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Rainbow Lite

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"Red and yellow and ... eh, you get the idea."

Rainbows are awesome. They're bright, attractive and optimistic, so it's no wonder that artists will frequently bring a splash of color to whatever they're creating by adding a rainbow.

But they're hard to draw. The colors in a rainbow vary continuously, not in discrete stripes. Fortunately, it's commonly held that rainbows have seven colors, so seven stripes are often considered "enough". However, a number of reasons — simplistic art style, limited palette, low graphics resolution — mean that it's not always practical to include even that many.

That's when you use a Rainbow Lite. It's a quick way to convey the idea of 'rainbow' without using the whole spectrum. Two notable varieties include:

Six Colors Purple / Six Colors Blue

  • Poor indigo is often the first casualty, being so subtly distinguished from its neighbors. In this case, it gets merged with violet under the more umbrella hue of purple. In other cases, it can be merged with blue after the original dye.

Three Colors Green / Three Colors Blue

  • The minimum number of different colors required to retain the idea of "rainbow" is three, most frequently either red or pink, yellow and either green or blue.

In both cases, the colors will be sharply delineated, as opposed to the actual blending from one to the other you get in a true rainbow. Don't count on them being in the correct order, either.

We really ought to note that the distinctions between colors are somewhat arbitrary and indigo in particular only made it into the "official" rainbow because it fit with a numerological theory Isaac Newton had. Strictly speaking, rainbows don't actually have any distinct color bands — their colors are one gradient from one end of the visual spectrum to the other, and the way we see them as being subdivided into distinct bands is a result of the way our minds instinctively try to categorize the world to understand it better. Thus, in a certain sense, every depiction of a rainbow is a Rainbow Lite that only contains a few of the shades of a real rainbow.

Compare Chromatic Arrangement.


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  • The artwork for Lucky Charms cereal frequently features a six-color rainbow. The Marbits themselves use a three-color Rainbow.
  • A Rice Krispies Squares "Singing with the Bars" advertising campaign listed the colours of the rainbow as "red, orange, yellow, green and blue.", which Crackle adores them.
  • This ad for Target has a red-pink-yellow-green rainbow sew-on patch.

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Legion of Super-Heroes:
    • Substitute Legion member Color Kid's costume includes a color spectrum representation across his torso in a slightly arched rainbow of five colors.
    • Substitute Legion member Rainbow Girl has a band of three colors symbolizing a rainbow on several parts of her costume.
  • Julie Power/Lightspeed of Power Pack is usually drawn creating a tricolor rainbow behind her.
  • Robin (1993): The little girl hostage at Gotham Plaza whose father was killed by the hostage takers is wearing a shirt with a pink, yellow and blue rainbow across the chest.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls comic story "Anti-Bellum", Ms. Bellum is split into six aspects of her personality, each one a different colour of the rainbow except violet.
  • In Issue 31 of the 1973 volume of Shazam!, Mister Mind (posing as a human named Mister Wonderful) recruits six women as his villainous Rainbow Squad, giving each of them one of Captain Marvel's powers and a colour-coded outfit (Strength - Red, Stamina - Orange, Speed - Yellow, Courage - Green, Wisdom - Blue and Power - Purple).
  • In Issue 19 of Tiny Titans, a five-color rainbow (that is, every color except indigo and violet is present) appears in the sky when Bumblebee and Plasmus meet up.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The film Rainbow plays this for drama, believe it or not. The plot has the rainbow malfunctioning, meaning that colour gradually drains from the world.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the six Infinity Stones are represented by every colour of the rainbow except indigo.
  • At the beginning of the film The Rainbow, the young Ursula is enthralled by the sight of a rainbow in the sky, and almost falls into a river trying to chase it. Her father "makes her a rainbow" on a piece of bread, using red, yellow and green jelly.

  • The story Ant And Bee and the Rainbow teaches children about colours. At the beginning of the story, Ant and Bee see a rainbow (drawn with six colours). They decide to make their own make-believe rainbow, by painting half of an old rubber tyre, which they do in red, yellow and blue. When their paint pots fall over, they mix together, producing the colours of green, orange, violet, brown. Other colours are mentioned, including white, pink, grey, black.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Big One of J.A.K.Q. Dengekitai is a rare case of having four colors rather than either type above.

  • In the iconic cover of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon, the rainbow that comes from the prism is noticeably missing indigo. It's a subtle clue that "something is missing," a recurring motif within the songs.
  • Sufjan Stevens: The liner notes of the Silver & Gold box set (particularly the album credits pages) feature several five-color rainbows with bizarre color selection. For example, a rainbow with lavender, two shades of green, bright blue, and brown.
  • Most Rainbow albums that feature a rainbow on their cover are victims of this, falling under the second category, but also missing an orange stripe. The electric rainbow that was a part of their stage diorama was made of four colors.
  • The song "Sing a Rainbow" has confused many children (and some adults) about the order of the colours:
    Red and yellow and pink and green,
    Purple and orange and blue.
    I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow,
    Sing a rainbow too.
    Listen with your eyes, listen with your eyes,
    And sing everything you see.
    You can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow,
    Sing along with me.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • According to the Prose Edda in Norse Mythology, the rainbow bridge Bifrost is composed of red, green, and blue or purple light depending on the interpretations on whether Bifrost is a rainbow or an aurora.


