Colour on arrows appears, to me anyhow, with regards to archers, to retain an almost exclusively practical purpose. Obviously, archers want to be able to spot their arrows on any range of target to as precise a degree as possible. Furthermore, archers also want to be able to find them, should they miss - something a longbow archer needs to take into consideration for 3D.
When I got into making arrows, I was amazed how few trad archers were responsible for making their own arrows and, how few had any kind of elaborate aesthetics. My first set had purple tre camo flights from Gateway Feathers, and I thought by adding these, that it was such a personal and unique touch to my arrows. Going on, with a later set, I used the colours of red and yellow from the Latimer Coat of Arms and once more thought of this as being extravagant.
A few years later and I was employing wood dyes, moving into cresting, feather-splicing and binding. The themes I go for are based around nature for the most part - birds in particular. I have generally been leaning towards style over substance where colours are concerned, however. Whilst the arrows from a practical point of view work, the colours were there purely for style.
My long time White-Tailed Eagles have been through it all: trees, shrubs, hedges, rocks, monsoon level wet, roots, the lot. However, my saving grace when it came to looking for any that had passed by the target, was the white dye on the rear for the arrow, or the white in the flights.
This was one of the little things that got me thinking about what colours could work for archers on their arrows in such a way as to make them easier to spot and find. As an aspie, or an individual with Asperger's, my pattern recognition capabilities are freakishly good. From years of participating in the Mulligan Hunting Trails, looking for well-hidden 3D targets, I was able to find many of the targets because there was something that just did not sit with the overall natural environment; the texture of a 3D for example did not match the texture of tree bark or rocks or the soil, the dark colours were not the right shades of shadow found in forests and colours such as yellow, or pink, or white, were what I referred to as non- or uncommon-recuring colours. All these little things would glare at me like rays of sun light breaking through the forest.
Thus, I came to the conclusion that, where field and 3D are concerned, the colours on the arrows should be relative to the shooting environment of the archer; looking at the many venues I shoot in I can easily see what colours are prominent within the environment, and determine what colours do not occur, or at least rarely occur, and apply them to my arrows. For example, if an archer is shooting above the artic circle, white would not be a wise colour, but for someone like myself on the island of Eire, it is a more prudent choice.
In recent 3D competitions I have noted that pink is a popular colour. One archer had his own arrows made to be completely pink - shaft, feathers and nocks. Others apply pink wraps on the rear of the arrows and one longbow archer I spoke to had pink tracers on the rear of the arrows to make them easier to find. As these examples all took place here in Ireland, pink was a very practical choice of colour because it does not occur often if at all in the environments, we shoot in.
To focus beyond looking for missing arrows, it gets a tad more complicated. The beauty of 3D is that every target is unique in shape and colour. For - a broad - example, take a bear target and a deer target both set at the same distance, elevation and in the same level of light. An archer can shoot one target well and shoot he other poorly.
With so many non- or uncommon-recurring colours present in the vast and diverse range of 3Ds available (flamingos, pandora-themed 3Ds, bright red frogs) how can an archer apply colours to their arrows that will let them spot the point of impact to a high degree across all the targets? Pink is a moot point if there happens to be a flamingo target, and so is white is there is a swan or polar bear target present.
Well, aside from a multi-coloured arrow themed on Joseph's coat of many colours (which probably wouldn't work) it is nigh impossible to be that specific in 3D. You can cover a great many targets, and the shooting environment, however in the end, there appears, for now to be only so far one can go in the refinement of easy to spot arrows.