply follow their intuition built over many years of trying different things and learning what seems to cause what kind of result. It'd certainly be neat to shortcut that process, I don't think there's anything magical about it, it's just that people have likely never had to bother.

I once worked in a room full of graphic designers - which was pretty educational - and quite often their process for this was simply: (1) spend some time searching for images that evoke the feelings you're going for, and then (2) pick out a palette of colors from the images you've collected.

Take an art history course. Pay close attention to how the artists that Western culture* holds up as ideals used color.

There are no shortcuts. Emotionally evocative use of color is 90% cultural, and the only way to learn how we in the West interpret color use is long-term study over time, the same as learning to interpret literature, philosophy, or sculpture.

(*assuming your intended audience is Western. You'll still want to at least touch on other major systems as well to increase contextual knowledge.)

It's non obvious. I really enjoyed this a few years ago [1]. I'd suggest looking up color correction in movies. There are more blogs about that, and due to the nature of the media they focus on the really effective stuff first. If there are cars, make the brake lights red, and all the same red. Make taxis that iconic yellow, even if they aren't that specific yellow in the shot.

Heavy handed, but if you're doing advertising where the best you can get is a fraction of a second, those heavy techniques will serve you well.

[1] http://theabyssgazes.blogspot.com/2010/03/teal-and-orange-ho...

I honestly prefer the "Marissa Mayer" method[1] of A/B testing 41 shades of blue in order to experimentally determine which one produces the best results. If you have even the slightest ability to test at scale this makes the most sense to me.

1: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/01/business/01marissa.html

I recently saw this cool video talking about colors in storytelling - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXgFcNUWqX0

Psychophysics is the scientific area of study for this. But much of it is learned, and is effected by culture, generation, location. It's quite complex.

She makes excellent points in the text, but then uses less-than-optimal colours to back up her points. There is also much, much more to colour theory than what is outlined in this nice example.

And as others pointed out HSL/RGB are not the best (or easiest) to do heavy colour-theory based deesigns. If you're serious about colour theory in design, use CIE Lab* or Munsell

That's really handy (especially for someone who's as aesthetically challenged as me) - but it would be nice what mix() actually does/means.

I mean it seems to be a handy sass built-in(?) but it would be nice for us who are not webdevs to know how to manually "mix" HSL colors to get the same results.

It's a linear interpolation of RGB values. I'm sure it could be improved on.


Ugh. This is well meaning, but because based on a color model with a very tenuous relation to human color perception, with further decisions built on loose heuristics without rigorous support (and apparently ported from paint mixing advice), the choices made are pretty arbitrary, yielding poor results.

This part in particular ...

> Pick any color by selecting its hue (0-360) on the color wheel at full saturation (100%) and at half lightness (50%) - this way you start with the 'most colorful color' you can get. ¶ Generate your second color without having to guess what will work. Thanks to science and wavelengths, we know that this works. The opposition of these two colors stimulate your photoreceptor cells in a good way!

... ends up being poor advice in general, “science and wavelengths” notwithstanding. Any pair of decently separated hues will do just as well as a pair of HSL “complements”, as long as the chroma and lightness are carefully chosen. If you take this specific advice and just rotate the hue around in HSL space, all of the perceptual color relationships will swing wildly.

Someone following this program who has a lot of experience with visual art / design will end up making reasonable choices based on intuition and past experience, but that will be in spite of this guide, not because of it.

Sorry to be harsh, but in my opinion non-experts will get better results than this blog post’s recommendations by just choosing perceptual lightness (e.g. in CIELAB space) of each color to have sufficient contrast, and then picking the hue/chroma entirely at random, or using any other desired criteria.

Here’s what Cynthia Brewer, expert in color choices for maps and diagrams, had to say about models like HSL and HSV:

> Computer science offers a few poorer cousins to these perceptual spaces that may also turn up in your software interface, such as HSV and HLS. They are easy mathematical transformations of RGB, and they seem to be perceptual systems because they make use of the hue–lightness/value–saturation terminology. But take a close look; don’t be fooled. Perceptual color dimensions are poorly scaled by the color specifications that are provided in these and some other systems. For example, saturation and lightness are confounded, so a saturation scale may also contain a wide range of lightnesses (for example, it may progress from white to green which is a combination of both lightness and saturation). Likewise, hue and lightness are confounded so, for example, a saturated yellow and saturated blue may be designated as the same ‘lightness’ but have wide differences in perceived lightness. These flaws make the systems difficult to use to control the look of a color scheme in a systematic manner. If much tweaking is required to achieve the desired effect, the system offers little benefit over grappling with raw specifications in RGB or CMY.


