What you can see: Colour spinning tops are both a popular children’s toy and an aid for teaching elements of colour theory, more precisely additive colour mixing. If the spinning tops reach a sufficiently high rotation speed, the colour segments of the disc (left) merge to form mixed colours (right) that are not visible when at rest.
- In 1810, Goethe (1749-1832) described a flywheel with colored discs, on which the apparent mixture is produced through speed („auf welchem die scheinbare Mischung durch Schnelligkeit hervorgebracht wird“).
- In 1854, the physicist James Clark Maxwell (1831-1879) presented a colour spinning top with which he was able to produce a neutral grey from the colour sectors vermilion, ultramarine blue and emerald green.
- The Austrian writer Robert Musil (1880-1942) was also an engineer and developed the Musil color spinning top. This was a machine in which the proportion of two colored circle segments could be continuously adjusted and corresponding mixed colors were generated.
- Since 1923 – and until today – the Bauhaus Optical Colour Mixer has been distributed. It was designed by Hirschfeld-Mack (1893-1965) as a didactic toy.
- Manfred Adam and Gerhard Zeugner (1970) used comparison discs on spinning tops to calibrate colour cardboards (Bendin, 2016).
What can you do? There are 12 arrangements to choose from (1 ≤ no of disc ≤ 12), which are based on the templates mentioned above: Goethe (1 & 2), Maxwell (3), Bauhaus (4-7), Adam/Zeugner (8), and other colour combinations (9-12). You can switch back and forth between these arrangements using the up/down buttons.
The speed of rotation is adjusted with the tempo slider (-360 ≤ tempo ≤ 360). A fine adjustment of the rotation in steps of 0.25 can be made with the right/left buttons. Finally, the background colour can also be changed with the bg_color slider (0 ≤ bg_color ≤ 99). Try to create a still picture with the help of the tempo slider, then you can see the resulting mixed colors best.
A note on self-designed spinning tops: You can easily design your own colour combinations (saved as costumes) in Snap!’s Paint Editor.
Related topics: Duchamps Rotoreliefs, flicker colors
Bendin, E. (2016). Beiträge zur Farbenlehre: Historischer Exkurs Farbkeisel. Modul 4/1. Edition bendin: Dresden. Available as download.