The array of colors and patterns seen when birefringent materials are inserted between polarizers is a source of amusement, popular science demonstrations, and art. This phenomenon of polarization-filtered coloration is commonly but misleadingly referred to as “interference colors,” despite not arising from the effects of interference. In this work, I clarify the link between polarization filtering and the observed colors and demonstrate how various aspects of birefringence in common household films provide opportunities and challenges for their use in art.

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