How can any color reflect the color of light shone upon it? I tested this by shining different colors of light on different objects, and instead of becoming black, it reflected a hazier form of that color. This was true even for black surfaces. For example, when i shine a green light on a black surface, if the surrounding light, for example, the light outside or in the room other than the light being shone is dark enough, the black surface becomes a little green.

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    – DanielSank
    Dec 29, 2014 at 2:53

1 Answer 1


What light is reflected from an object is a natural property of that object. When we say "this is green", we generally mean "this object looks green in white light". That means it reflects predominately green light - if we shone green light on it, it would not look very different than if we shone white light on it.

However, all objects reflect all light - but if there is much more of one color, it will look primarily that color. For instance, if I have an object which reflects green (80%) and blue (20%), in white light it will look green (perhaps blue-green, depending on the parameters of the object and your eye). However, if I shine blue light on it, it will look blue because there are no other colors which can be reflected! Just because we see a single color doesn't mean the object reflects only that color.

  • $\begingroup$ How can black be simultaneously reflecting all colors and absorbing most colors in order to reflect green? Does that mean that it was truly a dark grey? It looks very black. $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2014 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ There are many possible reasons, but basically, real surfaces are complicated. For instance, I'm looking at a black cooking pot right now - it's mostly very black, but some places are silvery-white, because if the light strikes them just right, they reflect differently. Or perhaps your surface is not perfectly absorptive, so you shine green light on it and only 10% get reflected back - but that is enough to give it a little green color. $\endgroup$
    – levitopher
    Dec 30, 2014 at 2:44

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