Lessons from The Dress Debate: Choosing the Optimal Colors Settings

As you may know, last week the Internet went completely crazy over a simple dress. There was nothing special about the dress. It was not a designer dress, it was not worn by a celebrity and it did not produce a spectacular wardrobe malfunction.

There was one simple issue related to it: some people claimed it was white and gold, others that it was blue and black. Bets were made, couples had fights and old friends got into endless arguments on Facebook and Twitter. In short, nothing has been as viral as this dress photo in a long time (and we’ve seen a lot of silly things going viral).

The Secret Is Revealed

In the end, it turns out that there were three versions of the same photo running around the internet. The regular one, taken by the first person who posted it, an underexposed version (which shows the colors as white and gold) and an overexposed one (blue and black).


This opens our main theme for this blog post: choosing color settings carefully. Under various manipulations, such as color saturation, contrast and lighting/opacity, colors change. Blue may look gray or light hazel. Black can look like burnished bronze. And your whole design concept looks completely different from what you meant it to look like.

RGB vs. CMYK and Other Considerations

There are a few basic details you have to keep in mind from the very beginning of your work on a new project. The most important of them is how the end product will be used: in print or in digital version.

There are various color palettes for each type of design (RGB and CMYK), but there are also various issues to consider: will the client decide to use the same design both for web and print? Will they ask you to make the whole design lighter or darker? How will the colors look in various browsers, on various screens?

Using Clean Colors

Most of the problems arise when you are going for subtleties, such as half-tones, pastel colors and such. These colors have the knack to look different after applying even basic image editing filters. This is why you should use clean, basic colors as much as possible. They will look the same (or almost the same) even if you or the client toy around with the final edit.

Of course, if you aim for 15 minutes of internet fame, you can forget about our advice and go for colors which may look different to various people….


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Ionut B
Digital Art Director with an innovative creative thinking able to translate ideas and concepts into useful and memorable interactive marketing campaigns.

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