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If you set the value of your color picker to 0.5, it shows on the right sidebar as being closer to 25%, definitely not in the middle. This is confusing coming from someone used to photoshop.

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If you pick a middle gray halfway down the slider, the value is more like 0.2.

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Could someone explain why this is, and how it affects my color choices and renders in blender?

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The values are actually linear - that's the problem you observe. Our color perception is not linear. We see around 20% reflectivity as middle grey. It should be 21.4% in sRGB color space(so that's 0.241 in Blender's color picker) and you probably have your Display Device color space set to sRGB(as it most likely should be):

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Actually color picker will stay the same sRGB even if you change your Display Device color space - that's kind of wrong in that case. But then no problem, because there aren't many reasonable color spaces to choose from. Wellcome to color management. Where nothing ever works and makes sense.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's actually interesting. Maybe someone knows about XYZ color space display devices. I think I'll ask a question myself. :D $\endgroup$ Apr 7, 2023 at 22:36

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