  • The rainbow trail in Farfalla is a six-color example.
  • The playfield for Time Fantasy includes a large six-color rainbow in the background.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons averts this with the prismatic spells (prismatic spray being the best known). They all have 7 different colors, each one of the traditional colors of the rainbow and each having a different effect (some of the spells hit you with a random color, others affect you with all of them at once). Even the Initiate of the Sevenfold Veil, a Prestige Class specializing in those prismatic spells, has a quite unique seven-level progression (the majority of prestige classes have a three-, five- or 10-level progression).

  • A common issue on toys since omitting colors means its decals are cheaper to print, or the paint job can be skimped on to save cost. However a number of educational toys are starting to teach only 6 colors for whatever reason, with indigo of course being the casualty.

    Video Games 
  • BIT.TRIP: CommanderVideo's rainbow trail is only five colors: yellow, orange, aqua, pink, and purple.
  • Promo material for the second chapter Deltarune shows Ralsei emanating a rainbow that's yellow, red, and cyan.
  • Chica's Magic Rainbow, pictured above, in Five Nights at Freddy's World takes an unusual approach: it's three colors, but the colors are pink, orange, and blue.
  • Idle Empire 3: The rainbow has four colors — red, yellow, green, and blue.
  • The rainbow Kirby paints across the sky in the ending of Kirby's Dream Land 2 is a three-color red-blue-yellow.
  • Each Sage in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is associated with one color of the rainbow except indigo. Although Sheik/Zelda, the leader of the Sages, technically fills in that color by wearing a dark blue bodysuit most of the time.
  • Team Rainbow Rocket, a revived version of Team Rocket that appears in the post-game storyline of Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon consisting of alternate universe versions of villainous team leaders from across the main games who won in their universes, naturally has their "R" logo updated to reflect their name. It only has four colors, however...and they happen to be the four colors associated with Generation I: red, yellow, green, and blue.
  • In Police Quest 4: Open Season, the Rainbow Cafe only has red, yellow, green, and blue for its rainbow and building coloration.
  • The rainbow bridges featured in Rainbow Islands have six colors in the arcade and three on the NES.
  • In Quilts & Cats of Calico, the Rainbow Button is missing orange since the six buttons needed to get it are missing that color.
  • In Spin Rhythm XD, one of the level backgrounds (Lovesick) features continuously expanding concentric circles on the horizon. Not only do they not have the same colours that a natural rainbow does, they also repeat.
  • In Sticky Business, the rainbow sticker part lacks orange and indigo while the rainbow washi tape lacks only the latter. True to its design, the Rainbow Pride flag is also missing indigo.

    Visual Novels 
  • Sumaga has a rainbow motif, but only red, blue and yellow are represented. Though Sumaga Special adds in purple and green.

