Color Theory: What Color Does Red, Blue And Green Make?

There are three ways to answer this question.

In practical application, mixing red, blue, and green in a digital drawing program creates shades that range from brownish dark blue to dark green.

If you are manually mixing colors using traditional “mediums”, red, blue, and green mixed together would create a shade that ranges from brown to black.

In additive color theory, or basically as viewed on most monitors and digital screens, red, blue, and green combined together in equal amounts and/or intensity creates white.

In subtractive color theory, red, blue, and green produces various shades of blue.

If you are wondering what additive and subtractive color theory are, continue scrolling down below.

Additive Color Model

The colors that we see on our phones, televisions, and computer monitors use the additive color model where colors red, green, and blue, or RGB, appear as pixels. When these are combined together, they produce the varying colors we see on our screens. Exact shades of colors are identified through color hex codes.

In the additive color model, all colors begin with black. Imagine a black monitor, then the colors red, green, and blue, are displayed on top of each other to create colors. The more colors are added, the lighter the resulting color is.

And when red, green, and blue are combined equally, it creates white.

While you’re reading this on your device right now, the white that you see on your screen is actually made of colors RGB!

Subtractive Color Model

The subtractive color model, on the other hand, is used in physical mediums such as inks and paints.

While the primary colors in additive are red, green, and blue, in subtractive, the primary colors that control and produce all other colors through their combinations are cyan, magenta, and yellow also known as CMYK.

In the subtractive color model, all colors begin with white, and colors are created as the colors CMYK are added. Imagine a white canvas where the CMYK colors create varying colors when combined together. As more colors are added, the darker the resulting color is.

In theory, combining cyan, magenta, and yellow equally should create black. However, in practice, it doesn’t really produce that satisfying black color and would be a muddy shade instead.

That is why in a lot of printers, the standard ink colors are cyan, magenta, yellow, and black as a supplementing color to create black on print.

You can learn more about the additive and subtractive color models here.

How do I apply color theory in digital art?

As an artist, color theory is a very important aspect and helps you figure out if the colors you want to use appear pleasing to the eye.

By using color theory, you can emphasize and draw attention to certain parts of your drawing, as well as diffuse other parts.

Color theory also comes in handy when creating shadows and playing with lighting to evoke different emotions into your drawing.

Here are some color combinations you can apply to create color harmony in your drawings.

color theory in action
  1. Complementary – any two colors that are on the opposite sides of the color wheel.
  2. Split Complementary – any three colors where the two colors are apart by one color, and the other color across the color in between the first two.
  3. Triadic – any three colors that are spaced equally, forming a triangle on the color wheel.
  4. Analogous – any three colors that are beside each other on the color wheel
  5. Tetrad – any four colors where two pairs are one color apart from each other, and across each other on the color wheel.
  6. Monochromatic – any colors of the same shade and tint, but in different tones.

Image credits: FriedeWie, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

About the author: My name is Marcus, I am a lawyer (LL.M.) and the founder of this website. Besides sometimes doing lawyer stuff, I like to draw and improve my skills as a “digital artist”, and I write about what I learn on this website. If you want to know more about me or reach out, then you can click here.

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