Simple Science Experiment: How Our Eyes Perceive Color - MetroFamily Magazine
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Simple Science Experiment: How Our Eyes Perceive Color

by Steve Davala

Reading Time: 2 minutes 

There’s nothing like the beautiful colors of summer to make us really appreciate our vision. This month’s simple science experiment is a cool way to show how your eye works in its perception of colors!


  • A drawing of an object (a star, a heart, etc) that has a yellow border, a green interior, and a black dot in the center.
  • You will also need blank white sheets of paper and markers/paint to make your own illusions.


  • Using the photo of the yellow and green star, stare at the image and focus on the black dot in its center for at least 20 seconds without blinking.
  • Immediately look over at the blank side of the image and focus on the black dot there.
  • Describe what you see.
  • Look at the border and the interior of the image and describe their colors. Why do you think this happened?
  • What colors does the human brain group together?


When you look at the blank side of the paper after staring at the image, you notice different colors. The border is now blue and the interior is now red. So bizarre!

The human eye is really an amazing organ. We have depth perception, we can focus on things close or far away, and we can tell colors apart. There is a part of your eye called the retina that absorbs the light. Other segments of the eye decode colors. These “cones” can decode only certain colors, and red and green are paired, as are yellow and blue and black and white. When you stare at an image like this for a while, you temporarily make an impression that stays on your retina. However, when you stare at a certain color tends to bleach out the color pair in your cones and triggers the other color.

Experiment further:

Can you make drawings with the colors to produce other effects? Other shapes? Reverse the colors? Put red and green on the same drawing?

Try it out and let me know what you find out on my web page, Post any images there you make if you want!

I hope you enjoyed this simple experiment and learned a little bit about growing things. If you have more questions about this, or need tips about science fair ideas around this topic (or others), contact the author.

Steve Davala is a middle school science teacher who likes to write. He’s got two kids of his own and subjects them to these science activities as guinea pigs. 

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