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Monday, February 12, 2018

Name That Color

Try it--print out the blank chart above, then write in the name of each color (some may require a white colored pencil). The answers are on down...WAY on down at the bottom, so no cheating. 
Remember, back when you were young and television was in its infancy, when there were dozens of game shows aired, usually in the early evening. In their latter years they migrated to mid-morning programming. A half-dozen or so from back then are still around and have remained quite popular. One which is no longer seen on TV (but sports a home version), was quite popular for some thirty-three years, (1952-85. It) was called Name That Tune. Over its lifespan it was moderated by TV game show icons such as Bill Cullen, Tom Kennedy, and Jim Lang. It was must-see viewing for music "trivians" and just simply play-along fun for the rest of us. Today I'd like to suggest a similar game for art "trivians" and those who fancy themselves as artist. I call it "Name That Color."
The RGB color chart with is 493 different colors.

The two games are roughly analogous in terms of numbers. How many tunes have ever been composed? How many colors can the eye identify? Before you go counting the color slots above, I'll save you the bother. There are 245 in the top one, 493 in the one just above. I've made it easy. The RGB (red, green, blue) color chart (above), now used in computer program, contains that number of squares (though the chart itself is not square). I don't know who first invented this little gem (sources vary), but the name M. George Craford keeps popping up. His landmark work along this line dates from the 1990s as a former Hewlett-Packard color engineer (later as a Philips Lumileds Lighting Company chief technical officer). I should also note that his work dealt with light emitting diodes (LEDs) not artists' pigments. In any case, his chart is not only a valuable scientific tool, but really quite a thing of beauty.

RGB (HEXidecimel) color formula chart.
The colors seen on the RGB color chart do not have names. Names are too subjective. Instead they are identified by six-digit, alpha-numeric codes ranging from  (000000=black, while FFFFFF=white), and by color formulas indicating the 256 different intensities of the red, green, and blue pixels which produce that color (0-255). Red: 0, Green: 0, Blue: 0, produces black. Red: 255, Green: 255, Blue: 255 produces white. Theoretically, this system produces an astounding 65,536 variations. If you're wondering why 255 is used instead of 256, remember, in mathematics, 0 is a number. Pick your favorite color. This is a system of naming colors only a left-brained digital artist could love.

I'm not sure you'll be able to read this 178-slot color chart with all its tints, but if you can, it should give you some ideas as to color names if you want to play "Name That Color" (try zooming in).
At the beginning I posed the question, how many colors can the human eye differentiate? If, after reading the information above, you guessed 493 or even 540, you'd be WAY too low. Optical engineers and the optical medical profession estimate around two-million though some go as high as 2.4 million. Obviously, giving a name of some sort to that many colors would be a human impossibility (like naming that many tunes). Add to that the fact we've been discussing additive color (produced by an illuminated source) while most artists are primarily interested in pigmented colors of red, yellow, and blue (a subtractive color system). Check out the studies of Johannes Itten in this case. The two bear little relationship to one another. However, with pigmented colors, at least we're dealing within the realm of descriptive names (though it's still a pretty damned big realm). My blank color chart (top) has "only" 245 color slots. Even at that, no one should anticipate getting them all correct. I should also mention that some colors require three-word names. Adjectives such as deep, dim, dark, hot, medium, light, and pale are also used. Some simply defy logic.

A color chart specially formulated for those who paint flowers.


Please don't send your answers to me, but if you wish to brag, use the comment feature below to lie about your score.

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