Additive models are based on the way human eyes perceive colour, with each colour being produced by a combination of different wavelengths. In contrast, a subtractive model is based on the way pigments reflect light.
In practice, the CMY colours often can’t produce a perfect black when mixed due to impurities in the pigments or inks, so a fourth ‘Key’ component (represented as K) is often used in printing to produce a true black.
The RGB colour model produces all the colours seen by an observer on TV, computer and phone screens by creating arrays of red, green and blue pixels (picture elements) in different proportions.
Red, green and blue are called additive primary colours in an RGB colour model because just these three component colours alone can produce any conceivable colour if blended in the correct proportion.
Different colours are produced by varying the brightness of the component colours between completely off and fully on.
When fully saturated red, green and blue primary colours are mixed in equal amounts, they produce white.
A fully saturated hue is produced by a single wavelength (or narrow band of wavelengths) of light.
When any two fully saturated additive primary colours are mixed, they produce a secondary colour: yellow, cyan or magenta.
Some implementations of RGB colour models can produce millions of colours by varying the brightness of each of the three primary colours.
The additive RGB colour model cannot be used for mixing pigments such as paints, inks, dyes or powders.
The RGB colour model does not define the exact hue of the three primary colours so the choice of wavelengths for each primary colour is important if it is to be used as part of a colour-managed workflow.
The RGB colour model can be made device-independent by specifying a colour profile such as sRGB or Adobe RGB (1998) which ensures consistent results regardless of the device used to output an image.
The most common colour profiles in photography are sRGB, Adobe RGB (1998), and ProPhoto RGB.
Adobe RGB, developed in 1998, consists of the same red green blue colours as sRGB but the colour space has a larger gamut.
It was developed to communicate with standard CMYK multi-function and inkjet printers and is commonly used for printing on fine art papers.
When the RGB colour model is used on a modern computer screen, the Adobe RGB (1998) colour space aims to reproduce roughly 50% of the range of colours that an observer is capable of seeing in ideal conditions.
The Adobe RGB (1998) colour space was developed to improve on the gamut of colours that could be produced by the earlier sRGB colour space, primarily in the reproduction of cyan-green hues.
sRGB stands for standard red green blue and has the smallest colour space.
It was developed by HP and Microsoft in 1996 for use with monitors, printers, and the World Wide Web.
It is the most commonly used colour profile today because of its consistent reproduction of colours across different platforms.
ProPhoto RGB has the largest colour space with a gamut that covers a significant part of the perceptual colour space of the human eye.
ProPhoto RGB is used in high-end photography and editing workflows to preserve a wider range of colours and maintain the quality of the original image during processing.
Amacrine cells are a type of neuron found in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the human eye. They play a critical role in the processing of visual signals before these signals are sent to the brain.
Amacrine cells are known to contribute to narrowly task-specific visual functions such as:
Spatial Contrast Enhancement: Amacrine cells contribute to a process called lateral inhibition, which helps to enhance the contrast between light and dark areas in a visual scene, thereby improving our ability to see edges and borders.
Temporal Contrast Enhancement: Amacrine cells play a role in detecting changes in light intensity over time, which helps us to perceive motion and changes in a visual scene.
Direction Selectivity: Certain types of amacrine cells are involved in detecting the direction of moving objects. These are known as starburst amacrine cells.
Complex Visual Processing: Amacrine cells form connections with multiple types of retinal cells, including bipolar cells and ganglion cells. This allows them to participate in complex processing and integration of visual information.
Inhibitory Signalling: Many amacrine cells arstae inhibitory interneurons, which means they can inhibit the activity of other neurons. This inhibitory function plays a role in shaping the output of retinal ganglion cells, which send visual information to the brain.
Regulation of Circadian Rhythm: Some amacrine cells release a pigment called melanopsin and are involved in non-image-forming visual functions, such as the regulation of circadian rhythms and the pupillary light reflex.
Neurotransmitter Release: Amacrine cells can release a variety of neurotransmitters, including GABA, glycine, dopamine, and others, allowing them to modulate the activity of various neural circuits in the retina.
The brightness of light depends on the intensity or the amount of light an object emits( eg. the Sun or a lightbulb).
The brightness of the colour of an object or surface depends on the intensity of light that falls on it and the amount it reflects.
The brightness of the colour of a transparent or translucent medium depends on the intensity of light that falls on it and the amount it transmits.
Because brightness is related to intensity, it is related to the amplitude of electromagnetic waves.
Brightness is influenced by the way the human eye responds to the colours associated with different wavelengths of light. For example, yellow appears relatively brighter than reds or blues to an observer.
Colour brightness refers to how colours appear to a human observer in terms of the lightness or darkness of colours.
So colour brightness can refer to the difference between how a colour appears to an observer in well-lit conditions and its subdued appearance when in shadow or when poorly illuminated.
