Crazy Colors: What Happens When You Paint in a Dark Room

Updated on April 11, 2016

Dark Room?

Not this sort of dark room, silly.
Not this sort of dark room, silly. | Source

Wait, What is a Dark Room?

Right off the bat, I'm going to explain what a dark room is because a lot of people now-a-days don't know. A dark room is a room where photographers can develop film without it being ruined by regular light. In a dark room, there is light, however, all of the lights are red because that is the least destructive sort of lighting when it comes to developing film. Fun fact, it is also the best sort of lighting to use at night because your eyes don't have to adjust nearly as much as they do for a white light. Anyway, with all of the digital photography, there are few who still practice using a dark room, but many places still have these spaces. Well, my teacher decided that we would use for a completely different purpose! We had to make a painting in the dark room with the red lighting. He warned us that the results would be surprising.

Actual Dark Room

This is the sort of dark room that I painted in. The kind that they use for film photography.
This is the sort of dark room that I painted in. The kind that they use for film photography. | Source

Does Green Always Look Green?

Does green always look like green? One would think so. However, as I found out, this is not always the case.That question is almost like Hamlet's famous, "To be or not to be?" Except that when deciding whether or not "to be," there is a choice, but when it comes to whether or not a color looks like it should, it's not up to you. Science becomes a major factor in whether or not a color looks like its usual self. As I said above, I was given the assignment to make a painting in a dark room, where the only light was red instead of white. This made it almost impossible to distinguish which colors were which. All that I could really distinguish was the relative values of the colors. To prepare I had previously planned my lights and darks because I knew that that would be the main thing I would be able to distinguish, rather than color. Although, I felt like I could tell yellow apart from the other colors more than anything else, and there is a solid reason.

The Science of Colors, Briefly Explained

To explain the convoluted science of this craziness, I first have to explain how colors work. There are two ways colors mix, additive and subtractive. When different colors of light mix, they add together to make white. Pigment colors, like paint are subtractive. When they get mixed all color is subtracted leaving black. Things only get more confusing from here. When white light shines on things colors are reflected back. Since white light contains all of the different colors in the light spectrum, like in a rainbow, all colors are distinguishable. This works because the object absorbs all the colors except the color that it actually is, that color is reflected and is the color we perceive. So, when looking at a green object, green is the perceived color because it is the only color reflected.


Additive and Subtractive Colors

Here is a diagram of additive and subtractive colors
Here is a diagram of additive and subtractive colors | Source

How Red Light Reacts With Colors

All of that gets screwed up when the light is given a color itself, say red like in the darkroom. Now, instead of the light containing all of the colors in the spectrum, there is only red to reflect. So, only red and colors containing red were easier to tell apart. Colors like blue and green were practically black because they absorbed all of the red light and reflected nothing, leaving only value, or in some cases perceived value to tell them apart from other colors. I say perceived value because at times, even value couldn’t help with this dark room painting. As I was painting, I thought I was using a dark color at times, but when I saw the painting in regular lighting I found out that it was a bright green. It totally threw off the entire value structure of my piece. The reason the green looked so dark was because it absorbed all of the red and didn’t reflect a single thing. Purple, on the other hand was slightly distinguishable because it contains red. The purple looked grey because a little bit of red was reflected, but a lot of it was absorbed as well. While yellow has no red to reflect, it is a light color by nature and that held true even with the red light.


Take a Guess

Here is what my painting looked light while it was still in the dark room. Can you guess which colors are which now that I've explained how the red light works?
Here is what my painting looked light while it was still in the dark room. Can you guess which colors are which now that I've explained how the red light works? | Source

Personally...

When I was in the darkroom, I was really liking how my painting was coming about. All I really had control of was how well my paint was applying to the surface and how nice and neat I was being. Of course, like I said before, I could also tell some difference between dark and light colors. However, even that turned out to be a farce in a few situations. Some colors looked really dark, even though in regular lighting they did not appear so. Color adds an entirely new dimension to the concept of contrast. Red and green are complimentary colors, which means that they really make each other pop. When someone uses red right next to green, it can create a lot of contrast. It can also make you think about Christmas! But that doesn't really matter for what I'm trying to say. Even though red and green give a lot of color contrast, when pure red and pure green are made black and white, there is very little distinction between the two because they have the same value tone (unless you happen to be using a lighter green or red, but the point I'm trying to make is for when they are both just regular red crayon, green crayon colors). So, when color is taken out of the equation, a lot of contrast is lost.

When I was painting, I thought that my little bird (who was my subject) was looking pretty good. I thought I would come out with a nicely painting, cute little bird. In my opinion, what I came out with was scary. Not at all what I had imagined. As I was painting, I thought rather boldly that I could tell for the most part which colors were which and that the red light didn't have that much affect on me. Boy, was I wrong. Science is science, baby. The final result is waiting for you below.

I See Your True Colors

Here's what my bird painting really looks like. Crazy, huh?
Here's what my bird painting really looks like. Crazy, huh? | Source

Reflection

It takes a lot of thought to try to work through why colors look different in different lighting, but witnessing it really helped to make sense of it. I think there is practical application as well. When I was trying to do some research about light and color interactions, I found a lot about different colors of paint for walls and homes and how light can affect them and make them feel different. It also made me think about black lights, although after researching I found out that black lights work a little differently because they use ultraviolet and make a variety of colors shine. That is beside the point though. The point is that different lighting can cause a variety of different things to happen to the optical quality of colors. It messes with your brain and eyes quite a bit, or it will if you ever decide to try to paint in a dark room.

What do you think?

Would you ever try to make a dark room painting?

See results

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, feltmagnet.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://feltmagnet.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)