The Muser
Physics & Physiology of Color

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The Muser

The Color Musings
Additive Mixture
Subtractive Mixture
Complementary Colors
Primary Colors
Hue, Value, Chroma
Predicting Color Mixtures
Young's 3-color Theory
A 3-color System
Land's 2-color System
James Clerk Maxwell
Thomas Young
Hermann von Helmholtz
Edwin H. Land

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Predicting Color Mixtures

Take the Mystery out of Color Mixture

Brush up on the definitions of hue, value, and chroma, draw your color wheel, then refer to these rules for color mixture:

Four Rules For Color Mixture:

  1. Hue
    Mixing two colors will yield a hue between the two colors on the wheel.
    (Ex: Mixing cyan and magenta will yield either a blue-magenta, a blue, or a cyan-blue. This is true for both additive and subtractive mixture)
  2. Hue for Complementary Colors
    If the two colors are complementary colors, the result will be a neutral color, or one of the two hues being mixed.
    (Ex: Mixing a lot of red with a little cyan, yields a lower chroma red. Mixing a little red with a lot of cyan, yields a lower chroma cyan. Mixing approximately equal strengths of red & cyan, yields a grey.)
  3. Chroma
    Chroma will be lower.
    (Any mixture will yield a color with a lower chroma than the chroma of the purest of the two colors.)
  4. Value
    Additive mixture yields higher values; Subtractive mixture yields lower values.
    (Mixing any two colors additively always yields a color with a value higher than the value of either of the two colors being mixed. Mixing any two colors subtractively always yields a color with a value lower than the value of the lighter color.)

That's all there is to it.

If you need to master color mixing, get some artist's paints (gauche is good) in colors close to the six colors of the color wheel, and try some experiments with these four rules. (Remember, mixing paints is subtractive mixture.) In a very short time, you will be predicting subtractive color mixtures with some accuracy.

The color wheel is a handy tool for predicting color mixtures.

You can grab a piece of scratch-paper any time, and draw this six-spoked version of the wheel in a few seconds. No need to spell out the words, or paint the colors. Just label the spokes, "R, Y, G, C, B, M."

© J. C. Adamson, 1997