Friday, July 4, 2008


Students have traditionally been taught the standard subtractive color scheme in which the primaries are red, yellow, and blue. Designers have to learn a variety of different color theories - CMYK, RGB, hexadecimal, Pantone, etc.

CMYK (left) stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black which are the primary colors in the printing industry. CMY (cyan, magenta, and yellow) are the ink colors from which all other colors are created in four-color process printing. Black is used to intensify the image by adding deeper shadows. Graphic designers learn CMYK color theories.

RGB (right) stands for red, green, and blue which are the additive primary colors for lighting, television, and digital computer design. RGB (red, green, and blue) are the light colors from which all other colors are created in digital media. Your TV and computer have RGB monitors. In HTML (hypertext markup language) used to create web pages, colors are designated by three sets of numbers - 000,000,000. The first set represents the amount of red, the second set the amount of green and the third set the amount of blue. In HTML for example, 255,0,0 would produce a red; 0,255,0 would produce a green; and 0,0,255 would produce a blue. The higher the number the brighter the tint. The lower the number the darker the shade.

What combination would produce yellow?


The HTML code for the word RED above is (250,0,0)
GREEN is (0,250,0)
BLUE is (0,0,250)
YELLOW is (250,250,0) because, in additive color (see the chart above right), red and green produce yellow.

Basic color theories used everyday in design fields are not "too confusing" for students (even though it may be confusing to teachers). RGB and CMYK color systems need to be explained to students along with the traditional subtractive color schemes used with paint and crayons or they will not be able to understand or do basic work in design. When we add design to our curriculum we add important learning even in areas we think of as "basic".

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