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Pink Doesn't Exist

Updated on January 10, 2014

Colors are simply different wavelengths of light. We see short waves as blue, and long waves as red.

Ultra-violet is at one end, and infra-red is at the other. You can see blue, green, yellow...but where is pink? Pink isn’t on the color spectrum. In fact, it's the only color missing.

Every color has an opposite. For example, the opposite of blue is orange, and the opposite of yellow is violet. However, the opposite of light green is red-violet. How is that possible when they are on opposite ends of the color spectrum?

Here’s a fun test you can do. Stare at this blue color for thirty seconds, and then look at the white space next to it.

What color do you see? It should be orange. In fact, if you stare at any color for long enough then look away, you should see the color opposite of it in the color wheel (an afterimage). This is because afterimages show the complementary color (the opposite in the way the eye perceives them).

Let’s look do the same for green.

You see pink! Wait, shouldn’t you be seeing red? Look at the color wheel – it should be red. This is a misconception. The complementary color for red is cyan. Do the same experiment for any green, and you will see pink. But how can that be possible if the color isn't real? Surely it must!

If you rolled up the color spectrum, there would be a gap between violet and red. Radio waves, microwaves, infra-red waves and all the others that we can’t see go here. However, they are invisible.

So if pink doesn’t exist, how can we see it? Well, if two or more light wavelengths reach our eyes, then the color we see is the one formed from both of those colors. For example, if yellow and red light enters our eyes, we see orange (which is between red and yellow on the spectrum).

What happens when violet and red light enters our eyes? There is no halfway pointbetween them, because there is a gap in the color spectrum if we roll it up (but we talked about that earlier). Our brain has to create a new color, and that is pink.

In a nutshell: Pink doesn't exist because we don't use light wavelengths to see it, but our brain makes it up to fill the gap in the color spectrum with something we can visualise.

So every time you glance at someone’s pretty pink nail polish, don’t be jealous – it doesn’t exist.

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    • Danida profile image
      Author

      Danida 2 years ago from London

      @Blune Doyle, I guess you're right! It exists but not in the way the other colors do.

    • Blune Doyle profile image

      Blune Doyle 2 years ago from Streadgate, United Kingdom

      I would argue that pink does exist for the very reason that you stated (our brains create a new colour). It doesn't exist as a wavelength of light but that's not the same as saying it doesn't exist per se. A very interesting article though.