Elementary school teachers please stop teaching our children that the primary colors are yellow, red, and blue. This bizarre combination of additive and subtractive primaries serves only to instill confusion and limit their understanding of the real world.
My son came home last week with this information and in spite off my best attempt to convince him otherwise, he is still convinced that the primary colors are yellow, red, and blue, because that is what the color wheel says. I will have to work on this situation later.
Here’s how color actually works:
For printed systems, including photographs, magazines, and inkjet prints, yellow, magenta, and cyan colorants create a full color image. These colors are the subtractive primaries because each colorant subtracts a portion of the visible spectrum from white light. Some subtractive printing systems also use black to print high-quality text.
TVs or computer monitors, on the other hand, use additive primaries. In this case, red, blue, and green lights add together to create a full color image.
Note that neither system uses yellow, red, and blue.
So why is this information taught? I believe it is an archaic relic from a time when color was less well understood. Now, we know that the only reason a yellow and blue crayons create green is because the blue is typically not a very good blue. Similarly we know that a red crayon already contains yellow so it cannot be a primary color. Let’s stop teaching wrong information.
Please post this information to your Facebook account and forward to your local elementary school. Maybe then we can effect real change.
I find this fascinating. I studied art in college, and I carried with me the concepts of the color wheel from elementary school. When I entered the printing biz (in newspapers, where CMYK is used), I never thought about the conflict between the two theories. You make a great point. Thanks for this.
You’re really going to hate this video, Mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu44JRTIxSQ
When I saw this, I was excited to have OKGO and Sesame Street do a video on color, but my brain exploded when I saw what colors they used.
Wikipedia’s discussion of the “historical” RYB color model: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RYB_color_model
“This theory became dogma, despite abundant evidence that red, yellow, and blue primaries cannot mix all other colours, and has survived in colour theory to the present day.” Dogma is so hard to displace….
Thanks for sharing the Sesame Street Video. I have a new found lack of appreciation for Sesame Street. I am glad to see that a lot of people dislike the video and that many of the comments reflect a better understanding of color than exists on Sesame Street.
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