Chromatic Aberration

What’s over there, lurking in bright daylight? Behold! It is the chromatic aberration…

I was getting myself new glasses, when I was advised to take the thinner type of glasses. I asked about the consequences: Because of a greater breaking index, there would be a greater chromatic aberration. I looked a bit on the internet on this topic, but do you have experience with this and does it interfere with painting?

Woa. Crazy. Did they have a pair you could try on in the store? Could you notice a difference?

I wonder if it is at all like inverted-vision glasses, where your brain compensates after a short time? I suppose not, because how would you know what colors to paint edges…

Maybe two pairs of glasses? One for every day and one for painting?


All lenses produce it to some degree - it’s a major issue in telescope design for instance - and the atmosphere can do it as well. I’d be surprised if it became a real problem for you, since the brain can compensate for an awful lot of incorrect input. My current prescription produces some awful geometric distortions, but after a few days I simply stopped noticing.

It’s definitely an issue to be wary of when painting from photographs.


The Lens produces it. It’s the differences in wavelengths of light landing on a surface at slightly different points, or depths. This difference is in nanometers, or 10X-9 meters. Our lenses can only focus one wavelength on our retina at a given time, but we don’t notice it because our lenses accommodate as we change our gaze. From what I have learned, it’s really only an issue in thin lenses rather than perception. I have seen this property of light first hand using flourescent microscopes, focusing on one given “x” plane for a blue flourephore will cause green flourephores to be slightly out of focus at this depth.


Believe it or not Bert I have actually used chromatic abberation/distorion before (I believe advantageously) in my paintings. I will sometimes take notice of it in some photographic reference and I will run with it as I think it adds an interesting variation to edgework in some contexts. Here is one example from a painting titled “Curious Connections”—look along the edges of the chess piece.


Ted Seth Jacobs writes a lot about what he calls “field effects”. I’ve always assumed it’s a complicated phenomenon involving a lot of elements, but it seems like chromatic aberration is a part of it.