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Appl Opt. 1970 Jul 1;9(7):1513-62. doi: 10.1364/AO.9.001513.

The role of spectral energy of source and background color in the pleasantness of object colors.


Effects of spectral energy distributions of sources and colors of backgrounds on the pleasantness of object colors were determined by having 5 men and 5 women rate 125 object colors on 25 colored backgrounds in 5 sources of illumination. In addition, foods and complexions were rated in the same sources. All main effects were found to be highly significant statistically. While lightness and chromatic contrasts of object and background were more important than quality of illuminants, the latter were very important in the case of some object and background color combinations. Differences between the sexes were highly significant in that men tended to prefer cool source, object, and background colors, women the warm colors. The best colors for backgrounds had either low chroma and high reflectance (the pastel colors), or low chroma and low reflectance. The most important single factor determining the pleasantness of color combinations was lightness contrast. Hue and chroma contrasts, while of some importance, were not as decisive as lightness contrast. Some closely related color families may be substituted for each other, e.g., 5 and 10R or 5 and 10G, while others may not be, e.g, 5 and 10GY. The complex interactions of quality of sources with hue, value, and chroma of object and background colors on aesthetic responses to colors help to account for the conflicting statements often found in the literature regarding color harmony. In spite of the complexities of the problem, some generalizations regarding color harmony were found valid and others were shown to be in need of further investigation. This study was based on 156,250 individual ratings of object colors.


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