Color Systems and Color Wheels

We all perceive light and color differently. What you see as red is different than what I see as red, though we’ll both call it red. How color affects us and how we react to it is also different for each of us. Color is relative.


Color is light. When light hits an object some wavelengths are absorbed and others are reflected. We see the reflected wavelengths of light as color. When all the wavelengths in the visual spectrum are absorbed we see black and when all are reflected we see white. When some are absorbed and some are reflected we see different colors of the spectrum.


Color systems refer to how we produce colors:

  • additive system (RGB) is used when producing colors digitally as on a computer. Red, Green and Blue are added to produce all intermediate colours
  • subtractive system (CMYK) is used when producing physical colors as in paint.
    It’s based on colours (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) being taken away, not added. (paper starts off white, not black).


A color wheel or color circle is an abstract illustrative organization of color hues around a circle that shows relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, complementary colors, etc.

These Notes have been taken from:

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