August 31, 2016 / Melissa Faudree

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]How many times have you been asked in your life what your favorite color is? Countless times, right? Sometimes I’ve even been questioned why a color is my favorite. I simply shrug. Why is the sky blue? I don’t know, it just is. The truth is, I’m just drawn to certain colors sometimes. What if you have a type of color blindness? A common question you might be asked is, “what color is this?”

What Color Is This?

I’ve often had debates with friends and family members over colors. One person might think a pair of shoes looks red and another may think they look more crimson. Some may not be able to distinguish the color at all. Do we not all see the same colors? In short, no, we sometimes don’t.


Dressgate of 2015

Remember the dress photo debate in 2015? A Scottish bride posted a photo on Tumblr asking for people to help identify the dress color that the mother of the bride would wear to the wedding. The bride and mother of the bride disagreed on the color of the dress. However, they were not alone in the disagreement because there were those who thought the dress looked white and gold instead of black and blue. The photo went viral around the world. It even had celebrities participating in the debate. Hard to believe one photo and one dress caused quite the stir. The dress debate begged the question: do you see colors the way that I see them?

Up until this time no such explanation had been proven. It wasn’t until a team of neuroscientists studied the matter further. In one study conducted by Bevil Conway, Conway concluded that the way our brain perceives color varies based on the type of lighting. The study compared natural lighting and artificial lighting. In another study, Conway found that age and sex play another role in how we perceive color.

If you look at the dress photo from Dressgate, it is apparent that the lighting was poor at the time. The camera had a hard time focusing due to the back light from the window. I believe this photo had two strikes against it. One was the back lighting and and two was artificial lighting in the store. Had the person taken the picture in natural lighting, we might have never heard about it. To that end, how many times have you snapped a picture on your phone and texted it to a friend? You aren’t looking to win any awards per say. Dressgate certainly opened up our eyes to how the world views colors!

What is Color Blindness?

What about those who cannot differentiate colors? Perhaps they struggle to differentiate whether an object is red or green. You may know someone that cannot distinguish certain colors. These are people that have a color vision deficiency or most commonly known as color blindness. Color blindness affects about 2.7 million people in the world. If you break it down, it affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women.

Many people with a color vision deficiency are able to see colors but often struggle to differentiate certain colors. They usually have a hard time distinguishing between red and green and blue and yellow. In our eyes, the retina has two different types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. Rods are sensitive to light. The cones are what pick up the colors. Cones are sensitive to red, green and blue while allowing us to see a spectrum of colors. If one cone malfunctions, color blindness or abnormal vision occurs.

Growing up, I admit I didn’t know there were different types of color deficiencies. I only thought one type existed, when in fact, many types of color blindness exist. The most common types of color blindness can be inherited. It is passed on through the X chromosome. Other types of color blindness occur because of age, retina damage or disease. Color blindness can be grouped into three different categories: red-green, blue-yellow and complete color blindness. Red-green color blindness is the most common type of color deficiency.

Types of Color Blindness


Red-Green Color Blindness:

Deuteranopia (green-blind): With this type of color blindness people aren’t able to differentiate red and green. Reds are often mistaken as brown/yellow and green as beige. With deuteranopia, the green cone is missing.

Deuteranomaly (green-weak): This is the most common type of color blindness. People with this type see yellow and green as more red. It is also hard to tell the difference between violet from blue. With deuteranomaly, the green cone is malfunctioning.

Protanomaly: With this type of color blindness, colors do not appear as bright. Colors such as red, orange, and yellow are greener. For those with protanomaly, the red cone is malfunctioning.

Protanopia: People who have this type of color blindness see red as black. Shades will appear more yellow, specifically those that are orange, green, and yellow. The red cone is missing in protanopia.

Blue-Yellow Color Blindness:

Tritanomaly: This type of color blindness is very rare. People will see blue as green. They also struggle to differentiate yellow and red from pink. The blue cone is malfunctioning in tritanomaly.

Tritanopia: This is known as blue-yellow color blindness. People will see blue as green. They will also see yellow as violet or a light grey. The blue cone is missing.

