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How do we know there are 16 million colors that can be seen by the human eye?

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

The human eye can perceive millions of different colors, but how do we know that there are over 16 million colors?


It is not clear who specifically discovered or first calculated that there are over 16 million colors that can be perceived by the human eye. This understanding is based on our current scientific understanding of the human visual system and the physics of light.


This number is not an exact number and is an approximation based on the current understanding of the human visual system and the physics of light. It is a result of the research and studies that have been conducted over the years by scientists, psychologists, and physiologists.


** UPDATE: There is new science emerging claiming that some people have a fourth receptor and can see up to 100 million colors! New computers are also being built with capabilities of up to 1 billion colors. Are we evolving to see more? Fascinating stuff for sure.

The perception of color is a complex process involving the retina, the brain, and the physics of light. The human eye has three types of color receptors, or cones, located in the retina, which are sensitive to different parts of the visible spectrum. These cones work together to detect and interpret the colors that we see. The number of colors that can be created by combining the different wavelengths in the visible spectrum is astronomical, and it is estimated that there are over 16 million different colors that can be perceived by the human eye.

We see color when light reflects off of an object and enters our eyes. The light is made up of different wavelengths, and each wavelength corresponds to a specific color. The human eye can detect wavelengths between approximately 380 and 780 nanometers. This range is known as the visible spectrum, and it includes all the colors that we can see, from red to violet.

Each color in the visible spectrum is made up of a unique combination of wavelengths. However, our eyes can't perceive every possible combination of wavelengths. The human eye has three types of color receptors, or cones, located in the retina. These cones are sensitive to different parts of the spectrum, and they work together to detect and interpret the colors that we see.


Our eyes can really only see red, green, and blue so the other colors are essentially imaginary colors our brain deciphers from knowledge of the other 3. Magenta is in fact an imaginary color! It is also the only color that can not have a yellow based counterpart.


When Bob Dorr discovered the Blue Base/ Yellow Base Color System he took Newton's color wheel and divided it into a blue based wheel and a yellow based wheel. Each of these wheels have essentially 8 million colors each that the human eye can see! Once you learn if you are blue or yellow based you have 8 million colors to choose from to look your very best! We have a course available to learn more about this color system and how to use it to upgrade every aspect of your life.

In conclusion, the human eye can perceive millions of different colors because it can detect a wide range of wavelengths within the visible spectrum. The number of colors that can be created by combining these wavelengths is astronomical, and it is estimated that there are over 16 million different colors that can be perceived by the human eye. 8 million of these are blue based, and 8 million are yellow based.


Follow along with us to learn more about the Blue Base/ Yellow Base Color System and find out your undertone with our color quiz!


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