The White And Gold Dress


So, this image has been floating around all day, with the question of “Is this dress white and gold or blue and black?”.  It’s really not clear though, what we are asking here.  There’s really two issues – the color of the pixels in the image, and the actual color of the dress in real life.

First though, some information.  When you take a photo on something like a camera phone, the camera brain has to guess at the lighting in the area so that it can show whites as white and blacks as black.  When you shoot in ‘cooler light’ like office lights, the camera has to know the color ‘temperature’ of the lights is cool, so it can adjust, otherwise whites will look blue.  If you shoot in really ‘warm’ light, like sunlight, whites will turn out orange if the camera doesn’t adjust.  It’s like putting blue or orange plastic in front of a light – the camera can fix it to make colors correct, but it has to make a best guess.

That said, are there blue pixels in the representation of the dress in the image?  Sure.  This is easily shown in Photoshop.
Does that mean the actual dress fabric is blue?  Nope.  When the image was shot, the camera thought the light was ‘warmer’ than it actually was.  So it ‘cooled’ it down a bit, shifting the colors slightly blue.  In this picture (which almost looks like a crop from a larger image), the camera was probably fooled by the bright sunny areas around the person. Now, if you know a little about photography, you’ll realize the issue and your brain will look for clues to figure out what the real colors are supposed to be.

So, a color corrected version of the image fixes the white balance and shows the whites as white and the golds as gold.  We just had to give Photoshop an example of a pixel that was supposed to be white, and it fixes it.  Other things to keep in mind is that the angle of your screen or phone can show false colors if you aren’t looking straight on.  Squinting can do that as well – the haze of your squint darkens the image, making the very light blue a darker blue. Also, your eyes can play tricks, like if you look at something for too long, eventually you’ll see the inverse. Optical illusions.

Here is a color corrected version of the image, using the “white” area as a base for correction.


Is it possible that this is the blue and black dress shown in various threads?  The original image would have to have been so badly captured – overexposed, poor white balance, etc., that one would not be able to tell without knowing the actual product existed.  I am not able to correct this image in any way to make it match the blue and black in the sample below without losing all the detail integrity.  If I force the “whites” to be blue, the darker tones are so lost that anything black is just a big blob.  However, as you can see, the dress is offered in ivory/black and blue/black.  I am more willing to accept that the black lace is reflecting something gold-ish, and that this is the ivory/black model, then it is the blue/black model.


Your thoughts?

20 thoughts on The White And Gold Dress

  1. If you actually think the dress is white and gold I shudder to think of what a terrible photographer you are. If it were really white and gold you should have little problem using a photo editor to correct the image and make it white and gold. It is quite easy to correct the obvious over exposure and make the dress look blue and black.

    • Sorry – Correcting the color is as easy as adding a curves layer and clicking on the “blue” area with the eyedropper to set the white point. I’ve tried many things, and none of them corrects it to black and blue, including trying to eyedropper the “gold” areas. Doesn’t at all look like anything real world. If you’ve got a workflow that does, feel free to post it.

    • you clearly have no idea who you are talking to, to make such an insulting comment. It’s easy enough in PS to make the dress suit either result and “prove” yourself right.

  2. The dress has been confirmed to be, in fact, blue and black. And if you adjust looking at the background, you have to accomplish by for the fact that the image is way over-exposed. Just wait and read more articles. Today is the day you will learn to not be so certain of yourself.

    • Sure, I’ve seen the link to the blue and black dress. How has it been “confirmed” – is there a link? The original image has been captured in such a way that it is impossible to make it look like that, without destroying the integrity of the detail, imo. So, perhaps it was terribly overexposed and incorrectly white balanced. Not knowing it was (if it actually was) that black and blue dress, your brain, and Photoshop, tell you it is white and gold.

  3. You have misread the light source and adjusted improperly. Forget detail integrity – it’s a phone camera. Look at the tell-tale honey tint throughout the picture which says ‘tungsten light’. This predates digital sensors. Knowing that, you could have corrected the white balance with a cooling filter, thereby negating the faulty yellow tint. Try that and you’ll see the actual dress color, slightly overexposed. Fix the levels (mostly black point) you’ll see the blue/black dress as it really is. There are other ways to make the same fixes. Google ‘correcting indoor photos’.

  4. Also note that the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor all-but-eliminated useful background data. It just couldn’t handle the exposure. That contributes to the yellowed distortion toward the outer edges of the blown out highlights. Useful stuff to know.

  5. Hi Sean,

    I was as confused as you are. With a more or less trained photographer eye I immediately said: it is white and gold, automatically correcting for the blue tint in the whites as if there was some daylight falling through a shop window onto the dress. I also tried around in Photoshop correcting it towards a possible black and blue dress but I also have to say, it did not look plausible at all. That does not mean it is not black and blue…but I would be really surprised. I do not know of final proof that the dress photographed is actually the black and blue one. I was also more thinking towards the ivory black version here…who knows.
    I could imagine, though, that the camera fucked up the image so badly with additional color tints over exposure and so on, that the whole scene looks completely different. Weird stuff

  6. Yep, started on Tumblr by the person who owns it. The dress is blue and black. I saw white and gold at first too. But now I see blue and black, really weird. There is some stupid guy on Twitter, called Bradtheladlong, claiming it was his experiment, and thanking everyone for taking part. He even has celebrities tweeting to him, and he claims the actual dress is white and gold. What a complete jerk he is.

  7. underexpose 2stops and set your WB on the gold/black sections.

    At first I saw only white/gold. Now I see the blue/black. Nothing in the world is real to me anymore.

  8. Hi,

    A few researchers at the Department of Psychology at Helsinki University actually studied the image and the psychology behind it, especially why some people see it as blue and black and others as white and gold. Their explanation is that the difference is not caused by the quality of the image or the camera the image was taken with, but the way our eyes interpret the lighting cues in the image. Their explanation is that there is a strong yellow light in the image, and the difference in interpretation comes from what the viewer’s brain assumes the lighting to be (and this is something the viewer has no control over).

    1) If the viewer’s brain assumes the image was shot in daylight, the brain does not try to correct the colors and the viewer sees white and gold.

    2) If the viewer’s brain assumes that the lighting is strong yellow light, the brain corrects the colors and the viewer sees blue and black dress.

    Here’s a link to the article where they explain it. Unfortunately is in Finnish, but the points above pretty much summarize the main points:

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