11 junio, 2024

Color or Oswald’s star: what it is, color concept, uses

What is the colored star, or Oswald’s?

The colored starOswald’s star or color wheel, is a representation of color based on a theory of colorimetry devised by the Latvian-born German scientist and philosopher Wilhem Ostwald (1853-1932).

Today, despite the fact that there are new models, such as RGB or a new chromatic circle made up of twelve colors, Oswald’s star is still used in some sectors, such as hair dye.

Wilhelm Ostwald was a scientist who stood out for his work in philosophy. It was his works in the field of chemistry that won him the Nobel Prize in 1909. He also developed a novel theory of color and even founded a laboratory to study it in 1920.

The color

First of all, it is convenient to define the object of study on which the star is based: the color. In its physical aspect, color is basically the way in which the human eye perceives light as it reflects off objects.

From a chemical point of view, these are formulas for making objects reflect different color tones.

Although some color wheels had been used previously, it was Isaac Newton (1643-1727) who was the first to develop a scientific theory of color.

He divided the visible spectrum into seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Years later, Johann von Goethe (1749-1832) wrote another color theory whereby he created a symmetrical circle that included Newton’s colors plus some other, such as magenta.

Ostwald’s theory

Ostwald began by studying color as a physical-chemical phenomenon. Subsequently, he developed a complete theory on the subject, with variations on previous models.

His star includes the four colors he considers primary: yellow, red, blue, and green. He also introduces others that he considers secondary, such as orange or purple, created from the following combinations:

Yellow + Red = Orange
blue + red = purple

Finally, he pays particular attention to two achromatic sensations with variants, which he calls semicromos.

When these semi-micromes are mixed, they create new ranges with a higher wavelength. On the other hand, the colors placed one in front of the other in the star are neutralized if they happen to mix.

Ostwald divided colors into those considered warm (such as red) and cool (such as blue). By this he was not only referring to the wavelength of the light that causes them, but also to the psychological implications they have on the observer.

Use of Oswald’s star

Oswald’s star is still in use today. He is given great importance in the dye industry and in hairdressing. In this field it is considered as one of the most important tools to achieve the desired color and tone.

Through Oswald’s star, special care is given to the mixtures between the different tones, both to generate new ones or to neutralize them, if necessary.


2D Design. Color Wheels • Color Systems. Retrieved from uwgb.edu.
Ostwald System. Retrieved from facweb.cs.depaul.edu.

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