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Journal of the Optical Society of America A

Journal of the Optical Society of America A


  • Vol. 25, Iss. 12 — Dec. 1, 2008
  • pp: 2918–2924

The number of discernible colors in natural scenes

João ManuelMaciel Linhares, Paulo Daniel Pinto, and Sérgio MiguelCardoso Nascimento  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA A, Vol. 25, Issue 12, pp. 2918-2924 (2008)

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The number of colors discernible by normal trichromats has been estimated for the idealized object-color solid. How well these estimates apply to natural scenes is an open question, as it is unknown how much their colors approach the theoretical limits. The aim of this work was to estimate the number of discernible colors based on a database of hyperspectral images of 50 natural scenes. The color volume of each scene was computed in the CIELAB color space and was analyzed using the CIEDE2000 color-difference formula. It was found that the color volume of the set of natural scenes was about 30% of the theoretical maximum for the full object-color solid, and it corresponded to a number of about 2.3 million discernible colors. Moreover, when the lightness dimension was ignored, only about 26,000 (1%) could be perceived as different colors. These results suggest that natural stimuli may be more constrained than expected from the analysis of the theoretical limits.

© 2008 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(330.1690) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color
(330.1720) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color vision
(330.6180) Vision, color, and visual optics : Spectral discrimination

ToC Category:
Vision, Color, and Visual Optics

Original Manuscript: December 21, 2007
Revised Manuscript: September 10, 2008
Manuscript Accepted: September 21, 2008
Published: November 4, 2008

Virtual Issues
Vol. 4, Iss. 2 Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics

João Manuel Maciel Linhares, Paulo Daniel Pinto, and Sérgio Miguel Cardoso Nascimento, "The number of discernible colors in natural scenes," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 25, 2918-2924 (2008)

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