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Why Rainbows Are Special

Updated on October 20, 2014

Find A Rainbow - Grab A Spade!

April 3rd is National Find a Rainbow Day.

Finding a rainbow is easy, we just need the sun to shine on tiny moisture droplets to create that optical phenomenon. But what we'd all love to do, is find the end of the rainbow itself, especially if we had a spade or shovel with us!

As a child, one of my favorite stories was about a leprechaun who was trying to locate this magic spot with his spade, I was spellbound as the little green Irishman set about his task. In the end, he DID - and since then I've thought that anything's possible - especially if you have a spade!

Therefore my gentle Squid-folk, arm yourselves with picks and shovels. and let's go find one...

We might even try to make one... But HOW?

Hi Ho, Hi Ho........

This lens was created on 16 April 2012

A Silly Celebration for a lesser known holiday - but it's colorful!

How To Remember A Rainbow's Color Order - A mnemonic may help.

We see rainbows regularly, but how many of us could put the colors in the right order?

Here is the color order:








Red is always at the top edge and violet at the bottom, with the other colors in between.

A few mnemonics to help: ROY G. BIV. - This is meant to be easy as it works on the acronym of a first name, middle initial and last name, and Roy is a common name.

I have always found this one to fit the bill the best:

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain...

and one I came across recently, which suits me well (as an ex vine grower and winemaker):

Ran Out Yesterday, Got Blotto In Vineyard

An interesting fact: Some modern scientists don't consider Indigo to be a part of the rainbow. I'm not a modern scientist, so Indigo stays!

Rainbows: How Do You Describe Them?

... colorfully!

What comes into your mind when you hear the word, Rainbow or when you see one?

With me, it's COLORFUL - BRIGHT - FASCINATING - IN AWE OF NATURE - BEAUTIFUL - PRETTY, POT O' GOLD, the list could go on and on. There aren't enough descriptive words to describe a rainbow. but you get the picture. In my book, the're


The Science of Rainbows

A natural phenomenon

At school, we were taught that it took the entire spectrum of colors of visible light to make up a rainbow. It's all about wavelengths, red is the longest through the spectrum to violet at the shortest.

But, how are rainbows created?

They are created by sunlight reflection and refraction in raindrops. When sunlight enters a raindrop, it bends and is separated into the colors that make white light, i.e. [ROY G. BIV]. Some of the light, travelling at a "critical"* angle, is reflected off the back of the raindrop. Each color hits the back of the drop at a different angle; therefore, each color emerges from the front of the drop at a different angle.

Only one color exits from each raindrop at the exact angle necessary to reach the viewer's eye. A viewer only sees one color at a time reflecting from each raindrop. This is why it takes millions of raindrops to create a rainbow.

* A "critical" angle - the angle at which sunlight has to strike the back of the raindrop, so it can be reflected back to the front of the drop.


The End of a Rainbow

Where is it?

Got our spades, but we can't find the exact place to dig. So, where on earth is the end of the rainbow, as I know I can see it, but as I walk closer to the spot - it moves, I continue, it moves again. I know how that little green man from Ireland felt as he chased around in circles desperate to lay the first sod.

Don't read the next paragraph to children - I was sad to find out about it as well, and dropped my spade with shock!

I'll write it small so it wont upset anyone!

The end of the rainbow is impossible to reach, as the rainbow is an optical effect which depends on the viewers location. Perhaps, if we run fast enough or lots of us run together, maybe...

I feel we have to get mythological now, it's our only chance. This beautiful, natural phenomenon has earned its place in legend, so let's wind the clocks back a very long way.

a). In Greco-Roman mythology - they reckoned a rainbow was a path made from Earth to Heaven by a messenger, Iris.

b). In Chinese mythology - the goddess Nüwa used stones of five different colours to seal a slit in the sky.

c). In Norse Mythology - the realms of Ãsgard (gods) and Midgard (humans), were connected by a rainbow called the Bifröst Bridge.

d). In Irish mythology - the end of the rainbow is the little leprechaun's special hiding place for his pot o' gold.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

How To Create a Realistic Rainbow in Photoshop

Using Photoshop CS6

If we can't actually get to the end of a rainbow, let's make one instead!

It is very easy to make a rainbow in Photoshop. Whether you want one to discretely overlay onto an image, or simply create one for an art effect, here's how to do it!

And one more thing, you'll need to create your new rainbow image at least twice as big as the base image you wish to overlay onto - you'll see why soon!

1. Image For Rainbow Effect

© 2011 Rob Hemphill

This is the picture I want to put the rainbow onto. A naturally damp, Irish sky!

Image size is 300 px x 300 px

2. Create New File For The Effect

a). Create a new file with a white background, twice as big as the base image, therefore 600 px x 600 px in this instance.