In a general sense, brightness is an attribute of visual perception and produces the impression that something is radiating or reflecting light and/or colour.
Colour brightness increases as lighting conditions improve, whilst the vitality of colours decreases when a surface is poorly lit.
In everyday experience, we often gauge the brightness of a light source subjectively, by comparing it with the brightness of other known light sources.
The brightness of a light can also be measured objectively using units like lumens or candela.
Light travelling through a vacuum is not visible until it interacts with something such as our eyes or an object that reflects the light towards us, enabling us to perceive its brightness.
The perceived brightness of a light source depends on the intensity and wavelength of the light and how the photoreceptive rod and cone cells in the human retina respond.
Brightness, when used in this way, is the same as luminance.
Luminance is a measure of the amount of light emitted, transmitted, or reflected from a particular area in a specific direction. It is used to quantify the intensity of light that is perceived by the human eye from a particular direction.
Our eye’s photoreceptors, especially the rod cells which are more sensitive to light intensity, play a crucial role in our perception of brightness. Rods are more abundant and distributed throughout the retina, and they function mainly in low light conditions to help us perceive the brightness or lightness of an object, but they can’t distinguish colour.
On the other hand, our perception of colour is based on how different wavelengths of light stimulate the three types of cone cells in our eyes. These cone cells are sensitive to short (S, which corresponds to blue), medium (M, corresponds to green), and long (L, corresponds to red) wavelengths of light. The combination of signals from these three types of cone cells allows us to perceive a broad spectrum of colours. Colour perception depends not just on the light’s intensity, but on its spectral composition – what mix of wavelengths it contains.
Trichromatic colour theory and its precursors have established that there are three types of cone cells (recognised by the initials L, M and S) in the human eye that carry out the initial stage of colour processing that ultimately produces the world of colours we see around us:
Trichromatic colour theory also states that three monochromaticlight sources, one red, one green, and one blue, when mixed together in different proportions, can stimulate the L, M, and S cones to produce the perception of any colour within the visible spectrum.
All colour models, such as the RGB and CMY models, have their foundations rooted in the trichromatic principles of human vision
CMY printing involves mixtures of three primary colours of dyes or inks – cyan (C), magenta (M) and yellow (Y).
There are two distinct types of CMY digital printing, one involves using solid areas of translucent colour, and the other involves halftoning.
CMY colour printing using solid areas of translucent colour applies each of the CMY inks to paper in separate layers of solid colour, creating the appearance of different colours and shades by varying the amount of each ink that is applied.
Halftoning involves dividing each image into a grid of tiny dots and printing each dot in a single colour (typically CMYK) at a fixed size and spacing to create the appearance of different shades and colours.
CMY printing using solid areas of translucent colour can produce less intense or vibrant colours than would be obtained with opaque ink because the translucent inks allow some of the white paper to show through.
Halftoning is the most common method of colour printing used in modern printers, as it allows for high-quality, photo-realistic images to be printed with relatively simple equipment.
In practice, black ink is often added to the CMY inks to improve the depth and clarity of dark areas in the image. This combination of CMYK inks is often used in printing to produce full-colour images with accurate colour reproduction.
Screen printing, for example, can use a wide variety of ink types, including spot colours, metallic inks, and special effects inks to achieve results that are unachievable using the standard CMY colour model.
In screen printing, each colour layer is printed separately, and this method often uses spot colours (premixed inks of a specific hue) instead of relying on CMY colour mixing. This allows for more accurate colour matching and vibrant, solid colours.
The use of spot colours can be when only a few colours are needed, as it reduces the number of screens and printing passes required compared to using CMYK colour separation.
The CMY colour model doesn’t define the exact hue of the three primary colours, so when experimenting with real inks, the results depend on how they are made.
CMY on a white sheet of paper
Cyan ink is painted onto the paper to create a circular shape.
The paper seen through the cyan ink appears cyan to an observer because:
The ink has absorbed or transmitted all wavelengths of light except those around 500 nanometres (cyan).
The wavelengths of light around 500 nanometres reflected off the ink, making it look cyan.
Some transmitted wavelengths passed straight through the ink, reflected off the paper below, passed back through the ink, and added to the intensity of the colour seen by the observer.
Matching patches of magenta and yellow are now painted onto the paper so that areas of each of the three colours overlap.
As already established, the paper seen through the yellow ink alone appears yellow because it has absorbed all wavelengths of light other than those around 500 nanometres (cyan).
Whilst the paper seen through the magenta ink alone appears magenta because it has absorbed all wavelengths of light other than those around 700 nanometres (red).
And the paper seen through the yellow ink alone appears yellow because it has absorbed all wavelengths of light other than those around 580 nanometres (yellow).
