(fig. 12-1). When you overlap red and green, yellow is
created; green and blue, cyan is created; blue and red,
magenta is created. In the area where all three light
primaries overlap, you, of course, have white.
In the actual production of color prints, you should
remember that
yellow is greenish red;
cyan is greenish blue; and
magenta is bluish red.
The above information should help you remember
the colors of light that make up yellow, cyan, and
magenta, which are the light secondaries. Light
secondaries are the colors produced when two light
primaries are mixed.
Additive Primaries
Now that you have an understanding of light
primaries, they will be called the additive primaries. The
name additive primaries indicates that certain colors of
light can be added together to create distinctly new
As explained in chapter 2, color films and papers
have three separate emulsion layers that are sensitive to
red, green, and blue light. Because the emulsions are
sensitive to the additive primaries, they can record all
colors. In the three emulsion layers, three separate,
superimposed images are formed and when viewed
together, they give a full range of colors.
The color formation, however, is not direct; for
example, in a color print, a cyan image is formed in the
top or red sensitive emulsion layer, a magenta image in
the middle or green sensitive layer, and a yellow image
in the bottom or blue sensitive layer. These three colors
or dyes-cyan, magenta, and yellow-are what produce
the colors we see when we view a color print. These
colors-cyan, magenta, and yellow-are called the
subtractive primaries.
Subtractive Primaries
Keep in mind that the additive primaries-red,
green, and blue-are the basic starting colors from which
all other colors of light can be created. When you are
working with light, the additive primaries produce all
the other colors; however, they will not do this as dyes
or pigments; for example, blue and green dyes cannot
be mixed to produce cyan, though blue and green light
For dyes and pigments, another set of primaries are
needed. This other set of primaries happens to be yellow,
cyan, and magenta. Dye couplers are what form the
colors within a color print (or film). The dye
primaries-cyan, magenta, and yellow-can be used
separately or superimposed (mixed), one image over the
other, to produce other colors; that is,
cyan + magenta = blue;
magenta + yellow = red; and
yellow + cyan = green.
The colorant primaries-cyan, magenta, and
yellow-are called the subtractive primaries because
they subtract certain colors from the light falling on
Anything that is colored is subtracting something
from white light; that is, an object appears a certain color
because it is subtracting or absorbing a certain other
color or colors from the light falling upon it; for
example, an object that appears
red subtracts green and blue (cyan) light;
green subtracts red and blue (magenta) light;
blue subtracts green and red (yellow) light;
magenta subtracts green light;
cyan subtracts red light; and
yellow subtracts blue light.

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