Understanding a bit about color systems and color mixing will help when selecting scrapbook papers, and when painting your own scrapbook paper and embellishments.

Color Theory Systems

There are two systems that describe how colors mix to create other colors.

1. Additive System – Mixing Colors of Light

The additive color system describes the behavior of light.  In this system all colors of light mixed together produce white, and the absence of color (light) is black.  Mixing red, green and blue (RGB) light will produce all colors of light.

2. Subtractive System – Mixing Colors of Pigment

The subtractive color system describes the behavior of paint, ink and other pigment color.  In this system black is a mixture of all colors, and white is the absence of pigment.

There are two variations when looking at mixing pigment.

  a. RYB

Red, yellow and blue are called primary colors, because in the 18th century it was thought all colors could be mixed from them.  While mixing red, yellow and blue will produce a wide range of colors, in the 19th century it was proven that even more colors could be produced by combining cyan, magenta and yellow.

The color wheel shows the the results of mixing red, yellow and blue pigments.  Additionally, the color wheel describes the relationships between colors.

  b. CMY

In the 19th century it was discovered that a wider range of colors could be produced by mixing cyan, magenta, and yellow, than mixing red, blue and yellow.  You may recognize CMYK as the colors of ink in your printer.  Mixing varying amounts of cyan, magenta and yellow will create every color imaginable.

The hexagon color chart, often seen when selecting colors with a computer program, shows the relationship of these three pigments.

Color Mixing

The RYB system is the basis for the color wheel.  Additionally, the most commonly known system for mixing colors is RYB, so we’ll use it in this discussion of color theory.

The Color Wheel

Color Theory, Color Mixing and the Color Wheel

The color wheel not only helps with mixing colors, but it also helps understanding the relationship between colors.  Here we will only discuss color mixing, however another page discusses the color relationships shown in the color wheel.

Primary Colors

Red, yellow and blue are the primary colors in the RYB system.  These three colors create a triangle on the color wheel.

Secondary Colors

Mixing yellow and blue creates green, yellow and red results in orange, and mixing red and blue makes purple.  Mixing two primary colors creates a secondary, so the secondary colors are green, orange and purple.

The secondary colors also create a triangle on the color wheel, and they appear half way between two primary colors.

Tertiary Colors

Mixing a secondary color with a primary color contained in the secondary color results in a tertiary color.  For example, the primary color yellow mixed with secondary color green (blue plus yellow) creates the tertiary color yellow green.

Yellow orange, yellow green, blue green (teal), blue purple (violet), blue red (magenta), and orange red are the tertiary colors.

The tertiary colors appear between each primary and secondary color on the color wheel.

Muddy Colors

Mixing all the primary colors together (either directly or indirectly by combining secondary colors) will result in a muddy look.  For example, mixing purple (a secondary color produced by mixing red and blue) with yellow will produce a muddy brown.  While this is a great technique for creating browns and greys, that might not be your intent.

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