6 Interesting Facts about Color Theory

6 surprising facts about colors that you might not have known

We are surrounded by colors. They are one of the first things we learn to identify and name. We all have a favorite one, and use them as tools to represent both cultural and artistic identities. But what do we really know about them?

Do you know why the Pantone color classification system exists, how the color pink affects us, or why orange didn't exist before the 15th century? Find out in this video.

1. Colors worth their weight in gold

Ultramarine blue was made using lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone that could only be found in the mountains of Afghanistan. Due to its rarity, its price competed with that of gold, which is why it was reserved for only the most important subjects in a painting.

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The Virgin in Prayer, Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

It is said that Michelangelo left The Entombment unfinished because he was unable to obtain the paint and that Johannes Vermeer left his family in debt after buying it.

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Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer

Another example of a pricey pigment is Tyrian purple dye, which was extracted from a secretion produced by a type of sea snail. To create just one gram, 9,000 mollusks were needed, which was why its price was so high.

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The Discovery of Purple, Theodor van Thulden

2. Who invented the color wheel?

Isaac Newton is credited with the law of universal gravitation, infinitesimal calculus, the laws of motion... and the color wheel that artists still use to choose their palettes today. In his experiments, Newton reached the conclusion that red, yellow, and blue were the primary colors from which all the others originated, and he was the first to represent this with a color wheel.

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Newton’s color wheel.

3. Why does the Pantone system exist?

The founder of Pantone, Lawrence Herbert, worked at a print company during the ‘60s, and his day-to-day consisted of trying to replicate the colors that his clients were looking for. Brands were interested in keeping their colors consistent, which was difficult since they weren't standardized.

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Kodak was one of the brands affected by color discrepancies.

That is why Herbert developed a color identification system, creating a universal language of colors through numbers.

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Pantone Matching System.

4. The calmest color in the world

Baker-Miller Pink is used to reduce aggression. According to studies conducted in prisons, it helps slow down the heart rate and the breath. About 1,500 centers in the United States contain rooms in this color, and clothing brands use it to sell calming sweatshirts.

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Vollebak's "Baker Miller Pink Hoodie"

5. Do colors reflect gender?

Many people associate pink with girls and blue with boys, but before World War II, these colors were completely interchangeable. In fact, over the course of history, pink has often been associated with masculinity, since it derives from red, and blue, which is considered more delicate, has been associated with femininity. It is believed that the rigid separation that exists nowadays is simply attributable to a marketing strategy.

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Comte d'Angiviller, Jean-Baptiste Greuze

6. What came first, the color or the fruit?

Before the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th, the color orange as we know it didn't exist in Europe. Or rather, the color did exist but it didn't have a name. It was simply known as reddish yellow. That changed when Portuguese traders brought the first orange trees from Asia to Europe. The Sanskrit word nāraṅga became naranja in Spanish, laranja in Portuguese, and orange in English, and it ended up being associated with the color retroactively.

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The Orange Seller, Frederick Arthur Bridgman

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