3. Select The Gradient Tool

1). Click on the Gradient tool

2). Click on gradient drop-down box to open the Gradient editor.

3). Select Transparent Rainbow gradient, and click OK.

No tweaks are necessary on the color band here!

4. Draw The Rainbow Gradient

4). Place cursor just below halfway, click and drag upwards to make a narrow rainbow. Use your judgement as to the ideal width you require.

Dragging upwards ensures that red will be on the bottom - this is correct for now. (I know red is on the top of a single rainbow).

This gives us a straight rainbow, now we have to give it its curve.

5. Make The Rainbow Into a Circle

5. Click Filter - Distort - Polar Coordinates

Make sure that Rectangular to Polar is checked. then click OK.

We now have the rainbow in a circle, therefore all we need to do now is to copy it, and paste it into the base image file. There will a fair amount of tweaking later on to get it to look as realistic as possible, but for now...

6). With the rainbow layer selected, Ctrl A to select All, then Ctrl C to copy.

6. Transfer The Rainbow To The Image

7) Switch to the base image which you have already open, select a new layer, then Ctrl V to paste the rainbow into that layer. What you get will look like the image above.

7. Size & Filter For a Cloud Effect

8. To resize the rainbow, click Ctrl T which will bring up the transform handles. Adjust the size to suit your requirements (you can also distort it should you so wish).

9. To get a realistic view of the rainbow in the clouds, we need to run a filter. With the rainbow layer selected, create a layer mask,

10. Click inside the mask, then to apply the filter click Filter - Render - Clouds. What this aims to achieve is a cloud effect over the rainbow colors making it look as if the rainbow is IN the clouds rather than on them.

8. Blend The Rainbow

11. Next, select the brush tool - a very soft brush about 30 px in size.

TO ERASE - Set Fore color to black, and opacity 100%.

TO REPAINT or UN-ERASE - Set fore color to white, and opacity 100%.

With black selected, paint over the areas of the rainbow to be removed (If you make a mistake, switch to white and paint the image back). Any resizing can be done at this point as well, to get it looking as natural as possible. I have stretched mine so that it moves off the image on the right hand side.

12. Reduce the opacity of the brush to anything from 30% down to 10%, and gently paint as close to the horizon point where the ends of the rainbow meet the land, (in this instance I have taken it to the trees on the left. (The lower the opacity the less of the rainbow that is erased on each pass).

13. Set the blend mode of this layer to Screen.

9. Tidy Up The Image

14. The rainbow still looks unnatural - it's far too vivid (image in section 8 above), so we need to do some more painting with the brush in the layer mask and reduce the overall opacity of the rainbow itself (try between 35% and 70% opacity).

15. To tidy up and make the rainbow less artificial, I am going to do one last operation. At the moment the rays of color are too defined, so it would be much better to have them merge into the adjacent color a little.

Click on Filter - Blur - Gaussian Blur, and set the radius to something like 1.7 (tweak it up and down to see what looks best).

10. Final Image With The Rainbow

I have adjusted my rainbow to suit this image. One other thing to remember is that underneath a rainbow, the sky is always a bit lighter than above it.

Anyhow, have fun, and I hope I have helped a little and given you some ideas.


Double Rainbow

double rainbow
double rainbow

© 2011 Rob Hemphill

Between the primary and secondary bow is the area called Alexander's band, or Alexander's dark band as it is noticeably darker here between the bows.

This optical phenomenon was first described in 200 AD by Alexander of Aphrodisias. What makes this occur is the deviation angles of the both primary and secondary rainbows.

Read more about Alexander's band here...

When You See a Rainbow...'s after rain.

It appears, when you see the rain in front of you and the sun is behind you.

The center of the rainbow's arc is directly opposite the sun.

How a Rainbow Works

Ever wondered how actually a rainbow is formed? Well, this short video does a clear and concise job of explaining it.

reflection rainbow
reflection rainbow

Reflection Rainbow

When a rainbow appears above a lake or other source of water, two complementary mirror rainbows might be visible above and below the horizon, originating from separate paths of light.

If the water surface is calm, a reflected rainbow will appear as a mirrored image in the water surface below the horizon, as in this photo. The sunlight is initially deflected by the raindrops, and are then reflected off the surface of the water, before reaching the viewer.

Reflected rainbows are often visible, or at least partly visible, in small puddles.

Reflection rainbow with a normal rainbow, at sunset

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Pocketful Of Rainbows - Elvis

Rainbow Bridge in Utah - The world's largest known natural bridge

Photo Credit: BoNoMoJo - Wikimedia Commons

Rainbow Bridge is a fascinating landform found on the Colorado Plateau. It is rare to find natural bridges anywhere, and these are different to arches, in that they are formed by the erosion of sandstone when a river breaks through the rock.

