Afterimages

Afterimages are experienced when a prolonged or intense visual stimulus ceases. Because afterimages result from fatigue in portions of the retina, the visual afterimage seems to move with the eye, unlike external objects that normally appear stationary despite eye movements.

When one looks at a gray or white surface, the resulting negative afterimage that is seen is close to the complementary color of the original stimulus. After blue, a gray patch looks yellow; after green, it looks red. Positive afterimages (of the same color as the original stimulus) are briefly seen, especially after short exposures or in a dark postexposure field.

Afterimages mix to affect appearances of colored postexposure fields, enhancing the color saturation of the fields when the afterimage and the postexposure field are of the same color.

  • The afterimage always has colors that are complementary to those of the original image.
  • Look steadily at the cross in the center of the picture to see an afterimage.
  • If this is your first afterimage, relax and have fun!
  • Art is fun isn’t it? Professionals get to do this all the time….

One of the most common afterimages is the bright glow that seems to float before one’s eyes after staring at a light bulb or a headlight for a few seconds. The phenomenon of afterimages may be closely related to persistence of vision, which allows a rapid series of pictures to portray motion, which of course is the basis of animation and cinema.

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