Is Black a Color?

Meet the writer: Karen Pieper

Hi, I'm Karen! I've been in the industry for 21 years and can't wait to share my perspective on all things direct mail. I'm currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Letter Jacket Envelopes and deal with tasks from managing the website, facilitating conversations with customers, and much more!

Do you lay awake at night thinking of ways to solve problems far outside your realm of experience?  We probably all have at some point in time. When you tire of coming up with ideas to solve the world’s greatest problems, consider this little brain teaser:  Is Black Considered a Color?  The answer or answers can vary widely and greatly depend not only on who you ask but what you ask.  A physicist, an artist or a child with a new box of crayons will all answer this brain twisting question differently.   Just one definition of the word black from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary contains thirteen descriptions.  For this discussion, we must also decide whether we are considering the color black as a product of light or as a pigment. We will do both and then finish by looking at it in terms of cultural significance and symbolism.

Is Black a Color?

We will start with the physicist. For a physicist, black is the absence of light or absence of electromagnetic radiation. Black is not a color because it absorbs all the colors of the visible spectrum and reflects none of them back to the eyes. Black is also related to dark.   Visually, a dark region is one that gives off less light than expected. A black body is a perfect absorber of light just like a black hole is a perfect absorber of all matter.  If you go into a darkroom everything is black because there are no photons of light or photons of color.

White, on the other hand, is a blending of all colors and is therefore considered a color. It reflects all colors of the visible spectrum. This is an additive color theory. Light or sunlight appears colorless or white because it includes all colors of the spectrum. A rainbow or prism illustrates this beautifully by bending the light rays so you can see all the individual colors.

Another way to answer the question of “is black a color” is by looking at it as a pigment. As a pigment black is a color and white is the absence of color.  You can combine the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue) to get black. It won’t be jet black but you will get the right idea of how

black is made.  Red, yellow and blue cannot be made by mixing other colors and are therefore primary colors. They are the primary colors in the pigment world. Cyan, magenta and yellow are the primary ink colors in the printing world. You cannot mix any of these colors to get white.

The color black is seen from many different, and often conflicting, viewpoints when considered in the world at large. It has great symbolism and can be viewed as serious, sexy or dangerous in turn. Black is the color of mourning in many western cultures. However, it is also a favorite and frequently used color in fashion.    Anyone who has ever wanted to appear smaller or slimmer will immediately tell you their favorite color to wear is black. Black visually causes an area to recede or appear smaller.  It also makes other colors appear brighter. This holds true whether in clothing or when decorating a room. Other almost iconic uses of the color black include the man in the black hat (ask any fan of old Westerns), the little black dress, black magic or even black coffee.

One place you rarely see black is in envelopes. This is for several reasons. The lack of reflectivity and luminosity makes black envelopes difficult to read for postal scanners.  This leads to higher prices for handling since they must be stamped by hand. Although they might stand out they would be difficult to read and more costly than other colors of envelopes. Using black text, however, is still very eye-catching, easy to read and stands out well against most bright colors. Whether you choose to go with black or another color, make sure to take advantage of Letter Jacket’s high-quality envelopes, available in multiple sizes, shapes and colors. Each envelope can also be printed with custom art courtesy of Letter Jacket’s intuitive ordering system.

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