It is the largest known natural bridge measuring 290 ft (88 m) tall and 270 ft (83 m) across. The top of the arch is 42 ft (12.8 m) thick and 33 ft (10 m) wide. The Navajo consider Rainbow Bridge to be sacred, as it is a symbol of gods who are responsible for making clouds, rain and rainbows.

In 1910, President Taft dedicated the site a National Monument, and described it as such:

" of great scientific interest as an example of eccentric stream erosion, and it appears that the public interest would be promoted by reserving this bridge as a National Monument..."

Read more about the geology of Rainbow Bridge

Red Rainbow - Near Keswick in the Lake District in England

red rainbow
red rainbow

Mad about Mountains

Photo: © 2001 Ann Bowker

shown with permission

Red rainbows occur at sunrise and sunset as the rays travel through the lower atmosphere in long paths where they are scattered by air molecules and dust. The shorter wavelength colors of blue and green are scattered the most leaving the remaining transmitted light proportionately richer in the reds and yellows. This results in gorgeous sunsets and red rainbows.

Somewhere over the Rainbow - From mixed artists

Rainbow Study Bible - Color coding helps learning

There are nearly always great offers on this item, so don't take the intitial price as done!

The KJV Rainbow Study Bible: Illustrated Reference Edition, Every Verse Color-Coded, Bold Line System
The KJV Rainbow Study Bible: Illustrated Reference Edition, Every Verse Color-Coded, Bold Line System

Every verse in The Rainbow Study Bible has been color coded according to one of twelve different themes (God, love, sin, faith, discipleship to name just a few).

This method of color coding is a great help when it comes to comprehending the scriptures, and the colorful maps and illustrations are simply beautiful, making this Study Bible such a joy to own.


Rainbow Eagle

© 2012 Rob Hemphill

This artwork is available from along with other fine art and photography.

Found Some Rainbow Magic

Rainbow fairies

Here we 'Find a Rainbow' for the little ones, and they are truly magical. Stories about fairies and witches and goblins.

"We came upon these sweet books at the bookstore when out with our children. The minute they saw the books they were smitten. There were books about all sorts of Fairies, Color Fairies, Jewel Fairies, Pet Fairies and more... just perfect for my daughter. She has now read all the books and eagerly awaits the next one."

Georgie Ripper, who illustrates the books is an extremely talented illustrator who has won the illustrious Macmillan prize for illustration.

More Rainbow Magic

Rainbow Magic is a lovely site for children where they can click on different fairy characters to reveal snippets of fairy fun. You can even create you own fairy and play lots of games.

The Rainbow Fairies

Pet Fairies

Fun Day Fairies

The Petal Fairies

The Weather Fairies

The Jewel Fairies

Special Fairies

Fairyland Characters

What Are Your Thoughts on Rainbows? - Be as colorful as you like!

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    • lesliesinclair profile image


      4 years ago

      Thanks for telling us that rainbows can also be reflected in puddles and still water. That's something I've not seen.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      5 years ago

      This was such a delightful read. I love the beauty of rainbows. It was interesting to learn the order of the colors

    • DANCING COWGIRL profile image

      Dancing Cowgirl Design 

      5 years ago from Texas

      That is so cool how you put the rainbow into the picture. I saw a double rainbow not to long ago. That was pretty neat. I'm glad you didn't leave out my favorite, Somewhere over the rainbow.

    • kathysart profile image


      5 years ago

      I stood inside one once.. it's beginnings on the ground. I saw if from a ways off and realized it might not be too far to walk to. And sooo... I did. I will never in my life forget it. My only regret is that I then walked away.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love rainbows - down here in Florida we get them fairly frequently during the rainy months. Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • Stacy Birch profile image

      Stacy Birch 

      6 years ago

      I love seeing rainbows!!!

    • Rangoon House profile image


      6 years ago from Australia

      I loved all the facets of rainbows included in this lens. Blessings.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great article! Thank you for publishing it. You brought a rainbow into my day, even though the sun is shining.

    • Cold0911 profile image


      6 years ago

      Man, This lens looks really great! Congrats on the purple star - you deserve it!

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 

      6 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      Outstanding lens. I learned some great Photoshop tips and enjoyed the visit. Thanks

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 

      6 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      You have so much awesome information, presented in such a fun way. Congratulations for being in the Best of Squidoo Silly Celebrations in April. Blessed.

    • KateHonebrink profile image


      6 years ago

      Such an interesting article - love the photo editing tips and tricks! Great job!!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Rainbows are so beautiful, I always try to look for one after it rains.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a delightful reason to celebrate and congratulations for being part of the Best of Squidoo - Silly Celebrations in April!

    • jayceehaynes profile image


      6 years ago

      i like em' :)


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