Humanities Courses / Course / Chapter

What are Primary and Secondary Colors? And How are they Created?

Sumita Johnson, Christopher Muscato
  • Author
    Sumita Johnson

    Sumita Johnson has worked as an instructional design manager and a learning and development professional for more than 15 years. She has also taught English to Primary and high-school students. She has a Masters degree in English Literature. She also has numerous professional certificates, such as 150-hour TESOL Certificate, Gamification, TAA40104 in Training and Assessment, Online Course Facilitation and Diplomas in Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and Information Technology.

  • Instructor
    Christopher Muscato

    Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

What are the three primary and three secondary colors? Learn how they are created and mixed to form the entire spectrum of color. Learn the basics of color theory. Updated: 07/29/2021

Introduction to Color Theory

90% of the information we receive is through our eyes. And color plays a huge role in how we perceive objects and events around us. Landscapes and nature lure us when they are bright and colorful, food looks more appetizing when an array of beautiful colors is presented on the table, art gets a new meaning altogether with color being at its center, all of the world's art and culture garner more eyeballs when colors are used to highlight aspects, such as costumes, musical instruments, and materials.

Light plays a huge role in the way the human eye 'perceives colors. Light contains all the colors in it. When a particular color is seen, it is when all other colors are absorbed except the color that the eyes see. For example, when you see green grass that means the grass is absorbing all the other colors except green.

On a color wheel, which is a foundational tool to understand how the color scheme works, there is a set of three main colors called the primary colors. Then there is another set of colors that are formed as a result of mixing the primary colors with each other called the secondary colors. Lastly, there is the third category of colors that is formed by combining the colors from the first and the second category known as the tertiary colors. Adding white, black, or gray also gives different colors.


All colors can be created with primary colors

The color wheel and all its colors


There are a number of important terms that are related to color:

  • Color: Every color in the general sense is called a color. It is an umbrella-term to refer to every underlying category.
  • Hue: They are the primary and secondary colors. White, Gray and Black are not considered hues.
  • Tint: When White is mixed with another hue, a blander, paler version of the color is formed. This is called a tint.
  • Tone: When Gray is mixed with another hue, a grayer version of the color is formed. This is called a tone.
  • Shade: When Black is mixed with another hue, a darker version of the color is formed. This is called a shade.


What makes a tint, tone and shade?

Tint, Tone and Shade


Colors and Emotions

Colors can also represent emotions and moods. Every color has its unique characteristics and emanates certain vibes. Some of the color representations are as follows:

  • Yellow: Yellow is the color of happiness, cheer, and joy. It lifts moods and spreads joy.
  • Red: Red represents passion, anger, speed. Most fast-food joints are painted in red as they want the customers to quickly eat and leave, so they can cater to their next customer. It is not a place to have a leisurely meal.
  • Green: Green is the color of nature, of life and growth, of abundance.
  • Blue: Blue is said to be a calming color. That is why so many people paint their bedrooms in this color so it can provide calm and tranquility.
  • White: White is the ultimate color of peace and rest. It is also stated to be a very classy color. It never fails in any given situation.
  • Purple: Purple is said to be the color of royalty. That is why all the cloaks in olden times were made in this color.
  • Gold: Gold represents riches, wealth, opulence, and aristocracy.
  • Black: Black is the color of darkness, gloom, and grieving.

Color Theory

Look around you. Chances are, the world around you is full of colors. While we're pretty used to seeing a multitude of colors in our daily lives, the fact that so many colors actually exist is pretty incredible when you think about it. What our eyes interpret as colors is a result of waves of light bouncing off of tiny chemicals within objects called pigments. Pigments absorb certain kinds of light, but reflect others. The colors that are reflected are the ones that reach our eyes.

However, for all of this complexity, all the colors we see are really just a combination of a few basic colors, mixed in different ways. Colors from pure light mix differently than those that come from things with pigments, like paint, so for now we're just going to focus on pigment-based colors, the ones artists use to create their masterpieces. The world is full of colors, and capturing them in a painting means you need to know how colors are made.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Famous Artists of the 20th Century

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Color Theory
  • 1:06 Primary Colors
  • 1:55 Secondary Colors
  • 3:13 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

The Primary Colors

Primary colors are perceived based on the light that is reflected and seen by the eyes. As the name suggests, primary colors are the main colors.