If anyone is looking for a better resource, the best one I know of on the web is http://www.handprint.com/LS/CVS/color.html. Otherwise, I recommend going straight to books. There are a variety of available books at every level of technical detail.

Someone making a color scheme for a chart needs to be very rigorous indeed, because color is actually how the data is represented, in some cases.

The tutorial seems to be aimed at front-end developers that want to put together a color scheme for a website. In this case, color is more like decoration, so it doesn't need to be as rigorous, IMHO.

My basic claim is that contrast in perceived lightness (a.k.a. value, in Munsell’s terminology) is the most salient color attribute in graphic design.

This is based on the architecture of human vision. When light comes into the retina, it is measured by three different types of detectors called cone cells (“long” L, “medium” M, and “short” S). But the independent signals from these cone cells are not directly passed to the visual cortex. Instead, at the first layer of processing, the cone cell responses are combined into 3 different signals, a brightness response (L + M), and two color difference signals, yellow–blue (L + M – S) and red–green (L – M). The brightness signal has the finest resolution, and is used for detection of edges, textures, fine details, motion, depth, and so on. The color difference signals are layered on top of that. “Lightness” or “value” is a perceived attribute of surface color based on the brightness response. (Caveat: this is a pretty simplified description.)

Almost any color scheme you choose which has enough lightness contrast will tend to look okay, especially if you avoid picking colors which are outrageously colorful. On the other hand, categorically, any color scheme you choose which does not have enough lightness contrast will look bad (will look muddy or clashing, text will be illegible, etc.).

Any color guide which doesn’t start with a discussion of lightness contrast is in my opinion doing a disservice to its readers.

Unfortunately, the “L” in HSL and the “V” in HSV are not remotely close to real measures of perceived lightness (value). You need to go to a different color model. The most established choice is CIELAB, from the mid-1970s, supported in a wide variety of software.

HCL keeps the perceptual uniformity and I think is friendlier than L\a\b\*.

    Almost any color scheme you choose which has enough 
    lightness contrast will tend to look okay, especially if 
    you avoid picking colors which are outrageously colorful.
Solarized[1] is a color scheme that did that and I think it's great.

[1] http://ethanschoonover.com/solarized

LCh is just the cylindrical coordinates of CIELAB. It’s the same model.

(Ideally I would include asterisks and subscript ab in the symbols LCh to distinguish this from e.g. the cylindrical coordinates for CIELUV, but this forum doesn’t support it.)

What fascinates me about human color perception is our brain actually interpret everything as a mix of the four colors you mentioned: red, green, blue and yellow; the opposites of the two color axes. It's why it seems so weird at first that yellow is a mix of green and red while our brain perceive it as a totally different color; it is a color of its own in our brain.

Color vision deficiencies (specifically dichromacy and monochromacy) need to be taken into account; the more important it is to convey (hazards) the more necessary it needs consideration.

i was going to post a comment along the lines of... and once again everyone has to have perfect colour vision....

what is it with these "experts" that think the way they see things is correct?

ever met someone with less than perfect vision... ever heard of someone with less than perfect vision?!?! this is why you have high contrast modes on your operating system, and colour blind mode in some games (not enough of this)


I agree with you. I used to think of working with color mathematically, until I started researching how color perception actually works. I was working in an imaging science lab at the time. That made me realize how difficult it is to come up with any sort of mathematical approach to creating a color scheme.

It's much better to find color schemes that are recommended by experienced designers. And if you're working on a diagram, trying to design it to be effective with some large number of colors is probably futile, if color is going to be the sole visual discriminant. It's better to keep your number of elements small, if you can. And if you can't, pick a small number of colors, and combine them with textures to get a larger number of combinations.

What would be some good books on colour theory you'd recommend?

I really wish color-related talks and tools would upgrade to wider-than-sRGB color gamuts, now that many modern devices can display them.

The problem is there's divergence from sRGB, and as yet no convergence on a new single standard. So all image content is rendered to sRGB still. Further, there's substantial inconsistency in various tools when it comes to compensation for the difference in color encoding between the image file, and the display. The technology to do this compensation is old, but it's weakly implemented on mobile outside of web browsers on the client side. And only major apps honor and preserve this color encoding metadata.

