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Video Evening on Goethe’s Theory of Colours

  • 23 Aug 2023
  • 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM
  • Fisher House, 117 Kerwyn Avenue, East Tāmaki

Registration is closed

Take a couple of hours at the end of the day to connect with others in the industry to  develop new relationships and hopefully learn something new. These evenings provide you with a unique opportunity to network with your peers in a comfortable and informal setting. 

Presenter:  Peter Walters, Fellow of the Technology of Surface Coatings, Surface Coatings Consultant and Honorary Life Member

Topic:  Video Evening on Goethe’s Theory of Colours

We are all familiar with Newton’s famous prism experiment, the results of which he published in his 1704 Treatise “Opticks”, in which he demonstrated that colourless or white light could be split into the component colours of the rainbow.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German Polymath, studied colour a century after Newton and concluded that Newton’s explanation of colour was too simplistic. Newton used a prism to split a light beam in a dark room and created the familiar Newton Spectrum.  Goethe used a prism to split a dark beam in a light room and obtained a spectrum of the complementary colours to those in The Newton Spectrum. This spectrum is now known as The Goethe Spectrum.


Newton Spectrum                              Goethe Spectrum

The Newton Spectrum is the additive colour spectrum. The three primary colours, Red Green and Blue, combine to form White. The Goethe Spectrum is the subtractive colour spectrum. The three primary colours, Magenta Cyan and Yellow, combine to form Black.


Additive Colour                                    Subtractive Colour

While the theory of Newton and his successors was based on excluding the colour-seeing faculty of the eye, Goethe founded his theory on the eye's experience of colour.

Goethe pictures to himself that light and darkness relate to each other like the north and south pole of a magnet. The darkness can weaken the light in its working power. Conversely, the light can limit the energy of the darkness. In both cases colour arises.

White that becomes darkened or dimmed inclines to yellow; black, as it becomes lighter, inclines to blue. In other words: Yellow is a light which has been dampened by darkness; Blue is a darkness weakened by light.

One of the most challenging roles in our profession involves colour and colour matching. In screening the two Documentaries “Light Darkness and Colours - Goethe Theory of Colours” and “Goethe's Purple Ray - alias Monochromatic Rays of Shadow” I aim to provide an understanding of our perception of colour to aid us in meeting our customer’s demand for colour.

Peter Walters Bio:

Peter has been a member of OCCA/SCANZ since 1976 and involved in the Surface Coatings Industry since 1971. He was appointed to his first technical role in 1974.

Peter has been an active member of OCCA/SCANZ attending most of the SCANZ Conventions held from 1978 and a number of SCAA Conferences, particularly the joint SCAA/SCANZ Conferences.

Peter is a life member of SCANZ and now retired from full-time employment. He continues to take an active role in our association by serving on our Committee, writing our regular Painted Memories Section of our bimonthly Brushstrokes magazine and with presentations such as this one.

He also continues to support our Industry by providing consultation services.


Surface Coatings Association New Zealand

The professional body of individuals involved in the surface coatings industry


+64 (9) 910-0142


P O Box 20145
Glen Eden, Auckland 0641
New Zealand

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