• Background
  • Instructions
  • Illustration
  • Quiz


Color has a very odd characteristic that is suggested by the color circle. Colors can be mixed. That may not seem odd, but that is because you have been doing it for so long—probably first during preschool art sessions. Usually, children in kindergarten have a pretty good intuitive sense about how to mix paints. But it is a relatively unique feature of color within the domain of visual perception, and the science is quite complex. To understand this statement, consider the following questions: Can you try to mix forms or motions? Can you mix size and depth? Most of our sensations and perceptions do not mix in the ways that colors do. Newton’s classic experiments with the prisms illustrate the profundity of the idea that colors mix.

Use this activity to explore Newtons prism experiments. As you explore this experiment, notice how his results depended upon the operation of our visual system; thus, this classic experiment in physics is also deeply psychological.


Full Screen Mode

To see the illustration in full screen, which is recommended, press the Full Screen button, which appears at the top of the page.

Illustration Tab


Below is a list of the ways that you can alter the illustration. The settings include the following:

Left Prism: move the prism on the left so that it is either in the way of the light beam or not.
Right Prism: move the prism on the right so that it is either in the way of the light beam or not.
Experiment Screen: you can also move the prisms by clicking, touching, or dragging them right where the prisms are drawn.


Pressing this button restores the settings to their default values.