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Additive color mixing is achieved by combining light wavelengths to create different colors. When color rays are added or fused together, they become lighter. Black, being the total absence of light ascends towards white through the addition of colored lights.
There are three primary colors of light; red, green, and blue. By mixing equal parts of RGB, a pure white light can be produced. On a light wheel, the three primaries can be mixed to achieve the three secondary colors of light; magenta, cyan and yellow. By adjusting the amount of each color mixed, the full range of possible hues can be achieved.
Combining two additive primaries will produce a subtractive primary. The three subtractive primaries, cyan, magenta and yellow are directly opposed to red, green and blue. Meaning, if a colored surface absorbs blue light then it will appear as yellow. If it absorbs red it will appear cyan. If it absorbs green it will appear magenta.
G + B = cyanB + R = magentaR + G = yellow
Subtractive color mixing refers to the removal of light when mixing pigments, paint or dyes. As paints are mixed, wavelengths are deleted because each paint will absorb some wavelengths that the other paint reflects, thus a lesser number of wavelengths remain visible. Essentially, the mixed colors are progressively taking more light and producing new, darker colors.
In the process wheel, the three basic primaries are cyan, magenta and yellow. When they are combined, the subtractive secondaries of red, blue and green (or the primary additive) colors are created. As pigments, however, these RBG mixtures do not possess the same intensity as in their additive form. Instead, CMY transparent inks are used on white paper to achieve a luminous effect. The addition of black or K (key) is used in printing, as C + M + Y = brown due to pigment impurities.
The foundation for teaching and working with subtractive color has been predominantly the pigment wheel. This model uses red, yellow and blue as the primaries. These primaries can be mixed to create the secondary colors of orange, green and violet; together they will create a muddy brownish-black.
While, Johannes Itten’s pigment wheel is the most widely taught color system, it is more of a theoretical model and a reference chart. As a practical guide for the precise mixing of pigments, it is flawed due to the primaries being slightly inaccurate, and the difficulty of creating pure secondary (and tertiary) hues from RYB without the addition of white.
The organization of color in a circular wheel has been adapted and revised throughout the centuries by artists and theorists in the attempt to explain and depict the visible color spectrum. At Taupe, we aim to continue this search by showcasing new methods for working with colors in a digital space. Instead of using a static wheel, we present color as a gradient interacting and creating order by example.