Introduction
Color Vision

Mixing Light

Mixing Dyes - Paints - Inks
Painting
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MIX IT UP
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MIXING LIGHT

"ADDITIVE" COLOR MIXING:

THE PRIMARY COLORS OF LIGHT

Light has its own set of primary colors for mixing. These are the "additive" primary colors.

The primary colors of light are red, green and blue. They should not be confused with the three primary colors used for paints, inks, dyes and other colorants. The primary colors for light combine in a different way.

The three primary colors of lightMixing color light is called additive color mixing, because adding light from two or more sources produces the mixed color. The illumination from two or more colored light sources when added together will give more illumination than any of the lights by themselves.

This can be seen where the color illumination overlaps. The yellow formed when red light overlaps green light will be brighter than either the red light or green light alone.

When the right amounts of red, green and blue light come together, the result appears as "white" light.

One of the most common uses of mixing the primary colors of light is for LCD and CRT television and computer monitor screens.

 
These types of screens are made up of rows and rows of red, green and blue stripes. From normal viewing distances, the stripes are usually not noticeable. The human eye causes these stripes that make up a screen image appear to blend together. Since they blend together in this way, the stripes act just as if they are mixing the colors of light together.
  The changing intensity of each stripe segment allows for all the colors and shades of a  computer image or a television movie to be displayed on the viewing screen. But if we were to view a screen image with a powerful magnifying glass, we would see the rapidly changing elements of red, green and blue that make up a moving image.  Illustration of the red green and blue elements of a TV monitor

There is a relationship between the three primary colors of light and the three primary colors of paints, inks, dyes and other colorants.

ANY TWO ADDITIVE PRIMARY COLORS MIX TO MAKE ONE OF THE SUBTRACTIVE PRIMARY COLORS 

Additive Primary + Additive Primary + Subtractive Primary
GREEN + BLUE + CYAN
RED + GREEN + YELLOW
BLUE + RED + MAGENTA

For more about the "subtractive" primary colors, select the topic "Mixing Dyes - Paints - Inks" from the links on the left of this page.  

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All images, including animations, are original graphics or photography by Robert Truscio © 1997, 2013 (All rights reserved). If you use any images from this page on your own or any other website or anywhere else, you must include the words, "Image by Robert Truscio" along with the image.