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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

What's Covered

  1. Subtractive Color Process
  2. Subtractive Color vs. Additive Color
  3. CMYK & PMS



1. Subtractive Color Process

Subtractive color process is the mixing of color with pigment.

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.

Subtractive color is seen when light is absorbed or reflected by pigment.

Many visual communication professions depend on this method, in particular those that use a paint and ink, so naturally, any type of fine art, printing, or t-shirt creation.


2. Subtractive Color vs. Additive Color

In order to easily distinguish and understand the difference between subtractive and additive colors, here is a chart with subtractive color chart next to an additive color chart.

The subtractive color chart 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. 

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.


3. CMYK & PMS

You might have noticed that the chart above has the letters CMYK and that it's not using the common primaries that we're to seeing, of course, red, blue, and yellow. That is because their subtractive color specification systems are used in the various professions that deal with printing, where they use CMYK. CMYK stands for the ink colors cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

Term to Know

    • 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.

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. You have your black, or k, and then you add c, or cyan, m, magenta, and then, of course, yellow. Then 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. 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.

Term to Know

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

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. All of these have their own code or number so that way you're able to find it and then the computer can mix it appropriately.


Summary

The subtractive color process is when colors are mixed with pigment.   The difference between subtractive and additive colors is as easy as black and white:  when working with subtractive colors, the more you mix, the more black it becomes.  When working with subtractive colors, the more light you add, the more white it becomes.  
CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.  These inks are the "four color process".  The commercial printing industry uses PMS, which is the Pantone Matching System, which is used in places like paint stores.  

Keep up the learning and have a great day!

Source: SOURCE: THIS WORK IS ADAPTED FROM SOPHIA AUTHOR MARIO E. HERNANDEZ

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.