Visible Spectrum: Definition, Wavelengths & Colors Video

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What Is Salinity? - Definition & Effects

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Definition of the…
  • 1:20 Wavelengths of Visible Light
  • 2:55 Colors of Visible Light
  • 5:10 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Thomas Zesiger

Thomas has taught electronics and communications engineering, math, and physics and has a master's degree in electrical engineering.

Have you seen the visible spectrum today? You most likely have and may not be aware of it. This lesson tells you what the visible spectrum is, its wavelengths, and its colors.

Definition of the Visible Spectrum

You see the visible spectrum every day and probably don't even realize it. This is because we commonly refer to the visible spectrum as light, or visible light. Nearly all of us see some form of light every day.

Electromagnetic waves are grouped according to frequency. The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of frequencies over which electromagnetic radiation can be propagated. It includes all groups of electromagnetic waves. The lowest frequencies are associated with radio waves. Microwaves have a higher frequency, and then infrared waves, light, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays, and gamma rays in sequence. The visible spectrum is one group of electromagnetic waves in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Visible light is a very narrow band of frequencies of electromagnetic waves that are perceptible by the human eye. The eye contains specialized cells called rods and cones that are sensitive to the visible spectrum. As mentioned previously, most of us see visible light every day. For example, the sun produces visible light. Incandescent light bulbs, fluorescent, and neon lights are other examples of visible light that we may see on a regular basis. Visible light is probably the most important of all electromagnetic waves for most of us.

Wavelengths of Visible Light

As mentioned, electromagnetic waves are grouped according to frequency. The visible spectrum is a group of electromagnetic waves that occupy a specific frequency range in the overall electromagnetic spectrum. Frequency and wavelength are related and are inversely proportional. A higher frequency means a shorter wavelength, and a lower frequency means a longer wavelength.

When we talk about the frequency range of the visible spectrum, we usually talk about wavelength rather than frequency. This is because the frequencies of the visible spectrum are so large that it is more convenient to use wavelengths. The visible spectrum ranges from approximately 400 nanometers to 700 nanometers. A nanometer (nm) is 10^-9 meters, or one billionth of a meter, so visible light waves are extremely small.

These wavelengths correspond to frequencies in the range of 750 terahertz to 429 terahertz. A terahertz is a unit used to measure frequency, and it is 10^12 hertz. The bandwidth of the visible spectrum is relatively narrow. The longest wavelength we can see is less than twice the shortest. By comparison, the range of sound frequencies that we can hear is much larger. The highest frequency of sound we can hear is 1,000 times the lowest frequency.

Colors of Visible Light

Within the narrow band of visible light, the different wavelengths are perceived by people as different colors. The shortest wavelengths are perceived as violet and the longest wavelengths are perceived as red. There are seven wavelength ranges within the visible spectrum that each correspond to a different color.

The colors fall in an order commonly referred to with the acronym ROYGBIV. ROYGBIV can aid in remembering the order of the colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account