Over a century ago workers such as J. Lubbock and K. von Frisch developed behavioural criteria for establishing that non-human animals see colour. Many animals in most phyla have since then been shown to have colour vision. Colour is used for specific behaviours, such as phototaxis and object recognition, while other behaviours such as motion detection are colour blind. Having established the existence of colour vision, research focussed on the question of how many spectral types of photoreceptors are involved. Recently, data on photoreceptor spectral sensitivities have been combined with behavioural experiments and physiological models to study systematically the next logical question: 'what neural interactions underlie colour vision?' This review gives an overview of the methods used to study animal colour vision, and discusses how quantitative modelling can suggest how photoreceptor signals are combined and compared to allow for the discrimination of biologically relevant stimuli.