Complete Color Blindness:

Rod monochromacy or achromatopsia: With this color blindness, people are unable to differentiate any colors. They can only see black, white and shades of grey. This type of color blindness also causes severe light sensitivity. While this is the most severe, it is the most common type of complete color blindness.

Cone monochromacy: With this type of color blindness, people struggle to distinguish colors. It is very rare. All three cones are not functional.

As a business that works in web, we have always to think about usability for users. We also have to consider those with color deficiencies. Unfortunately, designing for color abnormalities often gets placed on the bottom of a to-list for many businesses. How can we make designing for those with color deficiencies easier? Thanks to technology, we have tools available to help us simulate the various types.

Color blindness examples

Color Blindness Simulator

I found a handy tool called Sim Daltonism. It sounds like an interesting name for a color blindness tool. Did you know that color blindness is also called Daltonism? It was named after John Dalton who wrote the first scientific paper on color blindness in 1794.

Sim Daltonism is a color blindness simulator that can be used on your iOS device or Mac. I use the Mac app and have found it quite helpful. The best part about the app is you are able to use this for ANYTHING on your computer screen. You are not restricted to one program or browser. There are endless ways you can use the Sim Daltonism app. You can use this in Photoshop, a website, your email, editing a video, or your photo library. If there is something on your screen you want to test, the Sim Daltonism app can simulate how something appears for someone with color blindness.

How to use Sim Daltonism (on your Mac)

Overall, the app is fairly straightforward on how to use. I love how easy it is to switch between the 8 types with a simple click. The app also has shortcuts to make the switch between the different types of color deficiencies even faster.

Color-types: color blindness

The app allows you to change the refresh rate to slow, normal, and fast. I usually keep this setting on normal or fast. You can also easily change the size of the app window by dragging the corners.

refresh-rate: color blindness

Don’t like your screen view? You have the option to change the view area in the app. You can change it to the content that exists under the Sim Daltonism app or center it around your mouse pointer. I personally prefer content under the window, which is the default for the app.

view-area: color blindness

My only comment about the Sim Daltonism app is there is no way to minimize the screen to work on other things. You have to close out of the app completely or you can hide the app. But overall, this is a great tool for simulating the different types of color deficiencies. I would highly recommend Sim Daltonism.

Simulating Color Blindness in Photoshop

Did you know Photoshop has a built-in feature to preview your design for color blind users? Unfortunately, Photoshop only provides you with two of the most common types.

If you are already working in Photoshop, you can quickly check the two types of vision blindness by following these steps below.

With an image open go to View in your menu. Under Proof Setup, select the type of color blindness. You only have a choice of Protanopia or Deuteranopia.

If you want to return to your original color, go to View and then select Proof Colors.

You can also add a hotkey to these features. Go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts


Photoshop-color-change: color blindness


Does your company accommodate for those with a color vision deficiency? We’d love to hear about it! Let us know in our comments. 

Fun Facts about Color Blindness

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_tta_pageable][vc_tta_section title=”Section 1″ tab_id=”1472674400254-82fff841-a54a”][vc_column_text]The Facebook logo is blue because Mark Zuckerberg has red-green color blindness.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Section 2″ tab_id=”1472674400397-3fa32a55-3513″][vc_column_text]Dogs do see some color. Unlike humans who are trichromatic, dogs are dichromats (only possess two color receptors/cones). Researchers have found that dogs have similar vision to those with a type of red-green color blindness.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Section” tab_id=”1472674521801-96a15b0d-d6a9″][vc_column_text]People can be color blind in one eye and see full color in the other eye. It is called unilateral dichromacy.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Section” tab_id=”1472674543855-a14faf81-1415″][vc_column_text]If you served during WWII and were color blind, it was said to be beneficial. It helped them see through the camouflage the enemy was wearing.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Section” tab_id=”1472674560477-aeb968cc-506a”][vc_column_text]Some countries won’t allow you to obtain a driver’s license if you have color blindness.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Section” tab_id=”1472674577915-b16fdb64-a263″][vc_column_text]Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers) had a red-green color blindness (deuteranopia). Therefore, he was never able to see his famous red sweater![/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Section” tab_id=”1472674593949-5e272c7d-158b”][vc_column_text]Claude Monet suffered from cataracts and eventually became color blind to the point where he could no longer distinguish colors.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_pageable][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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