Overlapping Beams of C M & Y Make White

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This diagram shows the effect of projecting cyan, magenta and yellow light onto a neutral coloured surface.

  • In the RGB colour model, cyan, magenta and yellow are secondary colours. Notice what colours are produced where they overlap!
  • Imagine that the three circles of colour (cyan, magenta and yellow) are produced by torches shining beams of light so they overlap one another.
  • Overlapping pairs of primary colours produce secondary colours.
  • But in this diagram overlapping pairs of secondary colours produce primary colours
  • The area where all three primary colours overlap is white.

Understanding the diagram

  • The diagrams illustrate how the RGB colour model works in practice.
  • Each torch emits light at the same intensity.
  • Each torch points towards a different area of the surface.
  • The light in each case is produced by two wavelengths so produces an RGB colour.

Description

Overlapping Beams of C, M & Y Make White

TRY SOME QUICK QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO GET STARTED
When white light strikes an object, its colour is determined by which wavelengths of light are absorbed and which wavelengths are reflected towards the observer.
Although pure white light is perceived as colourless, it actually contains all colours in the visible spectrum.
White light is the name for light containing all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum.

About the diagram

About the diagram
  • This diagram shows the effect of projecting lights producing the RGB secondary colours (cyan, magenta and yellow) onto a neutral coloured surface.
  • Imagine that the three circles of colour (cyan, magenta and yellow) are produced by torches shining beams of light so they overlap one another.
  • In the RGB colour model, cyan, magenta and yellow are secondary colours. Notice what colours are produced where they overlap – it’s the three primary colours!
  • Overlapping pairs of primary colours produce secondary colours.
  • Overlapping pairs of secondary colours produce primary colours.
  • Remember that the area where all three primary colours or all three secondary colours overlap is white.
About the RGB colour model
  • RGB colour is an additive colour model that combines wavelengths of light corresponding with the red, green and blue primary colours to produce other colours.
  • RGB colour is called a model because it is a method that can be followed to produce any colour from a combination of red, green and blue light.
  • Red, green and blue are called additive primary colours in an RGB colour model because they can be added together to produce any other colour.
  • When mixing light, each RGB primary colour is called a component of the resulting colour.
  • Different colours are produced by varying the intensity of the component colours between fully off and fully on.
  • When any two fully saturated RGB primaries are combined they produce a secondary colour: yellow, cyan or magenta.
  • When fully saturated red, green and blue primary colours are all combined together they produce white.
  • Some RGB colour models can produce over 16 million colours by varying the proportion and intensity of each of the three component primary colours.
  • The additive RGB colour model cannot be used for mixing different colours of pigments, paints, inks, dyes or powders. To understand these colourants find out about subtractive colour.
  •  The RGB colour model does not define the precise wavelength or band of wavelengths for the primary colours red, green and blue.
  • When the exact composition of primary colours are defined, the colour model then becomes an absolute colour space.

Some key terms

The trichromatic colour model is a theory of colour that establishes terms, rules and methods to enable human colour vision to be dealt with in both systematic and practical ways.

White light is the name given to visible light that contains all wavelengths of the visible spectrum at equal intensities.

  • As light travels through a vacuum or a medium it is described as white light if it contains all the wavelengths of visible light.
  • As light travels through the air it is invisible to our eyes.
  • When we look around we see through the air because it is very transparent and light passes through it.
  • The term white light doesn’t mean light is white as it travels through the air.
  • One situation in which light becomes visible is when it reflects off the surface of an object.
  • When white light strikes a neutral coloured object and all wavelengths are reflected then it appears white to an observer.

Primary colours are a set of colours from which others can be produced by mixing (pigments, dyes etc.) or overlapping (coloured lights).

  • The human eye, and so human perception, is tuned to the visible spectrum and so to spectral colours between red and violet. It is the sensitivity of the eye to the electromagnetic spectrum that results in the perception of colour.
  • A set of primary colours is a set of pigmented media or coloured lights that can be combined in varying amounts to produce a wide range of colour.
  • This process of combining colours to produce other colours is used in applications intended to cause a human observer to experience a particular range of colours when represented by electronic displays and colour printing.
  • Additive and subtractive models have been developed that predict how wavelengths of visible light, pigments and media interact.
  • RGB colour is a technology used to reproduce colour in ways that match human perception.
  • The primary colours used in colour-spaces such as CIELAB, NCS, Adobe RGB (1998) and sRGB are the result of an extensive investigation of the relationship between visible light and human colour vision.
  • A colour wheel is a circular diagram divided into segments, featuring primary colours, and used to visualize the result of colour mixing.
  • Colour wheels can enhance understanding of colour relationships and assist with the accurate selection and reproduction of colours.
  • A colour wheel starts with segments representing primary colours. Additional segments are added between them to explore the outcome of mixing adjacent primary colours.
  • By adding more segments between existing ones, further mixing of adjacent colours can be explored.
  • A colour wheel exploring the additive RGB colour model starts with red, green, and blue primary colours.
  • A colour wheel exploring the subtractive CMY colour model starts with cyan, magenta, and yellow primary colours.

A colour model is the how-to part of colour theory. Together they establish terms and definitions, rules or conventions and a system of notation for encoding colours and their relationships with one another.

A colour model is a way of:

  • Making sense of the colours we see around us in the world.
  • Understanding the relationship of colours to one another.
  • Understanding how to mix each type of coloured media to produce predictable results.
  • Specifying colours using names, codes, notation, equations etc.
  • Organising and using colours for different purposes.
  • Using colours in predictable and repeatable ways.
  • Working out systems and rules for mixing and using different types of colour.
  • Creating colour palettes, gamuts and colour guides.

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