Hyperbolic Orange and the River to Hell

Posted by on Mar 1, 2014 in Thoughts | 8 Comments

The River Styx. A river whose blue is as dark as black… The tumultuous stygian blue currents claw at the underbelly of Phlegyas’ vessel. Writhing with distorted faces of the sullen, its inky blackness belongs only in nightmares. A blue that has no place in the natural world.

Imagining a colour that isn’t in reality is a hard task. There are more colours out there. Way more colours than the human eye can perceive. It is possible however to see colours that aren’t in reality. Impossible colours… Forbidden colours. Colours that belong in the shadows of the underworld. Or exist only as a product of the imagination.



  1. unreal; imaginary; visionary: a chimerical terrestrial paradise.
  2. wildly fanciful; highly unrealistic: a chimerical plan.

Chimerical colours don’t appear within the colour space of human vision. As the name suggests they are a construct of the mind. They can be created by inducing a natural process of the eye called colour fatigue. If you stare at a colour for a long time your eye will temporarily displace the colourspace by the opposing colour. So if you stare at yellow, then black, for a short time you will perceive that black to contain blue. The colour you are seeing is out of the range of visible colours. It is a pitch black blue; thus it is deemed an impossible colour. Below are a number of examples of chimerical colours to feast your eyes upon. Continue to stare (without shifting your eyes) at one of the many crosses as the image changes. When the image changes, the impossible colours should be revealed. Some people will see the colours more easily than others but if you persist, you may get a glimpse of the river to Hell.

Hyperbolic Orange, Luminous Red, Stygian Blue



  1. having the nature of hyperbole; exaggerated.
  2. using hyperbole; exaggerating.

Hyperbolic colours have a level of saturation that is beyond our visible spectrum.



  1. radiating or reflecting light; shining; bright.
  2. lighted up or illuminated; well-lighted: the luminous ballroom.

Luminous colours appear to glow even if viewed on paper



  1. of or pertaining to the river Styx or to Hades.
  2. dark or gloomy.
  3. infernal; hellish.

Stygian colours appear as black with saturation.

Sullen were we in the air made sweet by the Sun;
in the glory of his shining our hearts poured
a bitter smoke. Sullen were we begun;
sullen we lie forever in this ditch.’
This litany they gargle in their throats
as if they sand, but lacked the words and pitch.”
― Dante Alighieri, Inferno

I’m thinking of using impossible colours for one specific section of Vessel. I like the idea of producing an explosion of colours which includes those beyond the visible spectrum. This kind of sums up the moment of falling in love for me.


  1. Chimerical colours | Listening to Silence
    July 8, 2014

    […] Hyperbolic Orange and the River to Hell […]

  2. emanuel
    July 9, 2014

    That’s fascinating, as an exphotographer I’m kind of obsessed with light.
    thanks for that, learnt something new.
    last comment on love is lovely, poetic and true:
    something beyond our understanding, or view.

  3. emanuel
    July 9, 2014

    That’s fascinating, as an exphotographer I’m kind of obsessed with light.
    thanks for that, learnt something new.
    last comment on love is lovely, poetic and true:
    something beyond our understanding, or view.

  4. Daren Scot Wilson
    October 24, 2014

    Near where I lived a few months ago, in southern California, a neighbor has a big swath of intense magenta flowers. When those flowers are all open, at the right time of day and right time of year, it’s 100% vivid-as-possible magenta. When walking by, I stop, stare into that wide field of super-pink-purple for a couple minutes, then look around. All the trees, grass, and anything else green, even dull green things, appear vividly green, super-hyper-green, beyond what the laws of physics should allow!

    Eyes are great toys, aren’t they?

  5. 5 Hechos soprendentes sobre los colores (que probablemente desconocías)
    November 21, 2014

    […] que existe entre el verde y el rojo (Navidad, tal vez?). También existe la familia de los llamados colores-quiméricos, los cuales, aprovechan la tendencia que tienen nuestros ojos de crear imágenes residuales para […]

  6. trlkly
    December 23, 2014

    All the GIFs are way, way too fast to give an accurate perception of the phenomena. Usually you are recommended to look at one color for 30 seconds before switching.

  7. Aaron
    January 28, 2015

    Hi trlkly,

    The brightness of the device you are using to view the images will make a huge difference to the effectiveness, and also the effect will vary from person to person. The intensity of the effect increases with longer viewing durations and I have created a 30 second version of the chimerical image here: http://www.luniere.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/chimerical_30s.gif It takes a while, but it should do the trick nicely ;)

  8. Christina
    April 17, 2015

    I don’t really understand how these colors are impossible if i can clearly see them? The stigyan blue? It’s just dark blue. I can create that color with paint. The luminous red is just very bright pink. I don’t understand what is so amazing or mysterious. They are not impossible or forbidden colors if I can clearly see, describe, and even create them. I guess I could use a little better explanation of what makes these colors exceptional?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: