The Role of Subtractive Color Mixing in Various Lighting Conditions

Subtractive color mixing combines colorants (pigments or dyes) to create darker shades. The colors we see are the wavelengths of light that are reflected or transmitted, while the rest are absorbed. Since each subtractive color absorbs light, mixing them results in a darker color.

Subtractive Color Mixing: RYB and CMY Color Models

The Role of Subtractive Color Mixing in Various Lighting Conditions

A subtractive color model relies on primary colors. The primary colors, cyan, magenta, and yellow, are evenly spaced around the wheel. Mixing equal amounts of cyan, yellow, and magenta pigments results in a dark brown or black.

When you mix the three primary colors in equal amounts, they absorb (or subtract) all wavelengths of light. The process results in very little light being reflected in your eyes. The mixture appears to be dark brown or black.

Mixing two of the subtractive primary colors creates a new color:

  • Cyan + Magenta = Blue.
  • Magenta + Yellow = Red.
  • Yellow + Cyan = Green.

Red, yellow, and blue are the subtractive primary colors in the RYB color model. Mixing these primary colors creates secondary colors:

  • Red + Yellow = Orange.
  • Yellow + Blue = Green.
  • Blue + Red = Purple.

Subtractive Color Mixing in Different Lighting Conditions

How Lighting Conditions Change a Color’s Appearance

Lighting conditions affect subtractive color mixing by changing color perception. The color temperature, the CRI, and the intensity of a light source affect colorfulness.

When mixing colors, a warm light source makes colors appear warmer and yellow. A cool light source makes colors appear cooler and bluer.

A low CRI (Color Rendering Index) light source may not accurately reproduce colors. It causes inaccurate color mixing. The subtractive color appears different than intended under different lighting conditions.

How Different Pigments Absorb and Reflect Light

When mixing pigments, inks, or dyes, they still absorb all the wavelengths they did before. What’s left are the wavelengths that both pigments reflect.

The more pigments, the more color subtraction. For instance, cyan and yellow absorb red and blue wavelengths and reflect green wavelengths. As a result, the subtractive mixture appears green.

When added to this mixture, magenta absorbs green wavelengths of light. It causes the mixture to become darker and more saturated. The final color and shade vary depending on each pigment’s proportions.

The Role of Subtractive Color Mixing in Various Industries

In Printing

In printing, subtractive color mixing creates color by combining three primary colors of ink: cyan, magenta, and yellow (CMY). Cyan ink absorbs red light, which controls how much red reflects on the paper. Magenta absorbs green, while yellow absorbs blue.

For inkjet printers, black ink (key) is included. The black ink provides a deeper black and more accurate shadow. Printers create various colors and shades using four ink colors, including photographic images and full-color designs.

In Paint Production

Paint, like printing ink, absorbs and selectively reflects light wavelengths. Mixing paint to create a different shade or color is achieved through subtractive mixing.

The pigments used in paint production are chosen based on their ability to absorb or reflect specific wavelengths of light. Mixing pigments creates new colors, including secondary and tertiary colors. It’s also applicable in art, interior design, and architecture.

In Textiles

Subtractive color mixing produces objects with durable coloring. Light-absorbing pigments and chemical dyes are used as textile colorants. Subtractive color is used on clothes, paper, and plastics.

Clothing and paper industries use the subtractive method on insoluble pigments. Insoluble pigments are colorfast and remain unchanged when an item becomes wet.

Using Subtractive Color Mixing to Achieve Accurate Color Results

For accurate color results, it’s essential to understand the properties of pigments or dyes. There are several principles of subtractive color mixing:

  • Use a color wheel: A color wheel helps choose the right colors to mix. It gives insights into the proportions of pigments you need to achieve a desired color.
  • Mix colors in small amounts: It’s easier to control the proportions of colors in small amounts. Apply a small amount of the color to a test surface, and compare it to the desired hue.
  • Understand the properties of the pigments or dyes: Using pigments with different absorbing and light-reflecting abilities affects the color mixing results. For instance, certain pigments of red will contain more yellow or violet, which affects subtractive mixing.
  • Use a light source with consistent color temperature: A constant light source ensures that the mixed colors are accurately represented. Also, account for metamerism in different lighting conditions.

Subtractive vs. Additive Color Mixing: What’s the Difference?

Subtractive vs. Additive Color Mixing: What’s the Difference?

Subtractive color mixing is creating colors by removing or subtracting light wavelengths. Additive color mixing, however, creates color by adding light wavelengths. Subtractive processes begin with white, and the mixture darkens as more colors are added.

The primary colors in the subtractive method are cyan, magenta, and yellow. Additive color mixing creates color using red, green, and blue (RGB) light. The color model is used in digital displays like computer monitors and televisions.