Color terminology and identification

Peter Werner pgwerner at SFSU.EDU
Mon Aug 2 23:24:16 CDT 2004

I am working on a fungal taxonomy project and color description is a
very important of the macromorphological phase of my collection
descriptions. I have some questions about how best to carry this out
and would value feedback from other taxonomists who use color
identification as part of their morphological work.

Basically, the technique I've been shown is simply to match the color
of the mushroom part I'm looking at with the closest match I can find
in the Methuen Handbook of Color (and sometimes the Ridgeway Color
Standards as well) and to note the number of the shade that's the best
match. This often seems very subjective and also sometimes its not
possible to find a Methuen color that's a match to the natural color
I'm trying to find. In other cases, several Methuen shades are so close
that picking the one exact shade that best matches is nearly
impossible. Is there a more formal method of color matching than this?

Also, I have some question as to how accurate the Methuen colors are.
Often the colors in Methuen don't quite match the color of the objects
that they are supposed to describe - for example, the color described
in Methuen as "apricot" seems to have more brown in it than an actual
apricot skin would have. I know that printed inks can shift color over
time and these sort of mismatches between the illustrated color and the
described color name makes me wonder if this hasn't happened to the
copies of Methuen in our lab.

Finally, I have some question on the proper lighting for color ID. The
ideal light, of course, would be full natural light, however, due to
construction around the university, our lab has been consigned for
several years to a windowless basement illuminated by large hanging
fluorescent lights (and not the full-spectrum kind). I have a lamp on
my desk that takes incandescent bulbs and recently put a 100W neodymium
bulb in it. The difference is noticeable - yellows are not nearly as
prominent and reds become very strong when I shift an object from
overhead fluorescent to neodymium bulb illumination.

This seems to have solved my lighting problem, however, I've recently
read that neodymium incandescents don't provide a true full-spectrum
light and that only a special type of fluorescent bulb can provide
light of this quality. This would require purchase of a special lamp
that can take these kind of bulbs. Does anybody here know whether
there's a noticeable difference in color quality between a
full-spectrum fluorescent and a neodymium incandescent light?

Thanks in advance for any feedback you can provide -
Peter Werner
Graduate Student, Mycology
San Francisco State University

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