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The Beauty of Chroma: What are the Primary Colors of Light?

Batul Nafisa Baxamusa Jun 18, 2019
Light is composed of many colors that vary according to their frequencies and wavelengths. There are three primary colors of light, which are discussed here.
Have you ever tried holding a prism against the sunlight? What do you observe? You can see a spectrum of light in different colors that is called the rainbow. These colors together make up the white light.
The spectrum of light or a rainbow is made up of seven colors. But, not all of them make up the white light. There are three primary colors that mix together to form the white light.


The colors that make up a rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
Of these, there are 3 primary or additive colors, which are as follows:
  • Green
  • Red
  • Blue
When their wavelengths combine properly, they are able to produce white light. When they are mixed with each other, they form different colors. Let us have a look at the different colors formed by mixing the three primary ones.

 + Green = Cyan
Red + Blue = Magenta
Red + Green = Yellow
Red + Green + Blue = White

What are the Primary Colors of Pigments?

The secondary colors produced by mixing the primary ones are cyan, magenta, and yellow. These are the three primary colors of pigments.
They are called subtractive primaries. When the wavelengths of red and cyan, green and magenta, or blue and yellow light combine, it leads to production of white light.
Hence, they are known as the complementary colors. When mixed together, the three primary colors of pigments form different colors as follows:

Cyan + Yellow = Green
Cyan + Magenta = Green
Cyan + Magenta = Green
Cyan + Magenta + Yellow = Black

What are the Primary Colors on a Painter's Color Wheel?

The primary colors used for basic art, especially for painting, are red, yellow, and blue. They are found on the painter's color wheel. The secondary ones formed by mixing these three are violet, orange, and green.
They also form a triad of 3 colors on the wheel. Red, yellow, blue, and green are considered as the four primary colors of psychology. They are used to study the effects of different colors on our body.
The color spectrum chart contains yellow, green, cyan, blue, magenta, and red. The complimentary or harmonizing ones are kept adjacent to each other.
Whereas, the contrasting ones are separated from each other by placing another color between them. The three primary colors of light are mostly used by artists and painters, and those of the pigments are used in the print industry.