When a prism breaks light apart, it shows the visible spectrum in which each color blends into the next. This spectrum is called ROY G BIV, an acronym for the rainbow’s colors:
The spectrum is derived from the color circle with the addition of the tertiary color indigo. Each color is unique in its frequency measurements and the values and meanings attributed to it by society.
Frequency and Exact Color Measurements of the Rainbow
Light travels in waves, and its frequency is the number of wavelengths that pass a given point each second. A shorter wavelength results in a higher frequency and vice versa. Humans can see light between about 400 and 700 nanometers (nm) — the visible spectrum. Because each color has a different wavelength and frequency, each color of light separates and becomes visible when passing through a prism.
The ROY G BIV wavelengths are as follows:
- Violet: 380 to 450 nm
- Blue: 450 to 495 nm
- Green: 495 to 570 nm
- Yellow: 570 to 590 nm
- Orange: 590 to 620 nm
- Red: 620 to 750 nm
What Does the Order of the Colors of the Rainbow Mean?
The rainbow’s color order is ROY G BIV. Red has the lowest frequency at the top of the arc, and violet has the highest frequency at the bottom of the arc. When light passes through a prism, it always refracts the different colors in the same order because each wavelength bends at a unique angle.
Though the order of the colors will always be the same, the way the spectrum is defined has changed over time. Since the wavelength for indigo is similar to blue and purple, it is generally omitted from the rainbow.
Meanings of the Colors of the Rainbow
Cultural and personal experiences give colors their meaning. Each color has different feelings and images associated with it.
Red is a passionate color associated with both violence and love. As the color of fire and blood, this hue is deeply connected to the human experience. It also has a physical effect — red increases metabolism, respiration rates and blood pressure. Red dye is made from cochineal insects.
Orange is a vibrant color associated with the autumn season, so the color symbolizes movement and change. It’s also the color of creativity. Orange was common in ancient art and is sacred in many cultures. The dye comes from natural resources like carrots and turmeric.
Yellow is a bright, energetic color connected to light and sunshine. The color evokes cheerful, happy moods, prompting celebration. It is one of the oldest colors in history, used for sun gods. Yellow dye is made from dandelions, celery and other natural sources.
Green is the color of the earth, symbolizing growth, renewal and abundance. This hue has blue’s calmness and yellow’s energy, resulting in a balanced, harmonious color. Green pigments used to be made with toxic chemicals, but safe alternatives are available today, including mint and grass.
Blue represents security, peace and calmness. It also exudes confidence, authority and responsibility. In the English language, the color has some connotations with sadness. Blue dye was once made from indigo, and synthetic indigo is its most common source today.
Purple was first made from snails in a time-consuming, expensive process, so it is associated with royalty and wealth. The color also symbolizes creativity and imagination. Today, purple dye comes from cochineal insects.
Contact HunterLab Today
For more than 65 years, HunterLab has been an innovator in color science, working to accurately measure colors using spectrophotometer technology. We help companies in all industries ensure that their product appearance is precise and consistent. For more information about our services, contact us today.
Mr. Philips has spent the last 30 years in product development and management, technical sales, marketing, and business development in several industries. Today, he is the global market development manager for HunterLab, focused on understanding customer needs, providing appropriate solutions and education, and helping to solve customer color challenges across these industries and cultures.