INTRODUCTION TO COLOR THEORY

I have had many compliments on this new color theory that I stumbled across 27 years ago. Especially from artist who have read my book and from the art instructors from the lectures I gave at four major art schools. However, I can still hear that voice that blurted out during one of my lectures with “You’re crazy”. This was just as I was saying that I believed that we see all color from subtraction of the CMY code in our brain. And then there is this one critique on the web by a person who said nice things about my book but said I was wrong on my color theory and didn’t understand the true color theory. So for those doubting Thomases and anyone who is interested, I have decided to publish my 27 years of research on color theory on the web.

In order to talk about color theory one needs a platform to base the color theory fundamentals on. The traditional color theory is based on Isaac Newton’s belief that the color is in the light. Physicist Young refined it when he defined lights primaries as red, green, and blue (RGB). Today we call light the RGB additive theory and the CMY subtractive theory for opaque objects. There has been much confusion written on this subject.

The new color theory shown on these web pages comes from years of research with prisms and computers. The big difference is that it is based on color being assigned to the brains cortex with its primaries as (CMY). Light has long medium, and short rays that are colorless energy. Matter is composed of various percentages of CMY that is under a physics law that says this: Whenever it is exposed to light, the cyan must absorb like amounts of the long ray of light, and reflect the rest to the cones of the eye. The magenta with the medium ray and the yellow with the short ray. Energy is always on between the cones of the eyes and the cortex of the brain. The cones actually act like switches and send the coded light signal to the cortex of the brain and subtract from the CMY code. We actually see all color transparent or opaque through a subtraction of the CMY in our brain. For instance a red and green light added together will make a yellow light. Tests prove that is accomplished by a subtraction of the cyan and magenta leaving yellow in our brain color center.

A BRIEF HISTORY of color theory

Scientists prepared the way for the development of color theory. The platform used to understand color comes from the great physicist Isaac Newton’s prism experiments. He passed a beam of sunlight through a glass prism, which showed the colors seen in the rainbow. Before Newton’s time, people thought that some sort of ‘latent color’ embeds in the glass of the prism. Newton showed this to be false by passing the light through a second prism, which reassembled the colored light into white light. From these experiments, Newton concluded that light is the source of color. He assigned to the light, seven basic colors: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, indigo, and purple.

Physicist Thomas Young carried Newton’s experiments further by discovering that just three of Newton’s colors when mixed together makes white light: red, green, and blue (RGB). Since Young’s discovery, red, green, and blue have been considered the primary colors of light.

The three primary colors of the additive spectrum are red, green, and blue. When we add these three primaries together we get white.

Color theorists use the subtractive primaries to explain color filters and printing. The primaries of the subtractive spectrum are magenta, yellow, and cyan (CMY). When we add these three primaries together we get black.

EVERY COLOR HAS HUE, VALUE AND INTENSITY

In 1866 a scientist named Helmholz discovered that every color has three different qualities, or dimensions: hue, value, and intensity.

Unfortunately, he didn’t work out a practical system for applying his theory. Therefore it had little influence on art until much later.

Around the turn of the century, Albert H. Munsell, an instructor in art, realized that everyone who wants to use color correctly must recognize and understand these characteristics. Using Helmholz’s theory as a starting point, Munsell developed a complete system for the analysis and organization of color. The Munsell system is used widely throughout the world. The problem with the Munsell color wheel is that it is based on 10 colors which puts it out of sync.

Today many artist color wheels are based on 12 colors with some form of red, yellow, and blue (RYB) The Ames color wheel is based on the CMY primaries as are many others. 

THE NEW COLOR THEORY

Volumes are written about color and yet confusion is common because it is based on the RGB additive spectrum which claims the RGB primary colors are in the light. The new color theory says the primary colors are CMY and they reside in your brain. It’s time we stopped explaining color with the additive RGB and learned color with subtractive CMY primaries.

The new color theory shows the computer needs a few changes.

(A) The prism test shows that the monitors blue phosphor is wrong and should be blue/purple.

(B) Europe’s monitors use a different red than we do. This dispute can be settled because the prism studies show the true red.

(C) The computer’s color modes should be CMY and CMYK. There should not be an RGB mode. The computer section below will demonstrate why a computer sends a CMY signal instead of a RGB signal.

