One of the first issues to which the modern painter is
confrontated is how to reproduce the colors of the reality
correctly. Therefore, he needs a basic grounding in the color
Unfortunately, many books teaching this theory are based on old
conceptions dating from the end of the 19th century, and this
former theory is partly correct and partly inaccurate. Their theory
was inaccurate because the chemistry of that time was unable to
offer the painters (and the printing companies) pigments like the
The old theory said there are 3 primitive colors: red,
yellow and blue. With these 3 colors, its supporters
pretended they could reproduce every color of the nature. But this
theory is only partly correct. If you take your oil colors and mix
blue and yellow, you get green; red and yellow, you get orange. But
with blue and red, you can only produce a very dirty violet.
The result will be the same with oil, water or
or even with color pencils.
Mixing the 3 pigments in various proportions can give several
brown shades. But in any case, it remains impossible to get black
by mixing red, yellow and blue. Bright colors like those of the
rainbow (or of the spectrum) are unobtainable too.
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Colored lights or material pigments?
In fact the problem wasnt posed correctly, because the
theoricians didnt imagine there were two different
- mixing colored lights or
- mixing material pigments.
These two types of mixings give considerably different
- When you mix two colored lights, you ADD the energy of the
first one to the energy of the second. The result is a more
powerful colored light, thus a LIGHTER color. An example. In a dark
room, if you project a red light and a green light at the same time
on a white screen, the result is yellow, a lighter color. If you
add a third light, a blue one, the result is yet lighter: its
white, the lightest of all colors.
- When you mix two colored pigments on a white ground, the result
is quite different. You SUBTRACT the luminous energy of the second
from the energy of the first one. The result is less powerful, what
means darker. A red pigment mixed with a green one gives a brown
color. Brown is darker than red or than green. You add a third
pigment, a blue one, and you get something yet darker.
There are thus 2 different systems:
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