What the Blue/Black/White/Gold Dress Tells Us About How We View Color

Why We Perceive Color Differently

Left: Original Image, Mid: Image is white balanced to look white and gold. Right: Image is white balanced to look blue and black.

Unless you've been stuck at sea for the past two weeks, then you've definitely seen the dress that went viral on the internet last week and felt some form of anger at others who think that the dress is the wrong color. But what color is the dress really? And why do so many of us see something else? The answers may surprise you.

 The dress is actually blue and black. Hate to be the one to break it to you. However many of us can't see that in the photo because our brains process light differently. This is why some of us see the dress as white and gold and others see it as blue and black. Each of our eyes are able to assign fixed colors to objects under different lighting conditions. We call this "color constancy." What our eyes and brains have trouble processing in this photo is the ambient light surrounding the dress. This sends different signals depending on how we see where the source of light is coming from, how bright bright we perceive the image and how the shadows affect the image. Each of these factors sends signals to our brains telling us what colors we see in the photo of the dress. 

Other photos will show us that the dress is clearly black and blue, however, let's break down why we see this dress the way we do. 

  • If you think that the dress appears to be bathed in bright sunlight, our eyes often adjust to see the image as darker so you are likely to see the dress as black and blue
  • If you see the dress in shadow, or if you think that the dress appears to be just out of the sunlight, your eyes will often pick up brighter colors. Eyes will often compensate for shadow to pick out brighter colors. Therefore, many people saw this dress as white and gold, disregarding that the dress could be blue.

Our eyes often need context cues to pick up on color schemes that allow them to see colors more accurately. If this image had featured, say a person, or another dress (as in other photos of the dress), our eyes might pick up on these colors more accurately. Other objects in an image or even in our line of sight help us perceive things the way they are because our brains pick up on contrasting colors much easier than similar colors. However, when that ability to use context disappears, we have more trouble picking up colors

For Example:


Image source:

In this image above, we see that it appears that squares A and B are different shades of grey. However....


Image source:

When we connect the two figures with matching lines, we see that both squares are actually the same color, it is only our brains processing the colors looking for context clues that tells us differently. 

The incredible thing to take away from this dress controversy is that it is our minds that make up color instead of being attributed as being permanent properties of an object. What do you think about this. Let us know your thoughts on #thedress and the way we see colors in the comments below.


Announcing the Strathmore Winter 2015 Back to Class Contest Winners

Congrats to our Talented Artists


We asked "What have you created with Strathmore?" and our artists answered. We received so many great entries in our Strathmore Winter 2015 Back to Class Contest. The Winners drew, sketched, colored and painted on Strathmore paper, on paper styles like Strathmore's Artist Tiles300 Bristol Pads300 Sketch Pads, or 400 Watercolor Pads. Congrats to all of our winners and talented artists!

The Winners

First Place Winner

by M. Jaganath

"I'm using Strathmore Drawing 400 series (8x10") and Canvas paper 300 series, for more than a year. I'm using this product to get better result for portrait, landscape; fine architect building sketch. The experience with Strathmore product is really awesome, it gives good texture, smoothness and shading/rendering and it's really supports using my H and B graphite, obviously charcoal pencil as well. I will recommend this Strathmore product to the audiences, would definitely rejoice with the results. I uploaded my favorite sketch with linear perspective method which took me more than 20 hours but ends with tremendous output which I like the most. thanks to Strathmore and the crew members who build this product."


Second Place Winner

by Roman Pleitez

"Strathmore is the only paper I use. I love the 400 series as well as the Bristol smooth. I have a popular Instagram account with over 220,000 followers where I share my art and every time someone asks me what paper I use, I always tell them Strathmore."


Third Place Winner

by Hannah C.

"I am 8 years old and did this picture on Strathmore watercolor paper using ink, pencils for the background and branches and color pencils for the the bird. I really like how the paper makes the colors pop from both the dry and wet pencils. This is one of my favorite pictures that I did recently and hope you like it too...My mom says she loves the Strathmore paper quality and wont let me use any other kind. And I think she is right!"


10 Etch-A-Sketch Masterpieces to Brighten Your Day

This Guy Just Put All of Our 5 Year Old Selves To Shame

Jeff Gagliardi has over 35 years experience making fantastic pieces of art on Etch-A-Sketches and although his days of etching and sketching may be over, he still shares his art as one of the few Etch-A-Sketch artists out there. His prints are available at

1. Mona Lisa

2. American Gothic

3. The Creation of Adam

4. Vitruvian Man

5. Starry Night

6. Picasso's Guernicas


7. "Salvador's Deli"

8. Chuck Berry

9. Corner of a Five Dollar Bill

10. Taj Mahal

All images are via Visit his site to see more Etch-A-Sketch art as well as paintings and other pieces of art.

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