Scientific 3D Color Analysis of the Two Dresses Meme

Is this dress white and gold or blue and black?

The controversy over the dress color most likely rests in our understanding (or lack there of) of the basics of color perception. Our 3D color mapping software puts an end to the debate. The Mapping Color Alpha is capable of full-color image, video and data mapping and analysis. 

When we use terms like: Blue, Red and Yellow to describe a color we are referring to color hue. Hue is only one of three parameters that describe color. The other two are chroma (purity) and value (lightness/darkness). And when we use a word like “blue”, what does it mean. There are numerous blues: ultramarine, cobalt, cerulean, navy, light blue, dark blue, etc. When we were first taught “our colors”, we were shown a color and told that this is “blue. In all probability we did not all see the same color, but simply identified what we saw with the word “blue”.

Most people believe that color is an inherent property, rather than a property of light. Most of us have read about how Sir Isaac Newton splitting a narrow beam of light into a rainbow of colors know as the visible spectrum by letting it pass through a prism and bending white light into different wavelengths.

The reason we perceive a tomato as red is that when it is lit by white light, the surface of the tomato absorbs the short and medium wavelengths, and reflects the long wavelengths -- those associated with red.

A tomato under warm light looks red, as does a tomato under cool light. But when displayed side by side we can see that they are very different reds.  

So the answer to the controversial dress will be found in the light source not in the dress itself.

If we use our model to analyze a red dress and a green dress we show that they occupy two very different color spaces.

Color space of a red dress in 3D space.

Color space of a red dress in 3D space.

Color space of a green dress in 3D space

Color space of a green dress in 3D space

If we take the two photos of the controversial dress and upload them into our color model we see how the color space of each of the images is different.

When viewing our model from the top -- showing hue and chroma we notice that both dress favor a hue axis that runs from approximately 105° and 185°. However the blue/black dress occupies more blue space.

 

Color space of white/gold dress view from top in 3D.

Color space of white/gold dress view from top in 3D.

Color space of blue/black dress view from top in 3D.

Color space of blue/black dress view from top in 3D.

A greater dissimilarity is visible if we see the model for the side views (showing chroma and value).

 

Color space of white/gold dress view from the side in 3D.

Color space of white/gold dress view from the side in 3D.

Color space of blue/black dress view from the side in 3D.

Color space of blue/black dress view from the side in 3D.

The shifts in value, chroma and hue (VCh) is very noticeable when viewing the model in 3D.

Color space of white/gold dress viewed in 3D.

Color space of white/gold dress viewed in 3D.

Color space of blue/black dress viewed in 3D.

Color space of blue/black dress viewed in 3D.

Its worth noting that this analysis was done using photos of the dress and not from viewing the actual physical dress. However, the answer to this dilemma will be found more in the color of light than in the color of the dress.