In a career as an Architectural Color Consultant, you will have opportunities to take a Color Visual Acuity Test.  You can take these color tests online or in person.  The test is instrumental in determining how well you, the viewer, can differentiate a lineup of colors changing in degrees of saturation, value, and hue.  In other words, it tests your ability to detect differences between wavelengths (colors) of light.

You need to be aware, however, that there are significant differences between the online and real world color tests.

When you take the Color Visual Acuity Test online, you are seeing colors from a computer monitor.  Colors seen from a monitor screen are seen as a result of direct light.  That is, light from your computer monitor shines directly into your eyes. This is different from colors in the real world, which we see as a result of reflected light.

So what affects the ways you see color on a monitor?  First, the condition of and settings on your monitor.  A monitor that is older, not functioning properly, or that has not been color-calibrated well can skew the colors you see.  The tilt of your laptop’s screen will also affect how, and how much, color is seen.  Even the level of your computer’s ‘brightness’ level can certainly affect how a color is seen.  And remember, no matter how colors look onscreen, the colors that matter to your clients are the ones in their offices and living rooms.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently had a chance to take the Farnsworth-Munsell Color Test in person while visiting Color and Design Strategist, Kristin Summer, at the California Paints headquarters in Andover, MA.  I make a point of taking this “real world” visual acuity test with some regularity precisely for the reason noted above — the colors that matter are those in my clients’ homes and businesses.

The Farnsworth-Munsell Color Test assesses color the way we see it — as a result of reflected light.  Light strikes an object and wavelengths that are not absorbed are reflected into your eye.  Which means color is the by-product of the spectrum of light as it is reflected or absorbed, and as received by the human eye and processed by the brain.  So if you take this Color Acuity Test in the real world, keep in mind these factors that can affect your vision at the time:

• The weather — is it overcast or sunny? Overcast skies change the light reflecting colors, so they actually change the colors you will see.

• The reflective colors of walls adjoining the room where you take the test.

• Your placement when taking the test.  Are you near a south-facing window or a north-facing window? It matters.

• The type of artificial light in the room:  Is it workstation light? Florescent light?

• The color of windows.  Clear windows let in more natural light. UV-coated windows are, almost by definition, colored windows.

However, whether you take the test in person or online, you also need to keep in mind three additional factors that can affect results of either Color Acuity Test:

• Your age. Younger eyes are physically more flexible and able to absorb light better.

• Your mood.  If you’re in a bad mood, you tend to squint — everyone does —which then limits the amount of light your eye receives.

• Brain interpretation, or how well your brain can translate the colors your eyes see. This may be your natural state, or can change if you are overly tired, ill, hungover, unnaturally excited, or otherwise impaired.

So, if you want to have an idea of how well — and how — you see color, it’s a good idea to take both online and real world tests on a regular basis, thereby developing your built-in abilities to discern color consistently and under a variety of situations.

Understanding these differences should also reinforce for you the reasons why a person should never pick a color of paint while standing in a home improvement store, and why it’s essential to track how the color of a room you are about to paint changes at different times of day before money is spent on new paint.