It is almost inevitable at this point that you have heard about “The Dress.”

This Blue/Black/White/Gold combination of fabrics caused anwp1b9884da_06 absolute uproar on the day of February 27th, 2015. The colors of the famous garment were heavily debated across social media channels worldwide. Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with posts containing #TheDress, #BlueAndBlack and #WhiteAndGold. It is truly shocking that this dress from UK retailer Roman could cause such a fuss. So what is the big deal? How could so many different people see the same picture as so many different colors? The answer is how our brain perceives color and lighting.

The real reason why people see the dress differently has to do with differences in the makeup of our eyes. Your retinas, the colored part of your eyes that interpret color, are made up of rods and cones. Rods are responsible for interpreting shades like white, black and gray. Cones in turn, interpret color. Your eye has three color perceiving cones (small, medium and large) which are sensitive to blue, green and red. Sound familiar? RGB is a common color model known as an “additive” color model. This means that these three colors can be added together in different degrees in order to produce a broad spectrum of colors. If you add all three colors together in the same degree in RGB, you get white (the color of visible light). The inverse to this would be the CMYK “Subtractive” color model that is commonly used in printing. In the subtractive color model, if you add all of the colors together, it will create black. CMYK is the color model commonly used in printing. 

Now back to your retinas. Your cones will only pick up color if light goes through them. If you do not see the color as blue, then your cones are not responding due to the poor lighting of the photo. Your rods instead will see the color as a white, a shade. Now for the black in the picture, this has to do with additive and subtractive mixing. In brighter light, your eyes will perceive color with the RGB or additive color system. If lighting conditions are dim, your eyes will perceive using the CMYK subtractive system, because they are subtracting colors from black caused by the lack of light. In conclusion, if you see the dress as blue and black, your cones are more high functioning which causes your eyes to do subtractive mixing and allowing you to perceive the blue color more easily. If you see white and gold, your eyes do not work well in dim light which causes your eyes to use additive mixing. Your rods will pick up the blue color as white since it is a shade. The additive mixing combines the red and green in the image to create gold. LiveScience has a good article about how we perceive color.

At Berea Printing Company, we have been serving the people of Cuyahoga County and beyond for over 60 years, so we understand how color perception can effect your printing. This is why we always offer printed proofs with every job to ensure that you are happy with the finished product. Give us a call at (440) 243-1080 and ask us about our printed proofs.