The variation can be rather overwhelming. But have you ever wondered why are there so many REDS?
We live in a physical world where we undergo daily activities. Things in this world are tangible and tactile.
However, unlike generations before us, we also live in a virtual world through technology.
The stimulus from a virtual world is predominately audio and visual. You cannot physically hold the apple on the screen, nor taste it’s sweetness.
Like us, color also interacts in both of these worlds and is another reason for the many variations in color shades and tones.
(See my blog post The Color Variation Discussion to read about the other reasons for variations in colors.)
One color in technology can look a certain way but then slightly change once it is printed.
The reason for this is because color is made-up differently in the 2 worlds and has to do with the source of light.
In technology, light comes from inside the screen and makes-up color from red, green and blue.
This is called additive color mixing. All three colors – red, green and blue – are combined in equal measures to create pure white LIGHT. Software programmers have developed a system of hex codes that indexes the unlimited number of color variations. These hex codes are made up of numbers and letters.
In the physical world, light comes from the outside. Light reflects onto a surface to make-up color from yellow, magenta and cyan inks, paint, dyes or pigments.
This is called subtractive color mixing. All three colors – yellow, magenta and cyan – are combined in equal measures to create pure black INK.
(You can read more of the technical side of how this works on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_theory.)
With new technologies, the door has opened up to many more variations of color than ever before. However, there are still limitations in the print world when compared to the color variations of the technical world of virtual hex codes.
Every print company or paint company has their own process of color mixing. The different printing presses or paint-tinters operate on the subtractive mixing principle.
Look at these 10 variations for “BARN RED”, a popular color in home décor for painting the front door of a house.
As you can see no two are exactly alike. Some are closer than others. Some are named differently depending on the paint company. I’ve included both the paint chip information as well as the hex codes.
(Now REMEMBER, if I decided to print out the graphic from this blog post, trying to capture all the variations of RED, depending on my computer settings, the output will be different than what is visible on your screen.)
So then, what is a person supposed to do with all this complication, color variations and choices?
Will it really matter if you go with Barn Red Co07D from Ralph Lauren or Barn Red SC-112 from Behr? Maybe from a cost stand point. Maybe one paint is a better quality paint than the other. But from a color stand point, the differences are barely visible, so take the pressure off yourself.
Finding the “right” color does not mean you have to “match exactly” in every circumstance. I would even go so far as to suggest stop trying to match exactly as it can be an activity in futility.
Just think of the time you could save by not running around to every single store, looking for the exact shade of purple.
“Matching exactly” seems like the easier way. But, in reality, with more color variations available to us then ever before, it can be more frustrating and more time consuming in the end.
If you just understood the principles of color theory, you would be able to see why you may not want to go with National Red from Glidden Trim & Door versus Barn Red from Sherwin Williams in your individual situation.
The answer has to do more with tones, shades and color temperature. Color sometimes seems to magically change when put directly next to other colors. And, it is understanding the reason why this happens that will help you choose color with confidence.
I will explain this further in my blog post 5 Tips for Organizing Color.