Colour is produced by the decomposition or the separation of light. A good example of this is the rainbow -- technically called a spectrum. Another way to separate light is to use a prism. A prism separates light into its individual elements. The rainbow contains all the basic colours found in nature when combined variously.


 There are six colours in the order shown here: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. These colours are broken into several categories: primary, secondary or complementary, tertiary and intermediate. The primary colours are red, blue and yellow. The secondary or complementary colours are orange, green and violet. Secondary colours are always made up of two primary colours. Secondary colours are also called complementary because they always sit opposite the primary colours (see illustration below) and in doing so they compliment these primary (alpha) colours.

 From this point I will refer to the secondary colours as "complementary" to keep things simple. Theoretically, the sum of two complementary colours should produce black, but in painter's pigment they produce shades of brown. Red, blue and yellow, when combined, will produce black.

Neutral colours are considered to be brown, black and white.

Tertiary and intermediate colours are derived from primary and complimentary colours. This offers us an infinite palate from which to choose.






This page was last updated on 09/17/02.