How Are Colors Made Feature Image
How Are Colors Made?

This question could be deeply technical in terms and definition, but let’s proceed with what is more relevant to common senses – the literal seeing and making of colors. We could go philosophical and transcendental about colors – but heck! Who cares about philosophy these days?

Well, for one, color is a perception – that is the common consensus of every so-called expert in the field of visual communications which consequently involves colors. So, when we say perception, it is an interpretation of no other than your senses – your eyes and your brain.

Now, to see colors you need the aid of light. Straightforward, the absence of light is the absence of color. So, the resultant perception is “black”. Some even argue that black is not a color since it’s existence is dependent on the absence of light, and light is color. While white is also an absence of color despite as being the outcome of utter mixture of the three primary colors.

What is light?

Light in its native physics is an electromagnetic radiation made up of wavelength and each wavelength is defined by different color spectrum. Remember the good old R.O.Y.G.B.I.V.? Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet These are the resultant colors when light passes through a prism. Fortunately, relative to humans, these colors can be interpreted by our eyes and brains which give color to our world. Well, at least to us humans.

On the other hand, other creatures interpret color differently and we can go deep into this, but for now let’s just get afloat waist down on this topic.

How are color made?

Additive colors

Additive Colors are created by light. And these colors created by light have primaries we all known as Red, Green and Blue or RGB. Interestingly enough, these primary colors are the once being used by digital display products just like your computer monitor.

How Are Colors Made Monitor Pixels

You seem to see your computer or tv monitor mixing up colors but in reality, they do not. Your monitor is made up of very tiny squares called pixels or “picture cells” and each cell is where either of these primary color (Red, Green and Blue) is fired up. And the color variations you experience is the mixture of those three colors.


Subtractive Colors are also known as materials colors, as they came about by mixing materials elements such as ink, dyes, pigments or paints.

In contrast to Additive Colors where mixtures produces white, Subtractive Colors produces black when three colors are mixed-up.

The traditional primaries of subtractive colors are Red, Yellow and Blue. Mixtures of any of these colors can produce secondary or any colors. One problem with subtractive color combination is that it cannot create 100% rich black. So, in addition to the subtractive primary color is a dedicated pigment called “black”.

That is why in modern printing technology traditional subtractive colors Blue, Red, Yellow are reinterpreted as Cyan, Magenta and Yellow plus the Black or known as Key Color. Thus CMYK. Black being the key color as it is the last letter of the work black. In addition, it is the key color that is being used in running texts which made up almost 90% of all printed materials especially new prints and Web type printing technology.

How Are Colors Made Eyes Seeing Colors

Again, printers do not mix-up colors, it’s your eye who did it. Looking under the Printer’s Loupe, you see that individual colors (CMYK) are knitted very close to each other and are interpreted by our eyes as different color combinations.

We can do a mile-long discussion about color, for now that’s it. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many technicalities yet.

Do you know that colors and play of colors are also used in video editing, technically known as LUTs. Learn more about LUTs »

To wrap up, there are two media that are prevalent in the world today – the virtual media, the ones we see on our mobile phones, TVs, computer monitors and other media screens – they use Additive Colors (RGB). While those we see on palpable printed materials such as brochures, magazines, billboards use Subtractive Colors (CMYK).




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