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Additive Color

Additive Color


In this lesson, you will learn how to recognize and explain additive color and its uses in visual communications.

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Source: Image of Additive Color Mixing, Public Domain Image of CRT Monitor, Creative Commons Image of RGB Pixels, Creative Commons Hex Color Chart, Creative Commons

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Hi everyone. My name is Mario and I'd like to welcome you to today's lesson on Additive Color. In today's lesson we'll learn how to recognize and explain additive color and its uses in visual communication. As always, feel free to pause, fast forward, and rewind as you see fit and when you're ready to go, let's get started.

The additive color process is the mixing of color with light. Additive colors is seen when light is projected. The idea is that color is created by mixing light together and many devices depend on additive color models such as computer monitors, television screens, and smartphones. And it's worth noting before I proceed that because it's light that's being combined, you're going to get different color combinations. It's not like paint where you mix red and blue and you get straight purple or you mix yellow and red and get orange. The primaries are different in light and they are red, green, and blue.

As I mentioned, they are used in many devices and were even used in older televisions or computer monitors which were called CRTs which is short for cathode ray tube. So just to show you a quick example here of how this process works, here's a close up of an LCD screen. Quite common, like you'd see in a smartphone or a TV. Were you looking at the screen at a normal distance, each letter would appear red, green, and blue respectively and the background would be white. So you can see in each letter that either completely lowered or just lowered the brightness of the two other pixel colors to achieve the desired results.

So again, if you look at the letter R, only the red pixels are lit. And the letter G, only the green pixels and the letter B, only the blue pixels. So a combination of these three colors are going to give you a variety of different colors. So if you wanted, again, to create that magenta color that we saw earlier you'd use the red and blue pixels and if you wanted to create yellow then you'd use the green and red pixels.

As you can imagine because additive color applies to so many devices and practices, many communications professionals depend on the additive color model, such as photography, television, web design, and more. And depending on the profession, there could be a variety of additive color specification systems being used, such as hex or hexadecimal color. And hexadecimal color is the color system used to describe web pages defined by the base 16 notational system. Combinations of the numerals from zero through nine and letters from A through F are assigned to each color in the system.

So here's an example chart of just what I'm talking about here. In web, colors described by a six digit alpha A through F and numerical zero through nine combination. So for example, black is 000000 while white is FFFFFF. So if you've ever played around with maybe making your website have pretty colors or spicing up that old MySpace page with pretty text then you might have used this system to get the job done and specified appropriate colors in the web. You can see this system gives you quite a range of colors since there are many combinations possible.

Well, everyone that ends today's lesson. We'll finish off with our key terms-- additive color process, CRT, we touched on briefly, and hexadecimal color. Hope you've enjoyed this lesson with me today. My name is Mario and I will see you next lesson.

Terms to Know
Additive Color Process

the mixing of color with light; additive color is seen when light is projected.


cathode ray tube, name for the display found on older traditional computer monitors and television sets; CRTs use the additive primaries, RGB, to produce color.

Hexadecimal Color 

the color system used to describe web pages, defined by the base 16 notational system; Combinations of the numerals from 0 through 9 and letters from A though F are assigned to each color in this system.