How Color is affected by Adjacent Colors

Some clients can be easily confused and make a false assessment that their logo color is wrong when it is placed next to another color vs. when it is just by itself. Many, rightfully so, will than go back to their designer and figure that the wrong file was used, there is an error on their part, or ask to fix it. Sometimes this can be avoided and other times, it is just a fact of life.

Time for a little lesson in color theory.

Believe it or not, the image below appears to have spirals of green, blue, and pink/magenta. But what appears to be blue and what appears to be green are actually identical colors.

Color illusion pinwheel

Don’t believe me? The squares below that image are taken from sample pixels.

Two squares of the exact same teal color

What’s the reason for this mind-blowing effect and why you were so certain that you were looking at stripes of green and stripes of blue? They look like different colors because our brain judges the color of an object by comparing it to surrounding colors. In this case, the stripes are not continuous as they appear at first glance. The orange stripes don’t go through the “blue” spiral, and the magenta ones don’t go through the “green” one.

Still not convinced? Below is the same image but with the orange stripes that are causing the confusion with what our eyes see and what our brain translates.

Color Illusion pinwheel

By surrounding this image with the exact same color that appeared both blue and green to our eyes, you can now be convinced they are in fact the same color.

Color Illusion pinwheel

Now do you believe me? When the orange stripes are re-introduced into the image, our eyes register the surrounding colors and, essentially, cause our brains to misinterpret the color that exists.

Color Illusion pinwheel

So if color accuracy is super important in how your branding is portrayed, just remember the adjacent environment you put it against, as this will come into play in how its color is displayed.