What is a primary colour?

Primary colours used in painting are a pinkish red called magenta, a blue called cyan and yellow. With these 3 colours and white it is possible to mix most other colours needed when painting a picture. White is not a colour and is often used to tint colours, for example, mixing it with red to make a pale pink.

Primary colours - magenta
primary colours - cyan
primary colors - magenta

Secondary colours

A colour created by mixing two primary colours is called a secondary colour. Green is an example of a secondary colour, which is made by mixing yellow and blue. It's important to remember that to create secondary colours you need to start with true primary colours. Making a nice bright green with yellow and a royal blue is impossible as the royal blue also contains some red, so you will be trying to make a secondary green with three colours.

Tertiary Colours

Mixing all three primary colours creates a tertiary colour, which tend to be earthy tones. Brown's and khaki's are examples of tertiary colours mixed with different proportions of primary colours. Black can also be made by mixing equal amounts of red, yellow and blue.

Primary colours of light

Mixing coloured light is quite different to paint. Your television will make up all the colours you see on the screen by mixing red, blue and green light.


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