Purple: Part One

Don’t worry, this isn’t important. Please ignore me.


I have always found people’s lack of precision when referring to colors frustrating. When we see colors, they are not “pure” colors, they lean one way or the other. That’s not green, it’s blue-green or yellow-green. That’s not orange it’s a red-orange or a yellow-orange. Much of the time though people are happy to just say orange, and will even get annoyed if you imply there is more depth to the color.

What we perceive as color is (basically) EM waves that have a wavelength that is within our visible spectrum. Different wavelengths within that range produce different colors. This spectrum spans from violet at about 400nm through the rainbow to red at about 665nm. If you don’t remember your rainbow it goes: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet…Notice there was no purple? That’s because purple isn’t really single color, it’s both red and blue. “But isn’t green just yellow and blue?” I hear you saying. As it turns out, no, it’s not. Green exists at 550nm. Green exists as a color by itself. At 550nm, the color you see is green and green alone, it is not a yellowy green or a bluey green, it’s only green. Same for all of the rest of colors on the rainbow.

This does not exist for purple, there is no wavelength for purple. Purple is ALWAYS a combination of red and blue. Indigo and violet do not contain red (surprise!) The “perfect” purple would be 50% red and 50% blue, but of course, we all know perfection does not exist, so every purple you see will be at least slightly more blue or more red…Of course the same could be said for all colors.

Since all colors we experience (I know lasers blah blah blah) are at least skewed slightly one way or the other, and we have blue one end of the spectrum and red the other, they all lean to either more blue or more red. Basically around greenish, it splits, anything less than that is more bluey, anything more than that is more redy…And everything we see is going to be a combination of these, sure it’s a yellow bag, but under a microscope there will be specs of different colors throughout, right? It’s not a “perfect” material.

So, everything you see is a combination of colors some more red, some more blue. Everything you will ever see – is purple.

Part 2: http://www.mattevanoff.com/2024/06/purple-part-two/

Part 3: http://www.mattevanoff.com/2024/06/purple-part-three/

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