AuthorTopic: Perception of color of skin and hair  (Read 4058 times)

Offline Beoran

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Perception of color of skin and hair

on: June 24, 2008, 07:20:57 pm
In my search for a good color palette, I decided to inspect the colors of the hair and skin in photographs of me an my wife. I was quite surprised by the results, so I'd like to her your ideas on this. (Perhaps, to clarify I should add that I am a very pale skinned European and my wife is Asian.) 

  • The half tone of my skin is a desaturated and grayish hue of red orange (HSV around: 20 40 80) . When looking at the photograph, I would say my skin is pinkish or whiteish, but that shows that the camera reacts differently than the mind.
  • Generally, my wife's skin is not more yellow as one would expect, but simply darker, that is, with a lower value (HSV around: 20 40 50 ).
  • In normal light circumstances, shadows on the skin have a more orange/yellowish hue (around 25). This is different form what I read  before.
  • My auburn hair is a very dark shade of pure red.
  • My wife's black hair seems to be an extremely dark shade of orange/yellow.
  • Lastly and most importantly: using "natural" colors from photographs does not work at all for pixel art, unless you are going for a very realistic style. In any more sketched or anime style, the natural colors look way too dark. I tested this on a rather good base from FrozenChild82 on deviantart, (not on my own crap) so I can't show it example here, but you guys can try it yourself on your own stuff (if you didn't do so before).
    The human brain seems to use some kind of extreme "jpeg" style compressing when seeing, and the colors of reality into a kind of symbolic colors that are different from reality. I think the brain especially brightens colors. Also, it seems that contrasts are highly simplified in our brain.  Hue also seems to be somewhat unreliable, and tied to prejudices in the brain.

So I guess my conclusion would be to use photographs only for guessing the hue. The saturation and value should be set to match mental expectations. What your idea about this all?


Kind Regards, Beoran.

Offline Atnas

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Re: Perception of color of skin and hair

Reply #1 on: June 24, 2008, 07:56:46 pm
REMOVED FOR OTHERS' BENEFIT ;)
« Last Edit: June 26, 2008, 02:37:08 am by Atnas »

Offline chriskot

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Re: Perception of color of skin and hair

Reply #2 on: June 24, 2008, 09:56:03 pm
Here's my take on it:

In my search for a good color palette, I decided to inspect the colors of the hair and skin in photographs of me an my wife. I was quite surprised by the results, so I'd like to her your ideas on this. (Perhaps, to clarify I should add that I am a very pale skinned European and my wife is Asian.) 
First of all, even though I know next to nothing about photography, I think that you could get a slightly better idea of the colour of something by just looking at the thing/person itself. Every extra step in the middle is one potential way of warping the results.

  • The half tone of my skin is a desaturated and grayish hue of red orange (HSV around: 20 40 80) . When looking at the photograph, I would say my skin is pinkish or whiteish, but that shows that the camera reacts differently than the mind.
This follows what I said above. I'm a Canadian of German and Estonian decent, and looking at my hand right now, the colours of my skin gradient seem to go from a pale yellow, to pink, to brown, to grey. Naturally, any non-white light (such as the light radiating from my computer screen), or light reflected off of colour objects is probably messing with these results. In fact, white light even distorts things. Human skin is slightly translucent, which is why you can see blue veins through your skin and why thin parts of the anatomy (e.g.-fingers), may appear red around the edges when lit brightly from behind. Describing this using a more scientific approach, the phenomenon is called subsurface scattering. The photons travel into your fingers, bounce around a bit, and come back out. Along the way, the frequency of the wave (colour) is being altered by the materials that it bounces off of.

  • In normal light circumstances, shadows on the skin have a more orange/yellowish hue (around 25). This is different form what I read  before.
The sun is a yellow star, and many lightbulbs give off a slightly yellowish glow. Thus, it follows that everything would be yellower under regular conditions than under pure white light. What you are observing is not the actual colour of your skin, but the colour which it usually appears to be. I would assume that they wouldn't be too different, but the natural light colours would probably be better for a sprite in a realistic world, while the actual colours would be better for characters in a varied and colourful world because they are more average. Just a guess. Anybody else know something about this?

