There’s a sign at my local hardware store that says, “All husbands coming to buy paint, must have a note from their wives”. That tells you something about both the trials and tribulations of choosing paint and our perception of colour.

What you say is bluey green, I say is greenish blue – potatoes, patatoes. This is especially so when, first we view the paint swatch with the cutting from a décor magazine your wife gave you, under the fluorescent lights of the store, and then, when you get home, they look quite different under incandescent light bulb.

At play-school we all had great fun mixing colour paints. Our mothers hated it because of the difficulty in getting our clothes clean again. Those colours were pigments. We knew, when we mixed yellow with blue, we were rewarded with green. Red and blue gave us purple and when you mixed green, yellow, blue and red, a bit of mud and some orange juice from your lunch box all together, our mothers really freaked out !

As an example of how our eyes can be fooled (and we confused), the printing industry, to print a plausible image of a green leaf, uses tiny blobs of cyan and yellow ink – so you see, there is no green ink at all.

In fact, we see colours, not because they reside in an object, waiting to be released, or that they are the quality of the object, but because it is the only colour that is reflected off the surface of the object, where all the other colours have been absorbed (subtracted). In other words, there is no “red” in red shoes. It is all a pigment of your imagination.

So, ladies, now you know why the queue at the Woolies returns counter is so long ! And it’s not because you think your behind looks too big in that dress, it’s because the colour is just not yo


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