Color Perception

I am somewhat colorblind, so the answer to this question may simply be that I don’t see colors the same as most other people.

When I see something purple, it looks to me like a combination of red and blue. When I see something orange, it looks like a combination of red and yellow. However, when I see something green, it looks like a totally different color. I don’t see it as a mix of blue and yellow.

So, basically, the question is, do other people have a similar experience? If so, why would this be. [I note that most games that have four colors have red, blue, yellow, and green. So that does make me suspect that green is more distinct than orange or purple, but maybe there is another reason.]


I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “mix” and “combination” My first impression is that you see purple things as distinctively partly blue, and distinctively partly red, like stripes or polka dots maybe, which doesn’t make much sense to me in my own framework for viewing colors. There are purples that are closer to red, and purples that are closer to blue, but they’re always uniformly that shade.

Yeah, could you please elaborate? Do you see green as “blueish yellow”, or distinct blue and yellow blotches, or what?

And while you’re at it, what’s your native language and what sort of categorical concepts does it include for coding colors?

I think I know what the OP means -
This looks like a slightly reddish shade of yellow
This looks like a slightly yellowish shade of red.
This looks like a reddish shade of yellow or a yellowish shade of red, depending on how you look at it.
However, this does not look like a bluish shade of yellow, it looks like a greenish-shade of yellow.
And this does not look like a slightly yellow-y blue, it looks like a greenish blue.
And this looks Green, and not like a bluish yellow, or a yellowish blue. (In contrast to orange)

I’m an artist and I work with color a lot. I have some understanding of what the OP is saying. When I look at a traditional color wheel (3 primary and 3 secondary colors) I see a much greater contrast between green and yellow than between other adjacent colors. Green is a relatively dark color and yellow is very light. It almost seems like there should be another color between them to ease the transition.

To put it another way: It’s easy to see that purple is a reddish-blue or a bluish red. It’s also easy to see that orange is a reddish-yellow or a yellowish-red. It’s not so easy to see green as a yellowish-blue, and harder still to see it as a bluish-yellow.

In his autobiography (Sage Tea), artist Toss Woollaston, said that he considered green as a fourth ‘primary’ (I know, not an accurate description, but go with it) on his colour wheel. Not only did it balance out the huge range of possible ‘greens’ against the more limited perceived range of oranges and purples, but he also found the contrast shadows (in opposing colours) were closer to what he saw in reality.

I don’t know how it worked - to me it would leave blue and yellow as opposites, which seems wrong - but it does fit with the OP. If nothing else, there’s been at least one financially self supporting artist who agreed with his perceptions.

Well pure green I see as a little bit yellow but I don’t really see the blue in it. Orange also I see some yellow but not as much red. Purple I probably see about equally, although a little bit more blue. I wonder though - if you make say 20 boxes, starting at yellow, going through green and ending in blue, what do you perceive in the in between stages?

Thanks for the replies. A couple people asked me to elaborate. I’ll try, but I don’t know if this is any better.

If I were to imaging mixing together red and blue paint, it makes total sense to me that that what I should get would be purple - it seems right in my mind. Same as for red + yellow = orange.

But I don’t get green the same way. I look at it and I don’t see the child of blue and yellow. It seems like a completely different animal.

To a certain extent if I “make say 20 boxes, starting at yellow, going through green and ending in blue”, I can get the transition. However, this is much less pronounced than with the other secondary colors.

FinnAgain - My native language is (American) English. I don’t know what this means: what sort of categorical concepts does it include for coding colors?.

Anarinth - I had trouble with those colors; maybe that is part of the problem.

I’m not, but my mum is, and I grew up with an understanding of this sort of stuff - I think.

I’ve often had conversations with people like, “but my red car has a lot of blue in the red, and yours has yellow in the red. Can’t you see?”

“But if it had blue in the red, it’d be purple.”

“Nooo! Not that much blue.”

“But your car is just red.”

“Yes, but it’s got blue in it.”

“I can’t see any.”

“Do you think our cars are the same red?”


“Right. That’s because my red has blue in it and yours has yellow.”

“My car isn’t orange. It’s red.”

My kids apparently see things the same way. They get that red and blue make purple. I didn’t even have to tell them that. They also get that red and yellow make orange. But they simply cannot accept that blue and yellow make green. Before reading the OP, I had always thought this odd, but now I see that perhaps it’s not at all unusual.

For those of you having trouble with this, I suggest getting some cheap blue and yellow paint and do some experimenting. The first thing you’ll discover is that blue is a much stronger color than yellow. If you start with blue, you have to add a lot of yellow to get anything resembling green. If you start with yellow, only a tiny amount of blue will start to look yellow-green. Play around with it and make swatches, and you’ll see the transition.

I know exactly what you mean. I colour match “by hand” professionally. I see the red and blue in purple, the yellow and red in orange, but I just don’t see the other colours in green. Its like a colour on its own.

I suspect the reason for that is that although the primary colours for mixing pigments is red, yellow and blue, our eyes have receptors for red blue and green. That might add some weight to our perception of green.

That might also explain to me, given that we don’t have receptors for yellow, why adding just a little red or blue will give you a colour that you can’t say is yellow. That is not the case for red and blue where significantly more pigment is required.

Years ago I made a colour wheel to train myself in colour matching. I weighed various pigment ratio permutations (x,y,z) of 16,8,4,2,1,0. The outside rung of the wheel employed only two pigments while The inner rungs filled in the third colour (eg. blue under the red yellow range) with increasing amount till the centre, (16,16,16) which ended up black.

So I can tell you that you’ll notice a significant change in yellow on the first box. a greenish yellow. The second box will be a light green. Subsequent boxes will get a darker and darker. the 10th box will look like a drab solid green. Somewhere around the 15th box you’ll describe a bluish green. The colours are always getting darker and darker. By the 18th box you’ll just call it a blue and see very little change thereafter. I could add that the change in hue from one box to the next decreases throughout the range from yellow to blue.

I kinda get what the OP is saying. I don’t have normal color vision either. When I was little I couldn’t tell purple from blue. One day I found out purple was blue and red mixed and was able to teach myself to see purple by looking for the red in it. I can’t really describe it any better. I would see blue then I would look at purple and think “ok that has red in it so it must be purple”.

And if it’s a purple with very little red I still usually see it as blue.