Neutral Grey Value 5

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My oldest son and I were doing dishes yesterday in the late afternoon and got into a discussion about colour. I’d recently finished up a painting and he had graciously photographed it for me. He’d spent some time doing the colour correction and the results were quite good. I mentioned how hard it is for our brain to see colour sometimes. For example, I pointed out, the snow on the roof across the street that is in deep evening shade is really a very brilliant blue. He agreed that is was blue-ish, but not that blue. I have a little tool artists use for help in judging colour and value. It’s simply a piece of cardboard with a small square hole in the middle. The cardboard around the hole is painted what is known as “neutral grey value 5”. This colour is mid way between white and black and it eliminates the effects of other colours (and your brain) on the colour you’re trying to view. My son was very surprised just how blue the snow was ! We took turns looking through the view finder and then moving it away and laughing at how our brains kept turning the snow back to white (with just a bit of blue). I can actually look with one eye through the viewfinder and with the other at the whole scene and each eye sees a different colour ! Our brains say snow is white, the sky is blue and shadows are grey, but often they’re not. If I paint a picture the way my brain habitually thinks the colours are, in the end it won’t look right !

I think many things in life are like that. We think we know what we are looking at so we see what we know. If we act on that though, in the end it doesn’t always work right. Then we need to find some “neutral grey value 5” to help us see what is really there. Even with the viewfinder it can still be hard to get a colour just right, but I’ve got a better chance that way.



Some link love with a touch of grey …

The Archdruid Report

Andrea Hejlskov