Magenta Isn’t a Real Color

October 6, 2020 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

We’re all familiar with magenta—it’s a kind of purplish-red that exists between blue and red on color wheels.

It’s one of four base colors used in printers to make other colors—along with black, cyan, and yellow. Interestingly, though, magenta isn’t a real color—our brain just makes it seem like it is.

Every color has a specific place in the wavelength, similar to what you see when you look at a rainbow. Magenta isn’t in rainbows, however, and there is no wavelength for the color. So why do we see it? Most colors when mixed, average together into a color that makes sense—green and red, for example, become yellow. Yellow is the average wavelength between those two colors. The average wavelength between red and purple, however, is actually green! Our brain doesn’t like that—green doesn’t “look like” the average between red and purple. Thus, our brain makes up magenta, a color that “makes sense” to us. The reason why magenta shows up on the color wheel is that, unlike a rainbow, the color wheel is circular—causing red and purple (which are at opposite sides of the wavelength) to touch.

Color wheels may not accurately represent the physics of photons, but they do accurately represent the philosophical reality: color is a human construct that helps us interpret wavelengths to better understand our world. It’s hard to say what everything really looks like.

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Image: Jonathan Cutrer (public domain)

Source: Medium

Entry filed under: Demystified. Tags: , , , .

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