The test consists of a number of colored plates, called Ishihara plates, each of which contain a circle of dots appearing randomized in color and size. Within the pattern are dots which form a number visible to those with normal color vision and invisible, or difficult to see, for those with a red-green color vision defect.
The full test consists of 38 plates, but the existence of a deficiency is usually clear after a few plates. Testing the first 24 plates also gives an accurate diagnosis of the severity of the color vision defect.
Common plates include a circle of dots in shades of green and light blues with a figure differentiated in shades of brown, or a circle of dots in shades of red, orange and yellow with a figure in shades of green; the first testing for protanopia and the second for deuteranopia.