Updated: 3 days ago. Learn how to make wise color decisions for your future design projects. Gain a better understanding of color and how to apply color that will take your design projects to the next level. Artists invented the first pigments — a combination of soil, animal fat, burnt charcoal, and chalk — as early as 40, years ago, creating the basic palette of 5 colors including red, yellow, brown, black and white. Since then, the history of color has been one of ongoing discovery through both exploration and scientific advancement. One of these historical benchmarks that artists still rely on today is the color wheel. The renown mathematician Sir Isaac Newton invented the first color wheel. While studying white light reflecting off prisms, he noticed that the light reflected a spectrum of colors.
You are here
The Basics of Color: History of the Color Wheel
While the study of Calculus may not have been your thing back in design school, the person who developed Calculus also influenced the color wheel you use today. Newton observed the way each color of light would bend as it passed through the prism. It turns out that A. Munsell and Newton shared the concept of likening color notation to music notation. In his original color wheel , Sir Isaac Newton included musical notes correlated with color beginning with red and dividing the circle by the musical scale starting with D and ending with the octave of D.
Newton and the Color Spectrum
A time capsule of Goethe's intuition on the roles and manifestations of colors in our lives. Color is an essential part of how we experience the world, both biologically and culturally. One of Goethe's most radical points was a refutation of Newton's ideas about the color spectrum, suggesting instead that darkness is an active ingredient rather than the mere passive absence of light. Colour itself is a degree of darkness. But perhaps his most fascinating theories explore the psychological impact of different colors on mood and emotion -- ideas derived by the poet's intuition, which are part entertaining accounts bordering on superstition, part prescient insights corroborated by hard science some two centuries later, and part purely delightful manifestations of the beauty of language. Color wheel designed by Goethe in This is the colour nearest the light. It appears on the slightest mitigation of light, whether by semi-transparent mediums or faint reflection from white surfaces. In prismatic experiments it extends itself alone and widely in the light space, and while the two poles remain separated from each other, before it mixes with blue to produce green it is to be seen in its utmost purity and beauty. How the chemical yellow develops itself in and upon the white, has been circumstantially described in its proper place.
In the s, English physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton began a series of experiments with sunlight and prisms. He demonstrated that clear white light was composed of seven visible colors. By scientifically establishing our visible spectrum the colors we see in a rainbow , Newton laid the path for others to experiment with color in a scientific manner. His work led to breakthroughs in optics, physics, chemistry, perception, and the study of color in nature.