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The Tale of the Color-Shifting Dress

posted on and written by Cameron Daigle in

Image 100x100 cameron daigle

Last night, a mysterious dress appeared on Tumblr that caused everyone on the internet to lose their minds. Then, everyone on the internet decided to colorsplain the situation. This is one of those.

Friends, this is a case of where your brain is perceiving the light source. The reason this picture is causing so much confusion is that the light source ON the dress is unclear. The background behind the dress is blown out, overexposed fluorescent light, while the light ON the dress is one of two things. Lie down for a second on the nearest comfy couch and let's talk.

If you see the dress as gold and white

Your brain is seeing the dress as gold and white because your brain is seeing the dress as in shadow, i.e. there is not light on the viewer's side of the dress.

At this point, a hastily-drawn Photoshop image should explain things:

Gold and white dress light diagram

So the bluish tint of the dress is interpreted by your brain as a consequence of the shadows.

If you see the dress as blue and black

Your brain is seeing the dress as blue and black because it's assuming the dress is being lit by a warm light, hence the gold or brown overtones on the "black" area of the dress:

Blue and black dress light diagram

However, this light source isn't actually shown in the photo (and definitely isn't affecting the background, which is overexposed and cold-toned), so people who see the dress as gold and white are SUPER confused by this approach.

Here's the thing

Light temperature and light source is everything. The side of the dress facing the Confused Person is composed of the EXACT SAME COLORS in both diagrams.

Blue and black and gold and white dress light diagram

So show this post to your gold-and-white-truther friends and help them see the light.

Sorry for the pun. It's been a long morning.

Posted in Design