    Web Animation 
  • The "sweet, sweet rainbow bridge" that Strong Bad conjures up in his email "Flashback" is a classic six-color rainbow.
  • Rainbow Star in Object Filler Again has a rainbow trail, with the colors magenta, yellow, and cyan. She also creates trails with the colors mentioned.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • This wiki uses one as the icon for the Ho Yay namespace.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: The show's logo is a six-colored rainbow, although unusually the missing color is blue, not indigo. Somewhat ironic given the title character (whose name in the same logo is written with seven colors) is himself blue.
  • Care Bears:
    • The rainbows in the 2002 incarnation are oddly positioned in this order: yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue, green.
    • Though Cheer Bear's rainbow belly badge has all the colors of a traditional rainbow, her Care Bears: Unlock the Magic design has only three colors: red, yellow and blue.
  • Dora the Explorer:
    • The rainbows appearing in "The Missing Piece", "Best Friends", and "Dora's Big Birthday Adventure" are missing red, indigo, and violet.
    • In "The Shy Rainbow", the rainbow Dora and Boots meet, Arco Iris, has colors positioned in this order: red, blue, green, yellow.
    • "Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom" revolves around the titular kingdom powered by four crystals creating a four-color rainbow, red, yellow, green and blue. However, the magic crystal Dora wears throughout emits rainbow glows in all seven colors.
  • Gravity Falls: GIFfany has pink, light blue and pale yellow as part of her main color scheme.
  • The Magic School Bus episode about rainbows reduced it to six colors, dropping indigo as usual. Violet was kept as violet, however, and the distinction between purple and violet was even the subject of a Running Gag.
  • My Little Pony:
    • From the first generation cartoon, My Little Pony 'n Friends has the Rainbow of Light, which swaps out red for pink, and lacks indigo.
    • My Little Pony (G3):
      • In The Runaway Rainbow, rainbows only have four colors: pink, purple, yellow, and blue.
      • Rainbow Dash is a blue pony with orange, green, pink, and purple hair.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
      • The rainbow beam that the Elements of Harmony produce contains six colors, omitting indigo. Strangely, the rainbow produced when the Mane Six are Rainbow Powered contains the coat colors of the Mane Six — pink, orange, yellow, white, blue, and purple.
      • Rainbow Dash has only six distinct colors in her mane, and the rainbow she trails behind her as she flies is likewise a six-color Rainbow Lite. Her cutie mark features a three-color — red, yellow and blue — rainbow in the shape of a lightning bolt. The six-color rainbow trail is justified, as it's not an actual rainbow but either some effect of her pegasus magic or just her afterimage.
      • Several background ponies have three-color Rainbow Lite cutie marks, the bottom two colors being yellow and orange and the top color being either blue or purple. The purple-topped version is also one of the available cutie marks in the Virtual Paper Doll Web Games Adventures in Ponyville, Rarity, The Fabulous PonyMaker, and Rarity's Bridal Boutique.
      • The toy line exclusive ponies Rainbow Flash, Island Rainbow, and Rainbow Wishes all have cutie marks featuring Rainbow Lites.
      • When Pinkie Pie eats a rainbow (which is very spicy) in episode "Sonic Rainboom", her face changes colors as she experiences a succession of unpleasant tastes. Only five of the seven available colors are shown — red, orange, yellow, green and blue.
      • Subverted in "All Bottled Up". During the song "Best Friends Until the End of Time", the Mane Six are seen walking on top of a rainbow, each on her own color lane. Unusually, this rainbow has eight colors (by adding a shade of red), to better center all six characters on it, with two empty lanes on the edges.
  • Rainbow Brite's costume features only six colors, although her color-coordinated team has more than six members. To wit, the colors of Rainbow's friends are: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, and Pink. She's in charge of ALL the tertiary colors of nature.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Patty Hype", the angry citizens of Bikini Bottom make a six-color rainbow (indigo is excluded) while chasing Mr. Krabs. The Pretty Patties themselves come in every color except indigo.
  • Superjail! has way more rainbows than one would expect out of an ultra-violent [adult swim] comedy. Because of this, coupled with the show's distinctive crude-but-beautifully-animated art style, all sorts of rainbows have been seen over the course of the series. Some are full seven-color rainbows, some are the six-color variation that exclude indigo, and others are even three-, four- or five-color rainbows.

    Real Life 
  • The official Gay Pride Flag as of 1979 omits indigo, though the original design (1978) didn't have blue (split into turquoise and indigo), and the flag included hot pink (the first two were dropped because the color spacing didn't look right hanging from lamp posts in San Francisco's Market Street, the latter was dropped because that color fabric was not widely available).
  • In an inversion, the Philadelphia LGBT pride flag has brown and black stripes which real rainbows don't have. It was meant to convey that LGBT people can be races other than white but it is kind of odd when you consider that black is the absence of color (for additive colors at least, which includes rainbows) meaning a black stripe in a rainbow would be impossible by definition.
  • It is often overlooked that Sir Isaac Newton lived and worked in an era where modern scientific thought was still emerging from medieval mysticism and occult thought; the man who devised calculus was also an alchemist, who spent a lot of time and effort seeking truth in pre-scientific thought. Part of the medieval mystical pattern of thinking was the doctrine of numbers and correspondences: seven was thought important in God's creation. If there were seven visible "planets", seven musical notes, seven days of Creation, etc., the thinking went, then if white light was capable of being broken into visible colours, therefore there must be seven of them. The elusive indigo was Newton's fudge to make the separated rainbow colours of the prism into the mystic sevennote . Without the alchemical baggage, he'd only have seen six. note 
  • And the above about Newton, that's what he saw in a lab with a prism. In a "real", actual rainbow, there aren't even five colors. Normally, you just see red, green and purple, sometimes yellow, and in other cases, white.
  • The nutritional tip "Eat the rainbow" is shorthand for "Eat different-colored fruits and vegetables so that you consume a wide variety of the different healthy phytonutrients that cause the different colors." The edible rainbow has five colors: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue/indigo/violet — the last three are all lumped together since they're all caused by concentrations of the same antioxidant flavonoid (anthocyanins).
  • In World War II, the United States Army's 42nd Infantry Division used a unit patch consisting of a three-stripe rainbow of red, yellow, and blue.
  • Attempts to make rainbow pizzas either have to leave blue out of their rainbow or cheat with food coloring, as there are no naturally true blue edible plants (even blueberries are purple inside). Alternatively one might use black olives, or more purple-ish Greek olives, as a "close enough" standin.
  • The Rainbows (youngest section of the Girl Guides in the United Kingdom) have a logo with the colours red, yellow and blue.
  • If the conditions to make a rainbow are there at sunrise or sunset, the atmosphere filters all colors but red, creating a "red rainbow" or "monochrome rainbow".
  • If a rainbow is formed using small droplets, it may display surnumerary bows, which are somewhat of an inversion: they manifest as extra green and purple bands under it, effectively creating a rainbow with too many bands.
  • Moonbows - rainbows formed by moonlight - are so dim that most people can't make out the distinct colors of them leading to an appearance of a white bow. However, using a camera and a long exposure and the color comes in clearly.