Mixing Light

As we were keen to explore optical effects and illusions we decided to investigate the physics of light, and how light could be manipulated and exploited with our ideas.




1Refraction is the
bending of light
waves when they enter a medium and changes speed (For example glass, water, diamond).When light passes from a fast medium to a slow medium the light ray bends. If light speeds up the angle of refraction is larger.
The angle of refraction can’t be larger than 90°. Any greater and the light is reflected off the surface.

2As light enters a transparent material at an angle it slows down, bending it’s direction. As it leaves the material it returns to it’s original speed (bending again), returning to the original angle, only displaced.

 White Light

Colours do not ‘have colour’, they give off light that appears to be coloured. Properties which can be distinguished by the human eye are hue, saturation and brightness. When white light hits an object it selectively blocks some colours and reflects others. The colours which are reflected are those which contribute to the viewers perception. We see white light when all light frequencies in the visible spectrum are present.

Visable Light Spectrum.JPG
Architectural Lighting : Designing With Light and Space

Chromatic Shadows

By mixing 2 to 3 of the primary colours of light (of varying intensity) can provide a huge range of colour.

Chromatic Shadows
Architectural Lighting : Designing With Light and Space

Chromatic shadows result when a particular range of wavelengths are blocked from white light (see above diagram). Due to the principle of additive mixing in light, shadows are inherently coloured. Chormatic shadows have been often used in the work of Dennis Parren. I also love the work of instillation artist Liz West who explores colour and environment.

  1. Dennis Parren | CMYK Lamp  http://www.dezeen.com/2012/11/05/cmyk-lamp-by-dennis-parren/ 
  2. Dennis Parren | CMYK Light Bulb  http://www.dezeen.com/2013/04/26/cmyk-bulb-by-dennis-parren/ 
  3. Liz West | Reversed Prism http://www.designboom.com/art/liz-west-an-additive-mix-national-media-museum-07-20-2015/ 

I decided to use lighting gels to experiment with the combination of light and colour.


I used red, green and blue gels to see if I could create chromatic shadows. Although you can see the illusion, the lights weren’t bright enough to create a striking effect.


Chromatic shadows are something I would be keen to use in our design.

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