There are two types or representations of mixing colors, each with their own models. Additive color mixing involves mixing of light or adding of light colors to create new hues. Additive color mixing utilized the popular digital color model RGB. Subtractive color mixing involves removing certain color lights to create new hues. Subtractive color mixing utilizes the popular printing color model CMYK.
If you haven’t had a chance to read Color Theory: 3 Main Principles to Create Color Palettes, please take a look before jumping into my color theory series. It will provide some context and vocabulary to be used throughout the series that may be helpful in understanding color theory.
This is the color wheel or color star that you are all probably extremely familiar with. This color star generates the color wheel that we are often presented with when selecting colors on a digital medium. A digital medium you say? Is that why the three primary colors in this color wheel are represented by red, green, and blue? Check out the big brain on you! Colors in a monitor are additive mixtures of light not subtractive mixtures of paints, hence why the color wheel represents the three primary colors of red, green and blue. We will detail additive color and subtractive color below. Just know that red, green, and blue are the primary colors when referencing digital media.
So if our primary colors are red, green and blue, what do you think our secondary colors that consist of mixing primary colors will be? Correct, yellow, magenta, and cyan are the secondary colors in our color wheel. Lastly we can observe the six tertiary colors created when mixing secondary colors with primary colors. Essentially this goes on and on until we have created a complete color wheel. Take some time to review the color star and observe the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors of the RGB model. Now compare the rudimentary color star with the completed color wheel.
Mixing Colors: Additive Color
Additive color mixing involves the mixing of light or adding of light to create color. Additive color mixing revolves around the three primary colors red, green and blue often referred to as RGB. In the presence of all three colors a result of white is displayed, in the absence of all colors black is displayed. As you can imagine when red and green are combined a resulting hue of yellow is created. Likewise when red and blue are combined a hue of magenta is created and lastly when green and blue are combined a hue of cyan is created.
Mixing Colors: Subtractive Color
Subtractive color mixing involves the removal of certain colors from a combination of hues. Subtractive color mixing revolves around the colors yellow, magenta, and cyan. Note how these are the secondary colors of the additive color mixing method. It should also be noted that these colors form the CMYK color standard typically referenced in print documents. You may have noticed that your printer takes a black ink cartridge as well as a color cartridge that utilizes cyan, magenta, and yellow or CMY. Hopefully this connected a few dots in your head. Can you guess what the secondary colors of the subtractive color model is? Yep, red, green and blue! Finally all of these colors mixed produces black, and the absence of all these colors creates white.
Color Theory Series
Continue on with this series by reading the next installment, Second Principle of Color Theory: The Science and Math of Color Schemes, or feel free to skip to any of the three principles in the color theory series.
Color Theory: 3 Main Principles to Create Color Palettes
First Principle of Color Theory: Mixing Colors
Second Principle of Color Theory: The Science and Math of Color Schemes
Third Principle of Color Theory: Color Palettes and Color Harmony