NHS Designs

Graphic Design Color Theory

The Color Wheel

The Traditional Color Wheel

The traditional color wheel is used for paints and other pigments.

traditional color wheel

Primary colors:

red

      

blue

      

yellow

      

Secondary colors: two primaries mixed together

orange

      

(red and yellow mixed)

violet

      

(blue and red mixed)

green

      

(yellow and blue mixed)

Tertiary colors: a primary plus a neighboring secondary

yellow-orange

      

red-orange

      

red-violet

      

blue-violet

 

blue-green

 

yellow-green

 

 

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are two colors which sit opposite each other on the color wheel.

      

blue & orange

      
      

yellow & violet

      
      

red & green

      
 

blue-green & red-orange

      
      

yellow-orange & blue-violet

 
      

red-violet & yellow-green

 

 

 

The Photoshop Color Wheel

The Photoshop color wheel is based on the way colors are mixed in light, and therefore on a monitor screen.

Photoshop color wheel

Primary colors (RGB):

red

      

green

      

blue

      

Secondary colors (CMY):

cyan

      

(green and blue mixed)

magenta

      

(blue and red mixed)

yellow

      

(green and red mixed)

 

CMYK and RGB:
Subtractive vs. Additive Color Models

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key color (which is black). CMYK is the color model used for printing presses. It is based on the chemistry of mixing translucent printing inks rather than paint. It is called subtractive because if you mix the three primary colors (cyan, magenta and yellow) together, you get black (in theory; in reality you need to added pure black ink to get real black.)

RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue. It is based on the way the light mixes on a computer screen. It is called an additive color model because if you add the three primaries (red, green and blue) together, you get pure white light.

CMYK and RGB


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