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Tertiary colors

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Tertiary colors

A tertiary color is a color made by mixing either one primary color with one secondary color, or two secondary colors, in a given color space such as RGB[1] (more modern) or RYB[2] (traditional).

Tertiary colors have specific names, one set of names for the RGB color wheel and a different set of names and colors for the RYB color wheel. These names are shown below.

Brown and grey colors can be made by mixing complementary colors.

RGB or CMY primary, secondary, and tertiary colors


The primary colors in an RGB color wheel are red, green, and blue, because these are the three additive colors—the primary colors of light. The secondary colors in an RGB color wheel are cyan, magenta, and yellow because these are the three subtractive colors—the primary colors of pigment.

The tertiary color names used in the descriptions of RGB (or equivalently CMYK) systems are shown below.

cyan (●) + blue (●) = azure (●)
blue (●) + magenta (●) = violet (●)
magenta (●) + red (●) = rose (●)
red (●) + yellow (●) = orange (●)
yellow (●) + green (●) = chartreuse (●)
green (●) + cyan (●) = spring green (●)

Traditional painting (RYB)


The primary colors in an RYB color wheel are red, yellow, and blue. The secondary colors in an RYB color wheel are made by combining the primary colors--orange, green, and violet.

In the red–yellow–blue system as used in traditional painting, and interior design, tertiary colors are typically named by combining the names of the adjacent primary and secondary.[3][4]

red (●) + orange (●) = vermilion (red-orange) (●)
orange (●) + yellow (●) = amber (yellow-orange)[5] (●)
yellow (●) + green (●) = chartreuse (yellow-green) (●)
green (●) + blue (●) = viridian (blue-green)[5] (●)
blue (●) + purple (●) = violet (blue-purple) (●)
purple (●) + red (●) = magenta (red-purple) (●)

Tertiary- and quaternary-color terms

The terms for the RYB tertiary colors are not set. For the six RYB hues intermediate between the RYB primary and secondary colors, the names amber (yellow–orange), vermilion/cinnabar (red–orange), magenta (red–purple), violet (blue–purple), viridian (blue–green), and chartreuse (yellow–green) are commonly found. The names for the twelve quaternary colors are more variable, if they exist at all, though indigo and scarlet are standard for blue–violet and red–vermilion.

In another sense, a tertiary color is obtained by mixing secondary-colored pigments. These three colors are russet (orange–purple), slate (purple–green), and citron (green–orange), with the corresponding three quaternary colors plum (russet–olive), sage (olive–citron), buff (citron–russet) (with olive sometimes used for either slate or citron).[6][7] Beyond that are shades of grey (blue grey and brown greys), which approach but never quite reach black.

The RYB color terminology outlined above and in the color samples shown below is ultimately derived from an 1835 book called "Chromatography", an analysis of the RYB color wheel by George Field, a chemist who specialized in pigments and dyes.[8]

RYB colors produced by mixing equal amounts of secondary and subesquent colors[9]
Secondary 
  yellow
  orange
  red
  purple
  blue
  green
  yellow
Tertiary 
  orange
  russet
  purple
  slate
  green
  citron
  orange
Quaternary 
  russet
  plum
  slate
  sage
  citron
  buff
  russet
Quinary 
  plum
  blue grey
  sage
  khaki
  buff
  grey brown
  plum
RYB and CMY colors produced by mixing proportional amounts of primary colors
Tertiary RYB[9]     
  yellow
  amber
  orange
  vermilion
  red
  magenta
  purple
  violet
  blue
  viridian
  green
  chartreuse
  yellow
Quaternary RYB[9]     
  vermilion
  scarlet
  red
 
  violet
  indigo
  blue
Tertiary CMY
  yellow
  orange
  red
  rose
  magenta
  violet
  blue
  azure
  cyan
  spring green
  green
  chartreuse
  yellow

Comparison of RGB and RYB color wheels

Unlike the RGB (CMY) color wheel, the RYB color wheel has no scientific basis. The RYB color wheel was invented centuries before the 1890s, when it was found by experiment that magenta, yellow, and cyan are the primary colors of pigment, not red, yellow, and blue.

The RGB (CMY) color wheel has largely replaced the traditional RYB color wheel because it is possible to display much brighter and more saturated colors using the primary and secondary colors of the RGB (CMY) color wheel. In the terminology of color theory, RGB color space (CMY color space) has a much larger color gamut than RYB color space.

See also

References

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