The new color theory shows the printer’s cyan and magenta inks are not pure. You get a printed dull orange because there is 23% cyan in the magenta inks. The Germans have developed a dot pattern that shows six colors so they can add a bright orange ink in four-color printing. Today some pro printers have as many as 10 inks – cyan, vivid magenta, yellow, light black, light cyan, vivid light magenta, light light black, orange, green, photo black or matte black. A better alternative is for chemists to discover a pure magenta and a pure cyan ink, and all the problems would disappear. The new color theory predicts this will happen. The biggest drawback to this is that so far these colors are fugitive. In 1993 my first digital printers with just three CMY inks were so pure and transparent that they made pure colors like orange, red and a dense black. The problem was they were very fugitive and faded fast.

TRADITIONAL  PRIMARY COLORS ARE INACCURATE

The traditional artist red, blue, and yellow (RYB) primary color theory was so inaccurate that it doesn’t make sense. For instance, red and blue did not make purple because the red primary had too much yellow in it. The great artists make color intuitively while average artists need rules that make sense so they can learn color theory. The average artist was never able to make sense of color because the theory was wrong. The new color theory is so accurate because it is based on math, that it will be teachable to the talented and average artist. Today some color wheels are using cyan, magenta, and yellow as primaries which is a step in the right direction. However, some still insist on making orange a secondary because they are using the old tradition instead of math. The new color theory which is based on math says the secondary is warm red and orange is a tertiary. All the complement colors on the new ames color wheel when mixed together make black and a perfect grey. This is explained in my two books Color Theory Made Easy and How To Mix Color. 

THE NEW COLOR THEORY’S BASIC

It is obvious that color behaves according to very definite laws. These laws are so exact and predictable that when you understand them, and use the prism to expose them, they tend to overwhelm you and put you in awe.

One of the key components of the new color theory is that light is a colorless triadic code carrier. Harold Kueppins (a German who is one of the most respected color theorists) describes this best. He believes the universe is colorless. It consists of colorless matter and colorless energy. Colors exist only as an observer’s sensory perception. The energy rays of the light stimulus are not colors, but rather information transmitters that can be compared to a punched or magnetic tape.

Hence light, the color stimulus, is not the information itself but rather its carrier. Only after the input is received by the eye and converted according to the eye’s pre-programming can there be real information. We call this information color sensation. Go to my YouTube to view a video explaining this.

Kueppins also believes there are eight basic colors: white, cyan, magenta, yellow, red, green, purple, and black. He believes these eight basic colors are the eight undivided possibilities resulting from three primary colors: red, green, and purple. They represent the most extreme color sensations that our visual system can produce.

I think Kueppins’ eight basic colors (six hues + black & white) should really be twelve hues plus black and white, because we can’t focus when we view the eight basic prism hues. This inability to focus gives us turquoise, yellow green, orange, cool red, mauve violet and dark blue. My prism research disagrees with Kueppins’ three primaries of red, green, and purple and that matter is colorless. I believe color actually starts in the brain with the three primary colors cyan, magenta, and yellow and that all matters has a cyan, magenta, and yellow code and I also believe that light is colorless. See my YouTube videos which explains this.

Phones, Tablets, Computers/TVs SCREENS

COMPUTERS monitors PIXELS TEST

This slide shows how the screen RGB pixels in your phone, tablet, computer and TVs relate to the CMY code in your brain to give the various sensations of color. My YouTube account has a video TV monitor pixels that shows how this works.

HISTOGRAM DEMONSTRATION

This test is designed to show that the RGB channels are really the CMY channels by using the histogram menu. The figure below shows a watercolor of Tiffany opened up in photoshop in an RGB mode using the levels menu. This picture shows that the levels menu is not changed yet, so her color is natural.

ADDING MAGENTA

In this test we will make Tiffany look sun burned by adding magenta to her face. The additive color theory says adding red and blue equals magenta. The only way we can add magenta is by moving the green channels medium bar in the add position. The reason the green channel adds magenta is because it is really the magenta channel.

ADDING YELLOW

In this test we will make Tiffany look jaundiced by adding yellow to her face. The additive color theory says adding red and green equals yellow. The only way we can add yellow is by moving the blue channels medium bar in the add position. The reason the blue channel adds yellow is because it is really the yellow channel.

THE RGB CHANNELS ARE REALLY CMY CHANNELS

In summary, there are no RGB channels. The so-called RGB are actually CMY channels. Figure A below shows all three so called RGB channels together which looks like the watercolor of Tiffany. Figure B below shows the so called red channel pulled away from the picture. Notice it is really the cyan channel. Tiffany now looks reddish because what’s left is the magenta and yellow channels that are labeled as the green and blue channels. Figure C below shows all three channels puled apart. This clearly shows the RGB channels are really the CMY channels.