Wrong Color

Subtractive color mixing, showing how yellow, magenta, and cyan combine to create a full color image

Subtractive color mixing, showing how yellow, magenta, and cyan combine to create a full color image

I received a response from the Osseo School District in response to my posting on Elementary School Teachers Please Stop

  • For the printing industry- yes, Mark Mizen is correct and our students learn about these CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key [black]) colors when they begin to create artwork with computers/video/photography in our 7-12 Art programs…
  • For K-12 painting and drawing experiences, we rely on materials- paint, chalk, oil crayons which exist in R, Y, and B colors.
  • Our K-6 Art lessons:
    • introduce students to the basics (the “magic”!) of Color and Color mixing which they can physically do and visibly see and therefore more easily understand, and
    • provide a foundation for more complex color understanding when they begin “electronic” art applications at the Secondary level!

Candace Gordon, Specialist Visual Arts, Osseo School District 279

Newton

Isaac Newton’s work on optics provided a fundamental understanding of color

The Osseo School District apparently believes that primary colors work differently in the art department than in the printing industry, teaching that red, yellow and blue paints represent primary colors. I do not see anything wrong with teaching that yellow, red, and blue create different colors when mixed. They do create different colors, but they are not primary colors and teaching that they are is incorrect. The mixing of yellow, red, and blue cannot make pure magenta, green, or many other colors. The problem is that red and blue colorants absorb light much too broadly to serve as effective primary colors.

The only reason incorrect primary colors are more easily understood is that schools have allowed incorrect information to persist. Correct information is no more difficult to understand than the incorrect information that is currently being taught. If students learned about cyan and magenta in elementary school, they would have a far better better understanding of color when they learn more details in high school physics. Delaying this information until seventh grade does students a tremendous disservice.

As I learned from my original posting, Sesame Street has an equally poor understanding of color. Check out After seeing this video, read the comments and click dislike. Many people have done so and their comments reflect that fact.

Isaac Newton would be turning over in his grave if he saw how color is now being taught.

About Mark Mizen

At Creative Memories, I evaluate photographic products and related materials so that today's memories are not lost to the future and then communicate this information to Creative Memories Consultants and their customers. My interests extend from preservation of traditional photographs to the production of photo books to the expected longevity of electronic image files. My long-term objective is to direct the development of technology that meets consumers needs for high-quality products.
This entry was posted in Digital Photos, History, Industry Info. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Wrong Color

  1. Laura Maguire says:

    Very interesting discussion of color. There are so many different colors than that box of eight crayons we got as a child. It makes sense to introduce them early on.

  2. Mark, I agree with you. It is unfortunate that teachers continue to give false information to children about primary colors and color mixing. Paint, chalk, pens, and crayons work on the same color principles as printing ink. A long time ago, children were taught that the world is flat. Those teachers did not know that they were giving false information to the children. Someday, I hope that teachers will understand and teach the correct principles of color primaries and color mixing. If you combine yellow and blue paint, you get a dark color that is close to black, not a relatively bright green. If you combine yellow paint with another color paint and the result is green, the other color is cyan. Shame on Sesame Street and OK Go for presenting false information to children.

  3. Mark Mizen says:

    Hi Parker,
    Thanks for your reply. The sad part is that children are taught to believe that what their teachers tell them is correct. I could not convince my son that his teacher was wrong even though that was absolutely the case. I will try again at some point and perhaps he will listen to reason.
    Mark

  4. Pingback: Prisms, Light, and Color | All About Images Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s