What Are Secondary Colors?

Colors created combining two primary colors are known as secondary colors. The nature of primary and secondary colors varies depending on the color system used, particularly whether the colors used are light, pigment, or paint. Due to the differences in primary colors, each of these systems has a different secondary color. Secondary colors, regardless of the differences between different types of color, are always created in the same way: combining two primary colors.

It’s critical to establish the medium in which the color is being used when discussing colors, whether primary or secondary. There are two basic types of color systems: additive color systems and subtractive color systems. Additive colors are colored forms of light in which different colors of light are combined, or added, to create new colors. Color is created absorbing, or subtracting, certain wavelengths of light and reflecting other wavelengths to create the appearance of certain colors in subtractive systems.

The three primary colors in an additive system, such as colored light from a monitor or projector, are red, blue, and green. Magenta, yellow, and cyan are the three secondary hues, which are combinations of red and blue, yellow and red and green, and cyan and blue and green, respectively. White light is created when all three primary colors of light are combined.

Depending on the type of subtractive system used, the secondary colors are different. The three primary colors in pigment, which is commonly used for printing images, are cyan, magenta, and yellow. The secondary pigment hues are blue, which comes from cyan and magenta, red, which comes from magenta and yellow, and green, which comes from cyan and yellow. When these pigments are mixed together, darker colors result, while light colors result in lighter colors; combining all three primary subtractive colors results in black or a muddy brownish gray. It’s worth noting that pigment and light have secondary and primary colors that are diametrically opposed.

The three secondary colors based on paint, which is also a subtractive system, are frequently taught and discussed in art classes. The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow, with secondary colors being orange, violet, and green. Red and yellow combine to form orange, red and blue combine to form violet or purple, and blue and yellow combine to form green. Tertiary colors, which are created combining a secondary and a primary color, are also available, though they are used less frequently.