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Life in Ultra-Violet: The Hidden Colour Spectrum

The way our vision works determines the colours we can achieve in painting. The more you know about colour theory, the easier it is to create perfect tones, blend colours and pick complementary tones. A good interior designer, decorator or similar profession will know more about colours than which one to mix to make green or blue!

As well as the colours we can see, there are also the colours we can’t see. It might sound like science-fiction, but it’s not. The way our eyes work, mean that our eyes will only react to certain wavelengths of light, which the brain interprets into everyday colours. Ultra-violet is beyond the spectrum of colours our eyes can naturally understand, meaning there’s a range of ‘hidden’ colours that we don’t see everyday.


So why can’t we see these ultra-violet colours? This may be due to evolution, as there is not much ultraviolet light around for us to see, meaning our eyes have developed to focus on other spectrum’s, as ultraviolet light doesn’t offer us much advantage.

Some animals, however, do use ultraviolet vision to see their surroundings. For example many insects and some mammals such as rats. Though, this often means their vision is limited to an even lower range of colours than ours. Cats and dogs many only see the world in a couple of colours, in fewer and weaker tones and shades.


Like cats and dogs, however, there are colours that we can’t see or picture. Two of the colours we can’t see are Red-green and Blue-yellow. Try and picture these colours yourself – it’s difficult! Often it’ll conjure up muddy browns or greens, if you pick up your Rust-Oleum CombiColor and mix these colours you won’t find a ground-breaking new colour, just brown or green.

However, red-green and blue-yellow are neither of these things! The true result is hidden to us, as these pairs of colours are automatically cancelled out by our eyes, making them impossible to see simultaneously. Though, scientists are uncovering ways for us to look at both colours at the same time and experience something completely new.


How can this help you? As a decorator or someone who is starting on a painting project, thinking about the way our eyes interpret colours can affect your designs. For example, you may want to avoid yellow and blue too closely together, as it may make your eyes ‘hurt’, when the colour seems to blur together. Equally although red and green go together, you’ll want to avoid red and green stripes without some white to break it up. Your eyes may not be able to adjust to the colours if it’s used to cover a large area as the colours may clash or bleed into each other in your vision.

Rust-Oleum CombiColor is one of our top paint choices as it’s available in nearly ANY colour, though you will struggle to find any hidden colours. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other colour choices to inspire your decoration until science makes it easy for us to see ‘hidden’ colours!

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