Secondary Colours

We explain what the secondary colors are in each chromatic model and what the chromatic circle is. Also, primary and tertiary colors.

secondary colors cmyk ryb rgb
Secondary colors depend on the color model used.

What are secondary colors?

secondary colors are all those that are obtained through the mixture or combination of primary or pure colors. What exactly these colors are will depend on the color model used:

  • The traditional or RYB model. The initials of his name come from English Net, yellow, Blue, that is, red, yellow and blue, since these are their primary colors. It is a subtractive model of color, which subtracts light as the colors are combined, until it reaches black. Through the combination of these primary colors, the following secondary colors can be obtained: green (yellow + blue), orange (yellow + red) and purple (red + blue).
  • The RGB model. The initials of his name come from English Net, Green, Blue, that is, red, green and blue, since these are his primary colors. It is an additive color model, which adds light as the colors are combined. Through the combination of these primary colors, the following secondary colors can be obtained: yellow (red + green), cyan (green + blue) and magenta (red + blue).
  • The CMYK model. The initials of his name come from English Cyan, Magenta, yellow, that is, cyan, magenta, and yellow, since these are its primary colors. Black (represented by the K) is often incorporated into them. It is a model of subtractive color synthesis, which gradually loses light as the colors are mixed. Through the combination of its primary colors, the following secondary colors can be obtained: red (magenta + yellow), green (yellow + cyan), blue (cyan + magenta), black (cyan + magenta + yellow).
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Can servite: Color Theory

the color wheel

chromatic circle
The color wheel organizes colors according to their hue or hue.

It is known as a chromatic circle or color wheel to a graphical and ordered representation of colorsarranged in a circle according to their tone or hue, and in which primary and secondary colors can be identified.

This is a very traditional method of arranging colors, in which more or fewer colors are included depending on the level of detail desired. Thus, there are chromatic circles of 6, 12, 24 or more colors, and there are chromatic circles for each of the established chromatic models (RYB, RGB or CMYK).

The location of the colors within the color wheel, in addition, indicates both the affinity of colors for their neighbors, as well as their complementary opposition relationship with the colors arranged in front. For this reason, the color wheel is a central tool in the study of color.

More in: Chromatic circle

Primary colors

tertiary primary secondary colors
The secondary colors come from the primary colors and, from the combination of both, the tertiary ones.

Primary colors, also called pure colors, are those that, according to a chromatic model, do not contain any mixture of colors insidebut are fundamental colors in themselves.

It is important to note that this is an idealized model, since white light (in which all colors are contained) contains an infinity of possible colors, discernible only by the sensitivity of the eye. The human eye, in this sense, only has receptors for certain wavelengths, through its three types of receptors: L, M and S, capable of capturing the colors red, green and blue, and through them compose the rest. of the colors we perceive.

The primary colors are, according to the chromatic model:

  • Yellow, blue and redaccording to the traditional model or RBY.
  • red, green and blueaccording to the RGB model.
  • Cyan, magenta, yellowaccording to the CMYK model.
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More in: Primary Colors

Tertiary colors

Tertiary colors, also called intermediate colors, are those obtained by mixing a primary or pure color with a secondary color. These are the predominant colors in nature and allow the greatest variety of tones, which is why they have always inspired artists and painters.

Depending on the color model, there can be an infinite number of tertiary or intermediate colors. However, in the traditional chromatic model (RYB), only six of them are distinguished:

  • the charterhouseobtained through the mixture of green and yellow.
  • the vermilionobtained through the mixture of red and orange.
  • the amberobtained through the mixture of yellow and orange.
  • the turquoiseobtained through the mixture of blue and green.
  • the violetobtained through the mixture of blue and magenta.
  • The granaobtained through the mixture of red and purple.

Complementary colors

complementary colors
Complementary colors create the greatest possible contrast when placed next to each other.

Complementary colors (or complementary opposites) are called those that are located in antagonistic or opposite positions on the chromatic circle, and that when mixed give a neutral color as a result (gray, white or black). In addition, when they are placed one next to the other they generate the greatest possible contrast, since they differ in their respective compositions.

In general, when talking about this type of color, its most saturated versions are used, that is, the brightest. According to the traditional color model (RYB), the complementary colors are:

  • The blue and the orange.
  • The red and the green.
  • The yellow and the violet.

Continue with: Visible spectrum


  • “Secondary Color” on Wikipedia.
  • “Primary Color” on Wikipedia.
  • “Complementary Colors” on Wikipedia.
  • “What are the primary and secondary colors, and what difference do they have” in ABC Escolar (Paraguay).
  • “The bases of color” in L’Atelier Canson.
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