Where cyan and magenta ink overlap, the paper appears blue. This is because the cyan ink absorbs red light and allows blue light to pass through, while the magenta ink absorbs green light.
Where magenta and yellow ink overlap, the paper appears red. This happens because the magenta ink absorbs green light and lets red and blue light pass through, while the yellow ink absorbs blue light, leaving only the red light.
Where yellow and cyan ink overlap, the paper appears green. This occurs because the yellow ink absorbs blue light and allows green and red light to pass through, while the cyan ink absorbs red light, leaving only the green light.
Where all three inks overlap the paper appears dark brown.
Remember that in practice, a fourth ink, black (K), is often added to the CMY model to create the CMYK model, which provides better depth and detail in dark areas and helps save ink.
CMYK is commonly used in printing processes like inkjet and laser printing, as well as offset printing for large-scale projects.
The sensitivity of the human eye to the range of wavelengths that correspond to the colours of the visible spectrum.
The physical and chemical properties of an object, so its material composition. These determine how it interacts with incident light, including how it absorbs, reflects or scatters light.
In terms of the difference between surface colour and thermal radiation, an apple that appears red at 5 degrees Celsius will still appear red at 85 degrees Celsius, but the thermal radiation it emits will be different at the two temperatures.
Thermal radiation is a measure of the electromagnetic radiation emitted by an object due solely to its temperature, in the absence of incident light.
The colour and brightness of most objects that we see in daily life are due to the reflected light such as sunlight or artificial light.
Reflected light is typically much brighter than the thermal radiation emitted by the same object at room temperature.
The amount of thermal radiation emitted by an object at room temperature is relatively low compared to the amount of radiation it will emit at higher temperatures.
However, the amount and distribution of thermal radiation emitted by an object can be affected by factors such as the composition of the object, the properties of its surface, and the ambient temperature and humidity of the surrounding environment.
The concept of thermal radiation typically encompasses a broad range of wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum, including infrared radiation, visible light, and ultraviolet radiation.
At room temperature, most objects emit low levels of thermal radiation in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum.
An iron rod would need to be heated to a temperature of around 1000 to 1200 degrees Celsius to emit thermal radiation that is visible to the human eye.
At this temperature, the rod would glow red, and the colour of the glow would become brighter and shift towards yellow and then white as the temperature increases further.
It’s worth noting that the precise temperature at which an iron rod starts to emit visible thermal radiation can vary depending on the specific rod and its environment.
The colour brightness of a transparent or translucent medium may be influenced by the wavelengths and intensity of light that pass through or reflect off it and the amount it transmits or reflects.
Colour brightness is frequently influenced by the contrast between how a colour appears to an observer under well-lit conditions and its more subdued appearance when in shadow or under poor illumination.
The perception of colour brightness is also influenced by hue, as certain hues appear brighter than others to human observers. For example, a fully saturated yellow may appear relatively brighter than a fully saturated red or blue.
In photography, the main goal of colour management is to control the accurate capture of original colours and ensure consistent reproduction of specific colours or entire gamuts throughout the creative process.
When producing a photo, colour management is used to ensure consistent output across various devices, including digital cameras, scanners, monitors, TV screens, computer printers, and offset printing presses.
Colour management compensates for the differences in technologies, devices, and media all of which may have distinct capacities for reproducing gamuts and intensities of colour, potentially leading to unintended shifts in appearance.
At the consumer level, all operating systems include built-in colour management by default.
Most hardware and software related to visual design and image reproduction offer colour management options that can be set by default or require configuration based on specific purposes.
The International Colour Consortium’s (ICC) colour management system serves as a comprehensive industrial standard for cross-platform colour management.
The principal components of a colour management system include:
A typical colour management workflow starts by ensuring that colours seen through a camera viewfinder are captured and digitally recorded. Editing software such as Adobe CC allows extensive choices to be made about the appearance of images. When the workflow demands it, the calibration of monitors ensures information is accurately reproduced when viewed on screen. A successful outcome is one where all the decisions made during the editing process are accurately rendered in the resulting image.
A. Image capture B. Image editing C. Monitoring images D. Image output
Monitor calibration tools ensure accurate colour across the visible spectrum and fine tonal adjustment. Professional monitor calibration packages include:
Wacom Colour Manager
D. Image Output
Colour management systems use output device profiles to prepare and translate the data in edited documents to match the capabilities of an output device and ensure the best possible match.
To ensure consistency across applications, Adobe CC provides options to be selected in the Colour Settings dialogue box that ensures all applications are synchronized to use the same device-independent colour space.
RGB Colour Settings options include:
Adobe RGB (1998)
An extensive range of CMYK colour space options are also available.
A. Lab colour space (entire visible spectrum) B. Documents (working space) C. Devices
This diagram illustrates the generic colour gamuts of different types of devices and documents.