So the state with color management on mobile is approximately where color management was on the desktop about 15-20 years ago.

Apple have made good progress on this. All of their devices (iPhones, iPads and Macs, with the last iMac having a 10-bits-per-channel screen) are now capable of accurately displaying DCI-P3, and their software supports it very well [1][2].

Other companies are also expanding outside sRGB, with Samsung's new phones, the Surface Studio from Microsoft, and Razer's Blade [Pro] also supporting wide color gamuts, although the last time I checked Windows and Android didn't seem to be as color-aware as macOS and iOS.

[1] https://webkit.org/blog/6682/improving-color-on-the-web/

[2] https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2016/712/

To me seeing sRGB now feels like looking at EGA after VGA was invented; the phase where the tech is available but waiting for the content supply to catch up.

This makes the problem worse. There's 20 years of legacy sRGB images that will not display correctly on wide gamut displays without display compensation in software. iOS and Android are basically repeating all the mistakes made in color management on the desktop, by allowing opt outs by apps and not taking a holistic color management approach. And where the content is created, on the desktop, again if you're using any sort of specialized tool there is a high likelihood the color space information is being ignored or is even stripped out of the image - making it impossible to render correctly downstream.

Changing image encoding from sRGB is change for the sake of change - the vast majority of real world image content fits in sRGB.

Taking a step makes it worse than doing nothing? How would you go about it?

iOS defaults to rendering sRGB (and Apple's devices do it pretty accurately [1][2]) so nothing changes for legacy images, unless your content or code specifically asks for P3.

Xcode and the App Store also handles thinning/slicing so that wide color content is only delivered to and stored on devices that can display it. [3]

Pretty much all of the leading content creation apps support the matching and embedding of color profiles.


> Changing image encoding from sRGB is change for the sake of change - the vast majority of real world image content fits in sRGB.

That's a terrible argument. Holding technology back for the sake of, what?

There were times when the vast majority of "real world" content and applications fit perfectly fine in 640 Kilobytes, 640×480, 256 colors, 2 audio channels and so on.

1920×1080 is still "good enough" and covers the vast majority of content so why bother with 4K?

Many people are happy with consoles yet why do PC owners resent it when a game's graphics are dumbed down?

In any case, wide color can make a considerable difference [4][5][6][7] (to be viewed on capable devices of course, but you can still see comparisons) and the cameras on the new iPads, iPhones and other devices take photos in wide color and do embed that information in the images.

[1] http://www.displaymate.com/iPad_Pro9_ShootOut_1.htm

[2] http://www.displaymate.com/iPhone7_ShootOut_1.htm

[3] https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2016/712/

[4] https://webkit.org/blog-files/color-gamut/comparison.html

[5] http://austinmann.com/trek/iphone-7-camera-review-rwanda

[6] http://www.astramael.com

[7] http://furbo.org/color/WideGamut/

What I found really useful about this was how the presentation laid it out in a way where I could really understand it. For the first time, I got a simple set of concepts behind choosing colors. Without going back to the article, just what I remembered:

1) Choose complements. 2) Mix them with each other until they dull down a bit 3) Make some other neutral color ( possibly by mixing them in equal parts ? ) and then you have 3 colors, and you've got a basis.

( OK -- just considering is there any connection between color theory and the basis of a vector field? )

So what I liked about this was it taught me something I didn't know.

I accept there are a lot of comments by experts on here about how this simplified presentation is wrong in such and such a way. I don't think that decreases its utility for me.

To a novice, just having something tangible to understand is the first step. I understand how to experts, it seems like the wrong advice. But I felt I understood it, and that's invaluable.

If you don't know what I mean by this, maybe it's better explained by something a professor said to me in grad school, "The trick to teaching is to trick people into thinking they understand it. Don't show them all the complexity. Show them a simplified model. Let them come to it in stages."

I think that's true. It stuck with me and it seems true. It also matches what I see my science education was like looking back -- a presentation of a series of models, over a number of years, that gradually layered in more and more complexity, but at a pace that was comfortable. This "chain of models" mostly agreed with each other, but the points where they contradicted each other didn't to my memory negatively impact learning, instead they served as signposts that made each model more distinct and aided in remembering them.

