MUNDANE MYSTERIES: What Color Is A Tennis Ball Really?

How each of us sees the world is, of course, subjective. But, some colors are meant to be constant. Oranges are forever orange. Fire engines are always red. Tennis balls are always yellow. Or…are they green? Which is it?

According to the International Tennis Federation, a tennis ball should be yellow in color, a mandate that came down in 1972 after TV viewers had trouble following the previously white balls’ movements across the court. Tennis ball manufacturers also officially identify their products as yellow.

So, why is it that some people perceive tennis balls to be green? Well, a yellow hue by itself can be hard for some people to distinguish. While yellow’s easy to identify when you contrast it with other colors (think paint swatches), it’s harder for people to visually decipher when there’s nothing to compare it with. Also, people tend to color correct based on lighting conditions. Warmer colors, like gold, or cooler colors, like blue, may be discounted by some folks upon their initial viewing. Which one of those ends of the color spectrum a person falls will ultimately affect how they perceive & interpret the overall spectrum. So, if you discount cooler colors, then the ball might appear to be yellow. If you discount warmer colors, you probably see it as green.

It’s also possible that people who are active in the evening time, under artificial light, discount warmer colors, while people active in the daytime, under natural lighting, discount cooler colors; those elements further shift our perceptions.

Objectively, though, a tennis ball is yellow. But, whether or not YOU think so, however, all depends on how you see the world in your own unique way.

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