Colour is a funny thing. It’s something we all (well, most of us) experience every day in so many ways that we more-or-less take it for granted. But if you do stop to think about it, or study it, or try to understand what it really is in a scientific, technical or artistic sense is, you might find it, well, tricky…

Our perception of colour is a complex mashup of optics, neurology, language, culture and aesthetics – and probably a lot more. Commercial interest in colour is in everything from architecture to paint  to cosmetics to fashion to manufacturing and construction to mining and extraction and, of course, to design and printing. In short, pretty much everywhere.

Scientific and academic interest extends to optics, spectrometry; photography; geology and cosmology; machine learning, artificial intelligence, 3D perception… Not to mention colour psychology as applied in corporate design, communications, branding and influence.

Colour is studied in several fields of medicine, particularly optometry and neurology, and in industries that develop equipment that transmits or receives light such as telescopes and microscopes, as well as computers, televisions and screen-based devices. Likewise machines that record light such as cameras and scanners, notably in the way in which they acquire and store colour, and the degree to which they can compensate for ambient and incident lighting conditions.

Over several decades of working with and teaching creative media, I’ve always found it difficult to explain to students the concept of colour models, colour spaces and colour channels. But at least a basic understanding of this is necessary to use image editing tools such as Photoshop or Premiere Pro. To correct colour in a photograph or video sequence you need to use colour balance, channel curves, and the hue/saturation/lightness dialogue. And more advanced courses touch on colour management, device profiles, and the awkward transition from additive (active, RGB) colour spaces to subtractive (passive) inks and pigments.

Teaching print media often involves interpreting (or creating) corporate style guides and the expression of colours using RGB and CMYK numbers, hexadecimal (HTML) codes, or Pantone colours. Video editing involves understanding variable light temperature, the YUV colour space and controlling temporal colour shifts. And almost all media software refers implicitly (if not explicitly) to the CiE LAB colour space and conversion to corresponding device spaces.

Our plan here is to bring together a wide range of research, articles, tutorials, stories and blog posts that investigate and celebrate colour in all kinds of ways.

Hope you like it. ツ

Craig Kirkwood,
Editor and Publisher