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Chapter 5. Adjusting Color > How Color Works

How Color Works

In one sense, “color” is just a way of referring to how human beings react to a very limited portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Apparently, as our primate ancestors evolved, the ability to differentiate among different colors (for example, blood, orange sabre-tooth tigers hiding in green foliage, etc.) became a survival trait, and our eyes developed, in addition to the rod cells that are used for fine detail and for black-and-white vision when light levels are low, three different kinds of cone cells.

These cells are sensitive to red, green, and blue light, respectively. There’s nothing inherent about these three colors that makes them the “primaries” for our vision; they just happen to be the three colors that were selected when color vision evolved. They enable us to respond to light in the 400 nanometer (violet) to 700 nanometer (red) range of the color spectrum. As you can see in Figure 5.4, the spectrum extends far beyond the range of our vision, into the infrared as the wavelengths become longer and to the ultraviolet as the distance between the waves narrows.


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