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Color Basics for Print and Web


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Grade School Color Mixing
Mixing Paint Colors: Red + Yellow = Orange

Primary and Secondary (Complementary) Colors for Painting Not Printing Inks

Jacci Howard Bear

Did you know that the color wheel you learned in school isn't the same as the colors used for the Web? It's not even the way colors are mixed for printing? Well, ok, same colors, just different arrangements and mixes.

Traditional (Think Paint or Crayons)

  • The traditional primary colors are RED, YELLOW, and BLUE.


  • Mix two primary colors to get the complementary or secondary colors.


  • The traditional complementary colors are ORANGE (Red plus Yellow), GREEN (Yellow plus Blue), and PURPLE (Blue plus Red).

In grade school you probably had plenty of opportunities to mix primary colors and make new colors. It was magic! Mixing colors for printing with ink doesn't work quite the same. Primary colors in light and ink are not the same red, yellow, and blue primary colors of paint. In fact, there are 6 primary colors.

Color Basics Index:

  1. Grade School Color Mixing (this page)
  2. Additive and Subtractive Primaries (RGB & CMY)
  3. RGB Color in Desktop Publishing
  4. CMY Color in Desktop Publishing
  5. Specifying Colors
  6. Perception of Color
  7. Hues, Tints, Shades, and Saturation
  8. Common Color Combination Schemes
  9. Fine-tuning Color Combinations


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