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Subtractive Color

Subtractive Color

Description:

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

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Tutorial

Notes on "Subtractive Color"

Source: Image of Subtractive Color Chart, Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SubtractiveColor.svg Image of Additive Color Chart, Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AdditiveColor.svg Image of PMS Guide, Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PantoneFormulaGuide-solidMatte-2005edition.png

Video Transcription

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

Subtractive color process is the mixing of color with pigment. Subtractive color is seen when light is absorbed or reflected by pigment. Many visual communication professions depend on this method in particular like those that use a paint and ink so naturally, any type of fine art, printing, t-shirts, and so on and so forth. Previously in the last lesson, we talked about additive color and I wanted to bring that back momentarily so we can compare these two and more easily distinguish and understand them a bit better.

So we have this subtractive color chart and this works just like you'd imagine with paints or pigments, which is coloring matter, usually powdered mixed with a liquid base in order to produce paint or ink. So imagine you're painting just like you did when you were younger and you keep mixing more and more paints and eventually you get that kind of mucky brown and the more you mix, you get black. So it's subtractive color because even though you're adding color, you're really removing it. You keep adding colors but you're removing any type of colorful colors so it eventually turns into black.

On the other hand, additive color is not working with pigments like paint or ink. It's working with light so on phone screens or computer screens if you add more colors, you get white instead of black. So that's kind of the major difference here and there's way more going on behind the scenes and I'm not about to jump into the science but hopefully this is just an easy way to think of it visually. Additive color, you're adding colors to create white. Subtractive color, you're actually removing it because it creates black.

You might have noticed this chart has the letters CMYK and that it's not using the common primaries that we're to seeing, of course, red, blue, and yellow. And why is that? Well, their subtractive color specification systems are used in the various professions I mentioned earlier and in some of the professions that deal with printing, they use CMYK. And CMYK stands for the ink colors cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. These inks are what is known as "four color process" in the commercial printing industry. So they are mixed on the printed page to produce the illusion of full color.

So the basic idea is that taking these basic colors and using them to create a variety of other colors. So you have your black, or k, and then you add c, or cyan, m, magenta, and then, of course, yellow. And then, of course, they mix to create more colors and then you start to get a feel for the image that's being represented. So you might see something like this in a newspaper or just a quick print that's not super high quality. But, again, if you print at a finer quality, the images will, of course, get crisper and you'll see less of the residual mixing.

Another subtractive color specification system is referred to as PMS which stands for Pantone Matching System. This system is used in the commercial printing industry to specify match and mix flat colored inks and you might have seen something like this your local home improvement store in the paint section. Basically, base colors are used to mix new ones and typically with the aid of a computer so all these colors are cataloged and IDed. And it's kind of hard to see but all these have their own code or number. That way you're able to find it and then the computer can mix it appropriately.

Well everyone, that ends today's lesson. We'll conclude with our key terms-- subtractive color process, pigment, CMYK, PMS. Hope this gave you a better understanding of both the subtractive and the additive color process. My name is Mario and I will see you next lesson.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Subtractive Color Process

    the mixing of color with pigment; subtractive color is seen when light is absorbed or reflected by pigment.

  • Pigment 

    coloring matter, usually powdered, mixed with a liquid base in order to produce paint or ink.

  • CMYK

    stands for the ink colors of cyan, magenta, yellow and black; These inks are what is known as "four color process" in the commercial printing industry. They are mixed on the printed page to produce the illusion of full color.

  • PMS

    stands for Pantone Matching System [tm]; This system is used in the commercial printing industry to specify, match and mix flat color inks.