Monthly Archives: March 2010

colour theory for eye makeup?

The impressionists understood about colour contrast. If you put a colour patch on a coloured background the colour of the patch will usually change (compared to if, for example, the patch was observed on a chromatically neutral background). The colour of the patch tends to move towards the complementary colour of the background. If the background is the complementary colour of the patch then the patch becomes particularly vivid.


In Van Gogh’s cafe and night cafe paintings you can see the juxtaposition of yellow and blue and red and green. Today I came across a more contemporary application of colour theory – eye make-up!

DoWop have produced something called EyeCatcher Shadows where the colour that is applied to the eyelid is the complementary colour of the iris. To see more visit –

the colour purple

Much was made in the media this week about the front bench of the labour party (UK) all wearing purple during the announcement of the budget. However, remarkable though it was, it is not a totally new phenomenon. On a number of occasions in 2009 and even 2008 leading figures in the government have been seen wearing purple.

In fact, even in December 2008 Zoe Williams was writing about this in the Guardian – Zoe points out that the latest trend for wearing purple by politicians was probably started by Michelle Obama who famously wore the colour in August 2008.

Perhaps the labour politicians believe that purple represesnts a third way, halfway between red and blue (the colours traditionally associated with the left and right of UK politics respectively). Or perhaps they feel that it gives the impression of power and establishes them as the rightful winners of the forthcoming election. Purple was the colour worn by emperors and senators of course. Whatever the rationale, it is surely not a coincidence.

Colour ownership?

Can you own a colour?

The answer is almost certainly not. However, the law on colour use in branding and marketing is complex and there have been several high profile cases of companies slugging it out over the use of colour. I have previously posted about the dispute between Google and Microsoft –

There are two other high profile cases I know of. One is the objection by Orange (a British Telecoms company) to the use of the colour orange by Easy Jet – The other is the dispute between chocolate manufacturers over the use of the colour purple in chocolate wrappers –


However, in a paper published in the open access colour journal – Colour: Design and Creativity – Paul Green-Armytage argues that the key to many of these disputes about colour ownership lies in the definitions of colour. See to read Paul’s full article.


On the 17th March this week it is, of course, St Patrick’s day. The colour green is associated with this day and with the Irish in general. Indeed, as the above picture shows, in Chicago (where there is large Irish contingent) they dye the river green ever year in celebration. However, originally the colour associated with St Patrick was blue. In Irish mythology, the sovereignty of Ireland was represented as a blue robe. St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-christian Irish. Wearing a shamrock in your lapel became associated with celebrating St Patrick. In 1798 Irish soldiers adoptedgreen uniforms on March 17 to make a political statement.

When asked which colour is associated with being lucky I often respond with “green”. Green is associated with the Irish and there is a phrase “the luck of the irish”. However, Irish folklore holds that green is the favourite colour of the faeries; they are likely to steal people, especially children, who wear too much of the colour. So, for some Irish at least, green is an unlucky colour. In any event, even if green is associated with good luck in large parts of the western world it is not an idea that is common around the world – in China, for example, it is red that is associated with good luck.

lawsuit over colour in logo

Dollar General ( is a discount store based in the USA. They used distinctive yellow and black colour combinations in their advertising material. In March this year they filed a lawsuit against their competitor (Fred’s Inc) who they claim have damaged their business by copying the trademark yellow and black colours in certain marketing information.

The lawsuit accuses Fred’s of “unlawfully and deceptively” using Dollar General’s colour scheme and typeface in a new advertising campaign. The lawsuit says the only explanation for Fred’s moving away from a traditional blue-green color combination in its advertising is an intent to capture Dollar General’s brand awareness.

For further information see

colourful art

Carinna Parraman is an artist/academic with a particular interest in colour. I really like her work and often, when we meet, I drop hints that she could send me a print of some of her work that I particularly like. It would look great on my office wall along the original I have by Kevin Laycock – nominee for Norther Artist of the Year 2010 no less!!!. However, she never takes the hint and never sends me one. I do have a small image of one of her pieces though and if I can’t have a nice big one on my wall I can at least put it on my blog. So everybody can enjoy it.

You can read more about Carinna here –

unhealthy orange

Lucozade is a high-energy drink that is very effective way to get a lot of sugar very quickly. Most people will know that the drink itself is a very distinctive orange colour. The orange is caused by the colorant Sunset Yellow which is among a number of suspect food additives. Research at Southampton University, funded by the Food Standards Agency, has found that this is one of several additives that may cause children to become hyperactive. According to a UK national newspaper – – Lucozade bottles will carry a warning label (‘Sunset Yellow may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’) until a suitable alternative colorant can be found.