Although the words 'Warm' or 'Cool' are commonly used by many people in the cosmetic tattoo industry, describing a colour as warm or cool is not on particularly solid ground from a colour science perspective, and from my own experience many cosmetic tattoo technicians struggle with a concept that was originally intended to simplify working with colour.
▼ Continue Reading ▼
There are still some occupations that refer to 'colour temperature' as a means to describe or relate colours to physical attributes, some examples include astronomy, metallurgy, and film
photographic's each of those disciplines have their own perspectives about how specific colours may have a tangible thermal reference. The problem is that from a colour science point of view colours do not have a uniform connection to a specific temperature, for example in some circumstances a blue colour may signify a relatively cool thermal reference in other circumstances it may indicate a relatively hot thermal reference.
Lets examine a few of examples below in relation to the colour blue;
Metallurgy - If steel is cleaned and polished and then permitted to form an oxide layer on its surface before being heated for the purpose of tempering (hardening) the steel, when the steel is heated to around 310°C the oxide will appear to be dark blue in colour, if the steel is heated by a further 30 degrees it will appear light blue in colour1. From a metallurgists point of view blue steel tempering would be considered towards the mid to upper end of the thermal tempering range.
Question: Cosmetic tattooists often refer to skin colours and tattoo pigments as being warm or cool but where exactly did this terminology come from?
Answer: Our origin of warm and cool colours comes from the art world and the first published reference that we were able to find was by the English artist Charles Hayter within in his publication an Introduction to Perspective (1813)3, below is the original colour wheel that Hayter created.
The RYB colour model that many paint artists still use has its detractors, mainly this is because of some of the past theories/claims surrounding the RYB colour model are now known to be untrue, for example;
Some people argue that the (RYB) colour model should no longer be used because the model is flawed from a colour science perspective, however (CMYK) cannot produce all of the colours that the human eye can perceive either as is often discovered by the manufacturers of portrait artists paints when they unsuccessfully attempt to reproduce swatches for their paint ranges with a CMYK model.
The simplest explanation of the difference between additive or subtractive colour models is an LCD computer screen creates colour images by adding light from Red, Green or Blue light emitting diodes, where as a physical object subtracts portions (wavelengths) of the colour spectrum within white light shone onto the object and reflects other portions back towards the observer, the wavelengths being absorbed or passing through (subtracted) affects the apparent colour that is reflected back from the object.
Depending on the study being quoted and the type of colour vision deficiency around 8% of men and around 0.4% of women may have a colour vision deficit6, even within the range of what is considered normal colour vision people may have differences in their perceptions of colour particularly with differentiation between closely related hues. If you have never had your colour vision tested then it is a worthwhile exercise particularly if you find that you struggle with colour discrimination or have difficulty working with colours.
In addition to the RYB colour model warm vs cool is the other colour concept that is most often referred to by cosmetic tattoo pigment manufacturers, trainers, and technicians; as discussed previously in relation to colour warm and cool are not on solid ground from a colour science perspective they are primarily an abstract concept that was proposed over 200 years ago to help paint artists to conceptualise colour particularly in relation to mixing complementary colours. The question is does use of the terms 'warm' and 'cool' help cosmetic tattooists to conceptualise colour during their work or does it simply confuse technicians more than it helps them?
1) It assists technicians to predict the likely outcome from mixing different coloured pigments.
Perhaps the most surprising result that we obtained was the sheer number of technicians who failed to provide a warm/cool determination for every colour (n131/176) and the length of deliberation that was involved over certain colours. Below I have indicated which colour required the longest average time for deliberation and which colour required the shortest average time for deliberation, the colours marked with a * red asterisk are those that we felt respondents may have been most influenced by the name of the colour.
Copyright © 2015 CTshop.com.au & the article author All Rights Reserved. No copying, transmission or reproduction of site content is permitted without our prior written consent.
Printing Restriction: This article is print disabled, please read our Intellectual Property & Copyright Policies if you would like to request a copy or permission to use the article content for any purpose.