It’s the new black.

Color is not just a flat surface anymore: new technologies and pigments allow designers to look at it in three dimensions. Iridescence—and similar effects such as metallics, pearlescence, and colors that change according to light—are finding their way into new products.

For example, the color-shifting pigment ChromaFlair was initially used as an anti-counterfeiting measure on the new twenty-dollar bills issued in 1996. (The inks of the numeral on the lower right corner of the bills’ face appear to change from black to green and back again.) Since then similar sophisticated iridescent pigments have shown up in everything from makeup to cell-phone covers to automobiles.

SpectraFlair—the newest generation of light-interference pigments—splits light into many different colors and creates a dramatic iridescent effect, according to Sommers Plastics vice president Fred Schecter. “This occurs when light hits an ultrathin multilayer interference flake that is opaque and reflects the light back to the eye just like a mirror.” Light is refracted differently by the different layers of the flake, which creates the shift in color. “Just imagine multiple bright rainbows moving over a surface.”

With Carnegie’s translucent textile Vision in the Xorel line and the 12 technocolors that have been added to its classic Strie palette, these effects occur naturally. Xorel is made of polyethylene and is environmentally sound, containing no nasty chemicals like PVC and chlorine, and no harmful dyes. “Its iridescence is an inherent property of the extrusion process, and its beauty as a woven product comes from the fiber’s technical look. Its sparkle is dependent on the way it is lit, but it often brings walls or furniture to life,” explains Cliff Goldman, president of Carnegie.

The products shown here are just some of the applications designers have found for this important trend. Expect dynamic color to become a pervasive part of your environment.

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