Also, there is this great feeling of being able to say, "Yes from the perspective of model X that is true, but when you factor in what model Y says, you get a different picture. Here, let me show you." That always sounds like a true expert. I like that and it also seems like having a bunch of models, not all in perfect agreement, in fact strengthened by the points where they do differ, gives overall a far richer picture of the topic.

The strongest idea that stayed with me from my science education was that "everything is a model" and "none of them are true" but some of them are useful. Different models, with different levels of faithfulness to evidence.

My main critique of what I will label the "dismissive expert answers" is that they posit a inflexible model of the "absolute truth", which, I say is, given by itself: not that useful ( at least to learn the topic ), and not really true ( because well, no model can be ).

I am sorry if this length comment is more suited as a blog post. Maybe I should just make blog posts instead of comments and link to the article. Maybe that's better than anyone. I'm not trying to offend any experts or do anything ego based, just push back against the what I feel were dismissive answers that missed another side of the value of this article. I wanted to share what I thought that other side of the value of this article was.

It does seem like a highly personal comment, just from my point of view. I hope it's been useful to some others to read it!

> (OK -- just considering is there any connection between color theory and the basis of a vector field?)

You’re looking for https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grassmann%27s_law_(optics)

The same Grassmann was (arguably) the creator of linear algebra, several decades before anyone in the mainstream mathematics community took it seriously.

> I understand how to experts, it seems like the wrong advice. But I felt I understood it, and that's invaluable.

Same goes for the flat earth theory or young-earth creationism. :-)


I was going to reply with, "Yes, but the distinction in this case is that at least this presented color model is roughly correct, in that it is part of a chain of successively more correct models, that has significant overlap with what's real."

But then I pressed myself for -- what exactly is that overlap? I mean, creationism...flat earth theory, have some overlap with the evidence. They are models. People criticise them because they don't overlap as much with the evidence as other models.

In this case, I realized I didn't know enough about the topic to know how much the presented model ( about color theory...which I like and find comprehensible ) overlaps with the "reality" or "the rest of the evidence" about it.

So my objection to comparing this color theory I like to other models that have been widely invalidated...is simply personal. I don't know enough about the data about color to make any substantive argument about why it's different. I feel it must overlap more with the "reality" of color than the other models. Because it makes sense to me, I can see the logic and it matched my impressions about color and was useful to me. And I trust my instincts. ( There is something more in that I'll come to in a minute )

It's sort of uncomfortable to realize I don't know enough about it to refute objections to my fav new theory with anything more than "But I really like it and I can see the truth to it." But at the same time, I'm okay with that. I'm not going to learn more about the data to be able to offer these objections. I think mainly because...this theory is useful enough to me. It works for what I need right now. And matches the pace I want to learn things about this at.

From an economic argument -- this model has utility to me, so I selected it, as opposed to alternatives.

I really appreciated your link to Grassmann. I was super happy that my instincts overlapped with the guy that invented linear algebra.

Which brings me to another point. Science is sometimes uncomfortable because you realize that what is accepted my a lot of people, goes against your instinct, or your direct experience.

I think there's something really important in this. And I don't think it's so simple as "well that means you're wrong" -- I think it's the case that the following are true:

When your instincts are against the majority opinion. Either: 1) they're onto a more valid model than you, more likely, or 2) you're onto a more valid model than them and they've missed something, less likely, and yet that's the history of science ( and startups! ), or 3) the relative levels of validity do not matter to you because it has more personal utility for you, at that point in your life, to believe the model you like than something else.

I like the third point -- because in there is room for tolerance of diversity based on the idea of personal utility. As long as the utility doesn't cause significant cost to anyone else, then trusting your instincts in the face of evidence, even if you're wrong, can still be the choice that maximizes personal utility for you at that point.

Again, this comment might be too long...but I thought it useful to explore my vulnerability to realizing I didn't know enough, but I liked it anyway -- in this forum, so other people could see that maybe when you get to that point, it doesn't always have to result in fighting...but there can be something to learn from it. I think people here will appreciate that--but if not, I guess this type of comment is better as a blog post or personal note.

Personal utility functions over lifepaths -- it's a complex landscape out there!

What helped me greatly was using HSL instead of RGB/Hex.

Get a base color you like and simply change saturation and lightness to get all your other colors.

Finally put this "out there". Nice to see it on HN, says the guy from the meetup who can mix Hex colors in his head.

hmmm I don't like any of the colour examples on this site.

Just go to dribbble.com and see what you can see there, many interesting colour themes

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