There are three primary colors. These are:

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Blue


Primary Colors in the Art World

Primary Colors in the Art World


Significance of Primary Colors

In the world of art, primary colors, such as Red, Yellow, and Blue are the base colors and aren't formed by mixing two or more colors. In fact, they help form other colors, known as the secondary colors. This is how significant they are.

Other Primary Colors

When it comes to the world of digital media, the primary colors aren't the same as those in the world of art. As light constantly radiates through monitors, television sets and digital devices, the primary colors of digital media are:

  • Red
  • Green
  • Blue

However, in the world of print media, the primary colors are:

  • Cyan
  • Magenta
  • Yellow

Primary Colors

Let's start at the most basic unit of colors. A primary color is one that cannot be created by combining any other color. You may look around you and assume that there are dozens of primary colors, but in fact there are only three. Every other color you see in a painting is created from a combination of these three colors.

So, what are they? The three primary colors are blue, red, and yellow. These hues cannot be created by blending or mixing any other colors. When dealing with digital media, you may often see these colors labeled as cyan, magenta, and yellow. Since our computers use light to blend colors, and not physical solutions with pigments, the primary colors are slightly different.

Secondary Colors

Artists create physical, tangible colors like those in paints and dyes by mixing various amounts of primary colors. While it may seem incredible, we can create any color on a color wheel just by mixing these three colors, along with white and black. Traditionally, white and black aren't considered primary colors because they imply an absence of color or a combination of all the colors. Generally, artists build up a full palette of color gradually, by combining primary colors in consistent ways.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Video Transcript

Color Theory

Look around you. Chances are, the world around you is full of colors. While we're pretty used to seeing a multitude of colors in our daily lives, the fact that so many colors actually exist is pretty incredible when you think about it. What our eyes interpret as colors is a result of waves of light bouncing off of tiny chemicals within objects called pigments. Pigments absorb certain kinds of light, but reflect others. The colors that are reflected are the ones that reach our eyes.

However, for all of this complexity, all the colors we see are really just a combination of a few basic colors, mixed in different ways. Colors from pure light mix differently than those that come from things with pigments, like paint, so for now we're just going to focus on pigment-based colors, the ones artists use to create their masterpieces. The world is full of colors, and capturing them in a painting means you need to know how colors are made.

Primary Colors

Let's start at the most basic unit of colors. A primary color is one that cannot be created by combining any other color. You may look around you and assume that there are dozens of primary colors, but in fact there are only three. Every other color you see in a painting is created from a combination of these three colors.

So, what are they? The three primary colors are blue, red, and yellow. These hues cannot be created by blending or mixing any other colors. When dealing with digital media, you may often see these colors labeled as cyan, magenta, and yellow. Since our computers use light to blend colors, and not physical solutions with pigments, the primary colors are slightly different.

Secondary Colors

Artists create physical, tangible colors like those in paints and dyes by mixing various amounts of primary colors. While it may seem incredible, we can create any color on a color wheel just by mixing these three colors, along with white and black. Traditionally, white and black aren't considered primary colors because they imply an absence of color or a combination of all the colors. Generally, artists build up a full palette of color gradually, by combining primary colors in consistent ways.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 3 secondary colors?

The three secondary colors are Purple, Green and Orange. They are formed when two primary colors are mixed equally in the following order.

Red + Blue = Purple

Blue + Yellow = Green

Yellow + Red = Orange

Why are there only 3 primary colors?

These three primary colors help us make three more colors, known as the secondary colors. And three secondary colors, in turn help form six tertiary colors. Almost all colors in the world of art are based in these three primary colors.

What are the 3 true primary colors?

The three true primary colors are Red, Yellow and Blue. These are not formed by mixing any colors. In fact, they help make secondary colors.

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Resources created by teachers for teachers

Over 30,000 video lessons & teaching resources‐all in one place.
Video lessons
Quizzes & Worksheets
Classroom Integration
Lesson Plans

I would definitely recommend Study.com to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.

Jennifer B.
Teacher
Jennifer B.
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account