Impossible colors are colors that normally can not be perceived but that can be seen under special circumstances. Color perception is the result of physical structures in the eye and processes in the brain that interpret color. These processes don't capture all colors that can physically exist. Impossible colors are situations whereby people report being able to see colors that are beyond normal perception. The following are examples.
Complementary Color CombinationsComplement colors are two colors that cancel each other out. When mixed together they appear as grey. For example, there is normally no reddish-green or bluish-yellow as these both look grey to our eyes. However, there are techniques that may allow people to see these colors as colorful as opposed to grey. One technique is to stare at a color until your eyes tire and then look at its complementary color. This is commonly said to work with yellow and blue.
Impossibly DarkStaring at a color causes an afterimage of the complementary color. For example, staring at yellow causes a blue afterimage. If you then look at pure black, you may see a blue that is as dark as pure black. This is normally not possible as blue is always has a lightness to it.
Impossibly BrightStaring at a color to create a complementary afterimage and then staring at white can make a color seem as bright as white.
Impossibly ColorfulStaring at blue to create an orange afterimage and then looking at orange can result in a perception of "more orange than orange." These are commonly described as hypercolors.
This is the complete list of articles we have written about color theory.
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