Primary and secondary colors

The main difference between primary and secondary colors is that secondary colors arise from mixing the primary colors, whereas primary colors cannot be obtained from any mixture .

Primary colorsSecondary colours
DefinitionColors that are not obtained from mixing between colors.Colors that are obtained from mixing equal parts of two primary colors.
ExamplesRed, yellow and blue.Orange, green and purple.
  • Modelo RGB.
  • CMY model.
  • Modelo FISH.
  • Psychological primary colors.
  • Subtractive color model.
  • Additive color model.
  • RYB color model.

What are primary colors?

Primary colors are those that cannot be obtained from any mixture between colors , for this reason they are considered unique and absolute. Consequently, it is possible to mix a greater range of tones with them.

An important factor that identifies primary colors is that each one is completely different and unique. They do not reflect nuances in common between them.

The traditional primary colors are red, yellow, and blue . However, with the passage of time, new scientific discoveries have emerged to determine what the primary colors are.

Currently there are various models to identify primary colors, the most common are models where three main primary colors prevail. They are three colors due to human trichromatic vision where there are three types of receptors that respond to very specific wavelengths of light.

Examples of primary colors : cyan, magenta, and yellow.

Primary color classification

There are different theories of color that have been given the task of identifying primary colors, modern theory distinguishes between colors, light and pigment:

  • Primary light colors (RGB model): Red, green and blue.
  • Pigment primary colors (CMY model): Cyan, magenta and yellow.
  • Traditional primary colors (model RYB): Red, yellow and blue.
  • Psychological primary colors : red, yellow, green and blue.

What are secondary colors?

Secondary colors are those that arise from mixing in equal proportions of two primary colors . By mixing a primary color with its secondary, what is called a tertiary color is produced.

As with primary colors, secondary colors are identified as such by the human eye depending on the source, nature and material that represents and generates the color, in addition to the subjective characteristics of visual perception.

From the mixtures between the primary colors secondary colors arise such as green, purple and orange. However, different models have been studied to determine what the secondary colors are.

Examples of secondary colors : red, green, blue, and black.

Secondary color classification

According to the subtractive color model

Secondary colors according to the subtractive model originate from the mixture of cyan, magenta, and yellow.

  • Magenta + yellow = red.
  • Yellow + cyan = green.
  • Cyan + magenta = blue.
  • Cyan + magenta + yellow = black.

According to the additive color model

According to the additive color model, secondary colors originate from a mixture of red, green, and blue.

  • Red + green = yellow.
  • Red + blue = magenta.
  • Green + blue = cyan.

According to the RYB color model

For the RYB color model, secondary colors originate from a mixture of blue, yellow, and red.

  • Red + yellow = orange.
  • Yellow + blue = green.
  • Blue + red = purple.

Origin of the color wheel

Isaac Newton was the first to study primary colors and their derivatives in his book Opticks (1704), stating that there are seven basic colors in light. In addition, he made important contributions to optics, such as the creation of the first chromatic circle.

The chromatic circle that we know today arises from the primary colors. In this circle you can see the primary colors in equidistant positions, where the mixture of two primary colors gives rise to the secondary colors , and from the mixture of a primary color with its secondary, a tertiary color arises .

Newton discovered that these colors that we perceive can be identified thanks to light, since it reflects the pigment of the substances that compose them.

The human eye through receptor cells can identify colors and interpret them through a biological response process that is possible thanks to light and its interferences. Depending on the longitudinal distances, the eye will interpret different colors.

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