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What exactly are the color mixing rules?

We know that

red and blue make purple...

yellow and blue make green...

red and yellow make orange..

Yet this schemata doesn't work for frequencies of light. 
 Mixing blue light and green light makes yellow light. 
 Mix every color light together and one gets white light.  

 How is this possible?  What exactly are the color mixing rules and how do they work?


  • edited May 4
    The oil paint works on the principle of subtractive color mixing ,while combining the frequencies of light works on additive color mixing...

    So Red paint looks red because it subtracts/absorbs all the other colors apart from RED from the light falling on it,hence is called subtractive as pigment only reflects red(theoretically) wavelength absorbing all the other wavelengths.On the other hand red light looks red light because it emits/adds the red light.

    So because of their nature of manipulating light differentlymixing the primaries of both produce different results.For e.g. if we add three primaries of red,blue and yellow in oil paint,each paint will absorb the light reflected by the other paint(red will absorb blue and yellow,yellow will absorb red and blue and blue will absorb yellow and red) so the resultant mixture does not have any color hence looks black.In case of additive mixing,if we add lights of three primaries,all the wavelengths combine to form a white light.Hope it helps :)
  • My rule for mixing colors is to follow Mark Carder's videos and advice.
  • Pick a method (Mark's works and is fairly simple) follow it.  Eventually it will become intuitive and you won't have to think about rules.  If you want a more scientific approach google Munsell color system:
  • :) Anyway thx for your reply,
  • That Munsell is too much for me. It's a good thing they didn't make Rubik's Cube out of that.
  • @Bob73: agreed.  Its interesting from an academic standpoint but I think all this painting stuff is more about intuitive perception in the end.
  • Yes, if I was young (or younger) and wanted to be recognized as an authority on art or teach art I would want to study all that is relevant to art. DMP fits my pistol.
  • There is a wonderful website that explains the technical details of color theory.
    It's quite technical but very interesting:
  • Also this video (which I posted about elsewhere before reading this thread... 

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