The Munker Illusion destroys your faith in color

Illustration for article titled The Munker Illusion destroys your faith in color

It's no secret that putting various colors together makes them look different. Put off-white next to black, and it looks completely bright. But did you know that, with the Munker Illusion, you can make something change color completely, right in front of your eyes?

Top image: April Griffus/Flickr.

The Munker Illusion is one of those illusions that works, even when you know the trick. Your brain knows that it's making a mistake, but that doesn't matter. You still see something that you know can't be right.


It's a chromatic illusion, which means it relies on your brain's way of seeing color. As illusions go, it's one of the simplest ones out there. It has three elements: a background color, a colored shape, and bars that go over the entire picture in a third color. Generally the bars and the background will be at opposite ends of the spectrum — either very light or very dark. The shape will be the same color. All that will vary is in one picture, the background will be bright, and the bars will be dark, while in another, the background will be dark and the bars bright. The shape's color won't actually change, but it will appear entirely different.

Illustration for article titled The Munker Illusion destroys your faith in color

Sounds simple, right? Who could be fooled by such a simple trick? Well, take a look. Squares of the same color are either on a yellow background and covered with blue bars or on a blue background covered by yellow bars. They look like completely different shades. Looking at a small image, or backing away from the computer screen, enhances the illusion. Red looks orange in one case and purple in another. The same trick works with green, making it look like a kind of fluorescent yellow in one picture and a somber green in another. Just layering colors in the right way tricks the eye into not recognizing an identical object, even when both objects are in plain view. Makes me want to see if there are any wardrobe choices I could make that would make me look blue.

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Is this one, which is one of my favorite optical illusions, the same effect?

A and B are the same color.