Iridescent Color: From Nature to the Painter’s Palette

The shifting rainbow hues of iridescence have, until recently, remained exclusive to nature. Now, the latest advances in nanotechnology enable the introduction of novel, bioinspired color-shifting flakes into painting—thereby affording artists potential access to the full spectacle of iridescence. Unfortunately, existing rules of easel painting do not apply to the new medium; but, as nature inspired the technology, an exploration of natural phenomena can best inform how to overcome this hurdle. Thus, by adopting a biomimetic approach, this paper outlines the optical principles underlying iridescence and provides technical ground rules for its incorporation into painting.

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