  • The human brain seems to use some kind of extreme "jpeg" style compressing when seeing, and the colors of reality into a kind of symbolic colors that are different from reality. I think the brain especially brightens colors. Also, it seems that contrasts are highly simplified in our brain.  Hue also seems to be somewhat unreliable, and tied to prejudices in the brain.
The brain has to process a lot of visual information very quickly, so it must compress all of that information somehow. I think that the brain uses colours to identify things, so it naturally picks a colour that seems rather unique to a certain material. I'm guessing that this is usually a more saturated average of all of the colours a substance reflects. As far as the brightening goes, the brain could just be imagining them in a brighter light. I don't really know. This whole paragraph is complete speculation on my part.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject. Hope most of it makes sense. I find it interesting that the colour someone sees is subjective anyway. Some people are colourblind, a rare few see things tetrachromatically, and everyone else still has a slight genetic variation in the number of rods and cones they possess.

Offline Beoran

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Re: Perception of color of skin and hair

Reply #3 on: June 25, 2008, 06:10:37 am
Atnas, thanks for your input and the link to that tutorial. It's true that the lighting influences colors a lot. As for your suggestion I saw something similar in Fenix Blade, an indie RPG. There, colored lights were simulated by using colored radial gradient circle "light cones" that are nearly transparent as "light sources".  Blitting those "light cones" over the sprites adjusts their color much in the way you suggest, although that game only used it for indoors lamps in dungeons, etc.  This technique tends to lower the FPS quite a bit, since alpha blending is expensive, so that's why it's also quite rare in most 2D games.

Chriskot, it's true that color perception is subjective. It seems that I ave a strange type of color blindness which makes me see all colors less intense.  All colors with a with a low value or saturation (less than 15 on a scale of 100 in the Gimp), simply look like black or gray to me. I have a lot of difficulty seeing the difference between very dark blue and black, specifically, where other people don't seem to have any problems.  I guess I must have a lower amount of color receptors in my eyes. That's why I love the art in video games with "exaggerated" colors like Secret of Mana. Somehow, they look "just right" to me. That also explains why I tend to oversaturate the colors I choose.  >_<
Kind Regards, Beoran.

Offline sharprm

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Re: Perception of color of skin and hair

Reply #4 on: June 25, 2008, 06:55:00 am
Atnas - yuck. If I screwed up ideas in biology - eg. "Giraffes have 8 legs and they eat lions - doesn't that blow your mind", would it be okay?

I think you are confused between Black-Body emission (photons produced by accelerating electrons) and spontaneous emission (where photons are created as electrons lose energy from their 'excited' state).

Quickly looked up science of sight - this page seemed good if anyone is interested:

http://www.yorku.ca/eye/toc.htm
« Last Edit: June 25, 2008, 07:18:18 am by sharprm »
Modern artists are told that they must create something totally original-or risk being called "derivative".They've been indoctrinated with the concept that bad=good.The effect is always the same: Meaningless primitivism
http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/Philosophy/phi

Offline Atnas

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Re: Perception of color of skin and hair

Reply #5 on: June 25, 2008, 12:28:19 pm
"Giraffes have 8 legs and they eat lions - doesn't that blow your mind"

I probably made up 90% of that up but it sounds good, right? XD

 :-[ Toldya. I'll have to research this topic when I'm feeling more geeky. I don't know bull about photons but I have a simple understanding of reflected light, which I tried to make my point. :]

Offline Conzeit

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Re: Perception of color of skin and hair

Reply #6 on: June 26, 2008, 06:39:51 am
I guess it all depends on your piece. I wouldnt reccomend actually taking the eyedrop tool and picking out the colors per-se, but I believe if you're doing a landscape, or if you control the background your piece would be displayed in you can use the overall color of some element in your photograph, given you dont just pick the color from some off pixel that was flawed in your photograph.

if you're talking about sprites that will go on who knows what background....forget about it, the colors always are relative and they must adapt to what they will be displayed on.

Offline Beoran

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Re: Perception of color of skin and hair

Reply #7 on: June 27, 2008, 06:54:45 am
Thanks for that tip, Conceit. I think the important lesson I can draw from your comment, is to use indexed images with a palette for a sprite, even when doing a full color game. Like that, the colors of the sprite can be adjusted more easily by adjusting the sprite's palette to the general environment and mood.
Kind Regards, Beoran.